NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Bronx couple is furious with the city’s Parks Department. It seems the city destroyed a garden they had planted to honor the victims of 9/11.
Tony Martin is hurt. He said that without warning, the department uprooted his wife’s flower garden.
“I was just devastated,” Martin told CBS 2’s Dana Tyler on Thursday. “About two weeks ago, the Parks Department came in and I was in my kitchen. I heard chainsaws roaring. They were chopping everything down in the garden. I asked them to stop and they told me if I didn’t mind my business I was going to jail.”
Debbie Man had spent thousands of dollars and countless hours over the last 11 years planting the garden outside their apartment building at Aqueduct Avenue and West 190th Street in the University Heights section of the borough.
“There were condoms, needles, drug paraphernalia, wine bottles all over the place. She actually got on her hands and knees from early morning to late night seven days a week cleaning up this mess,” Martin said.
Martin and Man named it the “Little Hope Garden” as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
Neighbors said they loved it.
“It was beautiful, a lot of flowers, it was nice. I could see it from my home,” Rosalina Ortez said.
“It used to be so pretty, lots of different color flowers … very well kept,” Leomarlyn Gonell added.
A Parks Department spokesperson said Aqueduct Walk is a public park and cannot be annexed for private use, regardless of good intent. It got complaints from local building owners about overgrown areas of the park, and in the course of trimming those areas, unintentionally removed the rose bushes.
“That’s sad because that was the only thing that was beautiful over here,” Ortez said.
“I think it was rude of them. It made the community look pretty. It was a good asset for us,” Gonell added.
The Parks Department will soon start a $4.8 million reconstruction of Aqueduct Walk Park with repaved pathways, new fencing, improved lighting and a reconstructed staircase. The city said it remains open to the possible creation of a community garden after reconstruction. Martin said he’ll believe it when he sees it.
“You can come back here in one month, a year from now and it will never be done,” Martin said.
The Parks Department added there are more than 700 community-run “green thumb” gardens located on public property. Those gardeners receive both training and material support from the city.
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