I've been a garden member for years but haven't fully understood what the BANG land trust is and how important it is to the life of our beautiful garden space. A few weeks ago I shared a ride with one of the original garden members, Sheila McDevitt, and realized that a blog post where Sheila could share with the whole garden some of the background about BANG. It's a really inspiring story about what people can do to make their communities a better place if they work together. And make sure to come to the annual meeting on March 20th--all garden members are invited. Details below.
Q: You've been a garden member for many years. How long have you been a member and when did you first become involved with the garden?
A: My husband, Simon Brooking, and I have been with the garden from the very beginning. In 1992, we created the first plot on the corner of 6th Avenue and 15th Street to stop people from throwing garbage into the lot, which had been abandoned since 1985. We then got our neighbor, Anna to start a plot – which is where the kiosk now stands. We realized that there were two others also climbing into the garden, Sylvia and Lana, who had created gardens and were actively gardening. Sylvia created the area under the peach tree, and Lana’s plot is now the native plant shade garden with the birch and cherry tree in the inner back. In 1994 we created a community organization – the 6th Avenue and 15th Street Community Garden. Simon was our first President, Sylvia was VP and I was Treasurer and Secretary. Simon was instrumental in the sale of the property to Trust for Public Land. Without him we probably wouldn’t still be here.
1993 First Plot
1994 Lana's Plot
1994 Sylvia's Plot
1993 Northeast Corner Down 6th Ave
Q: One of your community assignments is being our board representative from 6/15 Green to the BANG land trust. Can you explain what that group does? And what do you do in your role as liaison?
A: I also act as the current President of that board. BANG is the Brooklyn Alliance of Neighborhood Gardens Land Trust aka BANG. BANG is a not for profit organization that actually holds the title to our property and 4 other community gardens in Park Slope and Prospect Heights. BANG acts as the managing agent for those properties. BANG secures insurance, maintains our water systems, gets the water turned on and off, would repair any fence or sidewalk issues. Basically being responsible for any major infrastructure of the property. All gardeners are welcome to attend our meetings, especially May-September when we hold a potluck in each of the member gardens and the Annual Meeting which will be March 20th.
Q: How did BANG get started? Any interesting history that the 6/15 green members would like to know?
A: The history goes back much further than the actual land trust does. To really know what the land trust is about I would suggest people go to our website - www.banglandtrust.org
I was growing frustrated with the progress of the landtrust that Trust for Public Land (TPL) wanted us to join, so I reached out to other gardens to see if they would be interested in starting a land trust of our own. We already had a solid history with each of these gardens, having worked together on projects or just through the gardening community. Eventually 4 other gardens decided to join us. In the 1990’s (before the garden land auction in 1999) we belonged to an all Brooklyn community gardening alliance called the Brooklyn Alliance of Neighborhood Gardens – after the auction everyone got placed into land trusts or were run by the New York Restoration Project, the alliance disbanded. Also prior to the auction there was a group of us which was made up of 4 of the 5 current BANG gardens who were trying to start a land trust – it would have been the Brooklyn Land Trust. The 5 member gardens are 6/15 Green, Bears at Pacific Street, GREENSPACE at President Street, The Prospect Heights Community Farm and Warren St Marks. It was a struggle to get this land trust up and as some of our garden members know, ownership of the property was something we discussed for many years. To me the coolest thing about how we set up BANG is that it works like a condominium or cooperative. Each garden votes in their own BANG Board members, there are no outside board members. That way each garden is continually informed and kept abreast of all BANG activities. Each garden is autonomous and runs its membership and garden activities as it sees fit, and they OWN EVERYTHING ON THEIR PROPERTY (this is huge! all other contracts state that all sheds, cabana’s, arbors, chairs, tables etc are the property of the landowner).
Q: What are the benefits to the garden to being a member of BANG? How could garden members get involved?
A: As I said above, BANG takes care of our infrastructure needs and most importantly since the land is owned by a Not For Profit Land Trust, we can maintain the land as greenspace in perpetuity. Basically BANG protects our rights to be an open space so we can create community without fear of being removed from the property. As a group of 5 gardens we have a louder voice than just one garden would have. When I lived across the street in the 90’s I panicked every time I heard an early morning truck – afraid they had come to bulldoze the lot and start building something again. It is so wonderful to have the peace of mind that no one has the right to come and destroy everything we have worked so hard to create. Members can come to our meetings. I post them to the membership when they are set. We need help with fundraising, anyone who wants to learn about our water system is welcome to join Chad in the Spring and Fall as he travels through the gardens with the plumbers to turn on and off the water. We are looking for a new treasurer. Participation will only help make BANG stronger, and if BANG is stronger then 6/15 Green is too!
Q: Do you want to tell us about the event on March 20? It sounds like something fun for any garden member.
A: March 20th is our Annual Meeting at BBG from 11:30am-1:30pm. It’s a snackluck – everyone brings light snacks and drinks, we do some formal business such as approval of the FY2015 budget and the Proposed FY2016 Budget, we formally recognize the Board members as voted in by their gardens and we vote on officers. Then each garden tells about their previous year and upcoming plans for the new year. It’s a great chance to get to know other gardeners and see how BANG basically works.