Last week, Governor Hochul vetoed a bill to help preserve the state’s community gardens (S.629-A/A.4139). The bill, which passed the Senate and Assembly unanimously, would have supported community gardens by requiring the New York State Community Gardens Task Force to assess whether community gardens on publicly owned land are eligible for designation as Critical Environmental Areas (CEAs) and to recommend CEA designation for eligible gardens.
The Governor vetoed the bill in a package with 31 other bills. She offered a single explanation for all of the vetoes, focusing on the bills’ purported costs and the fact that the costs are not accounted for in the state budget. Contrary to the Governor’s assertion, increasing protections for community gardens will not impose significant costs on the state.
Following a season of rising food prices, major floods, and dangerous air pollution from wildfires, the necessity of preserving community gardens is all the more clear. Community gardens help to mitigate each of these harms, very often in the marginalized and under-resourced communities that are most burdened by them. Yet, despite offering many benefits, community gardens currently have few legal protections, and many gardeners fear that these spaces could be destroyed without adequate opportunity for community input. The vetoed bill would have been a first step toward increasing protections for community gardens across the state.
The following statement is attributed to Liz Moran, New York Policy Advocate for Earthjustice:
“New York State’s community gardens provide numerous benefits, from addressing food insecurity to offering natural settings in areas underserved by public greenspace to reducing greenhouse gas emissions — yet these gardens are afforded few legal protections. Among other benefits, community gardens are an important tool for equitable resiliency against climate change-induced extreme weather events, which disproportionately burden communities of color and low-income communities.
“This important bill would have given gardeners and other community members new tools to protect gardens. While we are disappointed with the Governor’s decision, we thank the Legislature and the bill’s sponsors, Senator Comrie and Assemblymember Lupardo, for passing this bill. We will continue working to win protections for community gardens and the full range of health, environmental, and climate benefits they provide.”