by Bill Weinberg, Skunk Magazine
On Maple Street in the Brooklyn enclave of Prospect Lefferts Gardens there is a little plot of land filled with garden beds where local residents grow kale, garlic, beans, peppers and other such organic yummies. Aptly if not imaginatively named Maple Street Community Garden, this is, like many such gardens around New York City, reclaimed land. When local residents moved in and started turning it into a garden three years ago, it had for years before that been a blighted vacant lot, weeds growing amid dumped washing machines and car parts. "It was a total jungle," said Tom La Farge, one of the gardeners. He was shoveling compost when I dropped by the garden on a cold day in early March.
The garden has received some acknowledgement from pillars of the city's establishment. The Maple Street Block Association received a $1,000 grant from the Citizens' Committee of New York to clean up the lot. The garden is now part of the GreenBridge network, set up by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to promote urban greening with plant and seed donations.
But on September 22, 2014, the brothers Michael and Joseph Makhani—partners in a limited liability company claiming to own the plot—showed up at the garden, tore down the sign on the fence reading "Maple Street Community Garden," and told the gardeners to clear out. When they refused, the brothers retorted, "You'll leave when the back-hoes come," La Farge recalls.