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Activists Fight To Keep Control Of Lower East Side Community Garden

Workers put in a second fence made from plywood blocking off half of the Children's Magical Garden. A chain-link fence was first installed in May 2013.

(Photo credit: DNAinfo/Serena Solomon)

Workers put in a second fence made from plywood blocking off half of the Children’s Magical Garden. A chain-link fence was first installed in May 2013.

(Photo credit: DNAinfo/Serena Solomon)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Representatives of a children’s community garden on the Lower East Side have filed a lawsuit, attempting to stop a developer from doing away with part of it for a new building.

The Children’s Magical Garden, on Stanton Street between Essex and Norfolk streets, has been in operation for more than 30 years, and allows children to plant food and learn about nature, operators said.

“The community came together to plant a garden so that the children have a safe place to be and to have a childhood, basically — you know, have a place they could go outside and play safely. So that was the beginning of the garden,” said garden director Kate Temple-West.

The garden was originally reclaimed from a state of extreme blight, she said.

“There was a building that burned to the ground, and then it became a trash zone. There was some garbage here, rubble and trash, including needles and all kinds of stuff,” Temple-West told 1010 WINS. “So the community came together, cleaned it all up, and turned it into a garden specifically for children.”

But the garden alleged the former owner of the space, Serge Hoyda, had a fence in the middle of the garden last May just after students from Lower East Side Prep High School had put in vegetable seedlings.

“The community was outraged, and many children from Marta Valle, School for Global Leaders, and Lower East Side Prep could see the destruction from the windows of their school building and were in tears,” the garden said on its website.

The New York City Parks Department stepped in and helped the garden get a lease, but the lot that was damaged by the fence took away the annual vegetable bed along with fruit trees, rose bushes and native wetlands, the garden said.

The lot that was fenced off has since been sold to a firm called 157 LLC, which is working with developer Horizon Group and has filed permits with the city to construct a new building on the site, DNAInfo reported.

The rest of the garden is owned by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the publication reported. But a lawsuit filed Monday asked a judge to give the garden the area that was sold off because it has occupied the space for 10 years consecutively, according to published reports.

“This is a community garden, so it’s been a community garden for decades, so that’s where we’re at right now. In terms of ownership, it’s our land. The developer is mistaken in his understanding,” Temple-West said.

The lawsuit was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

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