Monday, August 2, 2010

It's Not Easy Being Green

Kermit the Frog’s iconic song spoke to millions of children who somehow, for some reason, felt different. Its affirmative message of glamour in ordinariness readily translated into depth and appreciation of self-conception, even if its ultimate message of self-acceptance seemed improbably timid (“I am green…And I think it’s what I want to be”).

But in New York City recently, a group of ardent demonstrators affirmed Kermit’s message of hope—in a literal way that only Kermit, being actually green, could fundamentally appreciate.  

Theatrics were plentiful. Some decorated their bikes with cardboard cutouts of horse heads, and many donned tricorn hats and evocative 18th century clothing. The leader rang a handbell, and the group, instead of chanting “The British are Coming! The British are Coming!” adopted its spirit in the guise of “The bulldozers are coming! The bulldozers are coming!” (I personally would have preferred “The Bureaucrats are Coming! The Bureaucrats are Coming!” It’s sexier.)

If Paul Revere could rally the colonists to good effect, then Time’s Up, the cycling and environmental advocacy group that organized the protest, surely wanted to capitalize on his example.

So what, my dear reader asks, what was all of the fuss about? They were alerting Manhattanites to the expiration of legal protections for approximately 500 community gardens that had been in effect since 2002. While the city has no plans to develop those spaces, neither will any protection guarantees exist past September. Given the “development” (parking lots, buildings) of 150 community gardens in 2002, it is no wonder that some Manhattanites, so desirous of even miniscule patches of green on their once verdant island, are sounding the proverbial and, as Thursday’s demonstration revealed, not so proverbial, bell.

On 0 August, the city will hold a public comment session on the new rules. Time’s Up and citywide gardening groups encourage mass attendance; concerted opposition might very well compel the city to extend protective status. (See The New York Times article here.)

One can only hope, in this age of Alice Waters and Obama (I mean not Barack but Michele and her White House vegetable garden and “responsible eating initiative”), that city officials will acquiesce. If they really have no plans for development as they have announced, then renewing the protections should prove unproblematic. But if they resist such renewal, then city officials will truly be in a pickle: having to explain their resistance all the while piling more layers of manure on their undisclosed plans.

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