The changing meaning of community space: Two models of NGO management of community gardens in New York City

Eizenberg, E.

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Eizenberg, E. (2012). The changing meaning of community space: Two models of NGO management of community gardens in New York City. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 36(1), 106–120.

Autonomy , Community Gardens , New York City , NGOs , Privatization

This article examines two different models of space management, devised by NGOs to confront the marketization of public space in New York City through privatizing the land of community gardens. The Trust for Public Land promotes a model that emphasizes community ownership, while the New York Restoration Project promotes a model that emphasizes the preservation of land. The article compares the two models of NGO management of community gardens particularly through the lens of community participation, sense of ownership and control over space, and argues that both models transform the meaning of public space in ways that undermine its opportunity to develop as an autonomous community space.

Main finding
The author discusses models of resident participation in community gardening supported by the two non-governmental organizations - one emphasized community participation by transferring legal ownership and the other emphasized land preservation. Data found ramifications on the meaning of community space for residents both in their production of urban space and sense of ownership and control over the garden spaces. One model overburdened gardeners with the administrative responsibilities of the land trust and greatly diminished the grassroots spirit that had helped originate the gardens. The other model focused on the relationship between donors and their investment (not the gardeners) with sponsorships and high-end designs that excluded the gardeners in the name of preserving public space. These gardeners felt like guests in the garden spaces with their identities, culture, and sense of aesthetics not reflected in the newly designed spaces.

Description of method used in the article
The study was based on grounded theory research of community gardens between 2003-2007. In addition to participant observations, the author conducted in-depth interviews with gardeners and representatives of the supporting organization, and local municipality. Quantitative analysis was conducted on municipal and organization data.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Other or N/A
Field Observations
Environmental Psychology
Physical types
Geographic locations