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Community Garden In Danger

The Plot Thickens

Glen Anderson and his mother Rose, 93, are a team when they till the soil at their plot of earth at the Peter F. Rickert Memorial Garden, a community garden on the grounds of the 36-acre estate surrounding the Science Museum of Long Island. They fear they may lose their beloved plot of earth on the property owned by Nassau County where one of the four fig trees on their plot was grown from an original clipping secretly transported by Rose’s father around 1900 when he left his home in Mezzojuso, Province of Palermo in Sicily. He carried the shoot with him as he set out to make his way to America.

The 16 gardeners, active there over many years, had been asked in a Feb. 1 letter to remove their plants and equipment - remove everything by Feb. 17, Glen Anderson remembered, but several inches of snow covered the ground. The date was then extended to March 1. The letter, Anderson said, came out of nowhere, and stated, “that effective immediately the community demonstration garden activity at SMLI/ Leeds Pond Preserve has been restructured due to expanding programming needs, child safety and security priorities.” The letter also explained “no new participants will be accepted. All 16 participants will be limited to one 10 foot by 20 foot plot. The 16 current gardeners may select one of the existing plots or it will be assigned to you by lottery.”

There were no prior meetings, Glen reported, when museum management sent letters asking that the gardeners remove everything. They were also informed, he said, that in the future, should community gardening be permitted, qualifying for a plot would be on a lottery basis. The community plots could have different gardeners each year.

“Community gardening implies continuity and longevity; not only of the individual plots,” Anderson said, “but of the communal ties such gardening nurtures.  Random lottery luck of the draw annual improbability schemes nurtures nothing and no one.”

The core of the problem, Anderson believes, is the museum administration never respected them enough as a group to consult with them in an attempt to establish a compromise.

Their beloved gardens may become a parking lot. They want to save them but if that is not possible, they need a new home.  

Attempts to reach the science museum for comment were not fruitful by press time. More next week.