How a Garden for the Poor Became a Playground for the Rich

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Monkey bars, a sandbox, a slide, a track for riding bikes, a garden for adults who competed over who grew the best vegetables. It was meager, nothing fancy, but it was an escape right outside the backdoor.

For 30 years, the backyard behind the Thelma Burdick building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side was an oasis of open space for the low-income tenants who lived there.

By Nikita Stewart And Sergio Peçanha
New York Times
Oct. 18, 2018

Excerpt:

They fondly remember “our” backyard, “our” garden, “our” playground.

When tenants learned that the backyard was being sold, Ms. Gonzalez, Ms. Lewis-Coleman, Ms. Ko and another longtime resident named Cheryl Freeman went up against representatives of their building’s owner and of the hotel.

The tenants hoped they could benefit in some way. What was owed to them?

“We sat down,” Ms. Freeman, 60, said. “The fantastic four. We sat down for seven months negotiating. We knew we couldn’t beat them, so we figured get something from them.”

The Burdick is a Section 8 building, where tenants receive rent subsidies from the federal government.

“We sat down,” Ms. Freeman, 60, said. “The fantastic four. We sat down for seven months negotiating. We knew we couldn’t beat them, so we figured get something from them.”

By promising to not mount a legal fight over the backyard, tenants were guaranteed that the landlord would maintain the building as Section 8.

Read the complete article here.

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