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March 20, 2013

 

Armory now community garden site

Common Council approves location after Suggett Park garden rejected

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

The Common Council Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to relocate the proposed community garden to the former Armory as a compromise after the Suggett Park location drew much criticism in February.
Mayor Brian Tobin and 8th Ward Alderman Thomas Michales were absent.
First Ward Alderman Julie Bird said she hopes that by building the garden this year in a less controversial area, if it is successful then perhaps it can come to fruition in Suggett Park next year.
“It’s a great baby step and we can show how successful it can be and next year we can come up with a solid plan and allow community comments,” Bird said. 
The armory is a good compromise, she said, because it has a water line that can be accessed for the garden and more parking than the Van Hoesen Street access to Suggett Park. She said City Youth Bureau Director John McNerney endorsed the idea since it would not infringe on any other plans for the location.
The garden was originally proposed by Sustainable Cortland and the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee on Feb. 19.
Because the plans for Suggett Park drew so much criticism, Bird said she worked with the committee to find a compromise. 
Supporters and opponents of the garden spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, some saying that they were disappointed the Armory was chosen as the garden’s location. They highlighted Suggett Park’s proximity to Parker School and two Parker School elementary students spoke in favor of the garden as well.
Joseph Sherman, a 7-year-old, said he wanted the garden because he “loves to dig in the dirt catching worms” and that he would like to grow plants in it. Eight-year-old Seth Bergman said the garden could help students learn how to garden and even improve their math by graphing plant growth.
Some residents like David Magin, expressed dismay at the amount of backlash against the proposed Suggett Park location. He said the Armory location will show the “naysayers” that a community garden is a good thing.
Sharon Stevans, another Hamlin Street resident, also said she thought the Suggett Park location was a good idea.
“I’m dismayed to see so much dissension over something that should have been a no-brainer,” Stevens said.
Thomas Fritz Sr., said that at 79 he would like to enjoy a community garden with his grandchildren. He said the benefits of it would be many, promoting nutrition in children, encouraging inter-generational bonding and maybe even helping to provide fresh produce for those in poverty.
But Chestnut Street resident Beverly Ellesson was a dissenting voice.
Ellesson said she does not understand the “fixation” on the park, which she said is already a green space. Ellesson said she and other residents who live near the site would have to look at the garden “day after day, all winter long.” She suggested the promoters of the garden create additional green space for the garden.
Arnold Talentino said he too supports the idea of a community garden but not the Suggett Park location. The proposed location north of Dry Creek in Suggett Park is a space where children enjoy “spontaneous play,” something Talentino said is rare in an age dominated by adult-run recreational activities like Little Leagues.
Second Ward Alderman Katy Silliman said at the time of the vote that she hopes the armory will be a good compromise, ultimately bringing more community gardens to the city.
Fifth Ward Alderman Dan Quail said he believes in the community garden and said he thinks the park is for everyone to enjoy, not just those who live close to it.
“If we’re encouraging people to go to the park, it would be just one more thing to go to the park with. A parent could be gardening while the kid is playing ball,” said Quail. He said that with the nutritional benefits of eating freshly grown produce, community gardens should be supported.

 

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