City withholds community garden permits amid 16,000 vacant lots
By Donn Esmonde
If she keeps it up, they might slap the cuffs on her. I can see it now—Nettie Anderson, outlaw gardener. Dirt on her hands. A summons in her mailbox.
That is just the image this city needs: An 83-year-old grandmother with a rap sheet. The longtime community activist may get nailed with a trespassing violation for trying to spruce up her street. Standing with her is a legion of other citizen- gardeners who are trying to make Buffalo better, if only the mayor would let them.
City Hall has a nasty habit of making life tough for people who are trying to help themselves — and the city. Even so, count this absurdity among Byron Brown’s Greatest Mis-hits.
The city has 16,000 vacant lots and no idea what to do with them. Folks on battered streets got tired of staring at scrub brush. They pulled out weeds and jacked up property values by putting in gardens. Lending a hand is Grassroots Gardens, a nonprofit group that donates plants and — amazingly — put up $1 million to legally cover the city’s back. All that the city’s chief planner, who takes marching orders from the mayor, has to do is sign off on the gift of citizens’ sweat.
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