“Just putting your hands in soil is a form of healing,” said Sheryll Durrant, head of a thriving urban farm set between the Grand Concourse and the Metro North railroad tracks in the Bronx, NYC.

The Morning Glory community garden, among many others across New York City, have made it their mission to combat the consequences of climate change, as well as create a safe space for immigrants and refugees. Morning Glory sits on a plot in the Bronx actively managed by volunteers for about eight years, living amongst the other 500 community gardens. These gardens provide respite from the heat and warming temperatures, fresh air from the city smog, and a sense of unity for the local residents. It also provides the locals with bountiful, freshly grown produce and food.

These plots have generated efforts to combat the effects of climate change, and absorb water and carbon emissions during times of abnormal weather changes. Albany lawmakers have recognized the importance and crucial benefits of these plots, especially in the fight against the climate crisis. They voted to designate these plots and gardens statewide as they are seen as crucial to urban environments and neighborhoods.

“What we do on every small piece of land really does matter. These gardens were ahead of their time in recognizing the role nature plays in making cities livable and resilient,” stated the Chief Executive and President of the New York Botanical Garden, Jennifer Bernstein.

Many of these gardens are protected on city parkland policy or supported by non-profit funding. But many others reside on city-owned land, meaning that any form of construction or manufacturing production has the opportunity to commence on adjoining plots of land or buildings. This would impact the flourishment of the gardens—blocking necessary sunlight, polluting the air, and potentially contaminating the surrounding soil and water supply. The proposed bill aims to shield and protect these vulnerable gardens by informing officials of their potential impact on said gardens—gardens that are environmental assets to cities.

These gardens have a deep rooted history in NYC—back in the 1970s these gardens first started to pop up across the city as a result of the fiscal crisis. These gardens embodied the culture and traditions of the locals, bringing a sense of familiarity as the majority were immigrants. The recent pandemic ushered in a new era for these gardens, allowing for the growth of their food to be revolutionary. But, the current heat waves and tropic-like forecasts are leaving the gardens unsustainable. So, many farmers are developing innovative ways to collect rainwater for irrigation and treat plants for disease. These gardens are as diverse as the people tending to them, with a fruitful culmination of vegetables, herbs, and fruit being grown, every person is being recognized.