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Brooklyn College Garden Lawsuit

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SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK Index No. COUNTY OF KINGS In the Matter of the Petition of ANDREW C. SNYDER, ROY BENMOSHE, TOBY SANCHEZ, MURRAY LANTNER, CAMPUS ROAD COMMUNITY GARDEN Petitioners/Plaintiffs v. KAREN L. GOULD as President of Brooklyn College, STEVE LITTLE as Vice-President of Brooklyn College, JOANNA OLIVER as Environmental Manager for Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, DORMITORY AUTHORITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, BROOKLYN COLLEGE Respondents/Defendants Hon. VER
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  1 SUPREME COURT OF THE STATEOF NEW YORK COUNTY OF KINGSIn the Matter of the Petition of  ANDREW C. SNYDER, ROY BEN-MOSHE, TOBY SANCHEZ,MURRAY LANTNER, CAMPUSROAD COMMUNITY GARDENPetitioners/Plaintiffs v.KAREN L. GOULD as President of Brooklyn College, STEVE LITTLE as Vice-President of Brooklyn College, JOANNA OLIVER as EnvironmentalManager for Dormitory Authority of theState of New York, DORMITORY  AUTHORITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, BROOKLYNCOLLEGERespondents/DefendantsIndex No.Hon. VERIFIED PETITION ANDCOMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY  JUDGEMENT  2 Petitioners/Plaintiffs (“Petitioners”), by the undersigned Pro se representation as an Article78 proceeding, for their verified petition and complaint for declaratory judgment allege asfollows: I. Preliminary Statement 1. The Campus Road Community Garden was welcomed to its present location on theperimeter of the campus of Brooklyn College in March 1997. The College helped gradeand put paths on the srcinal nucleus of the approximately 4500 square foot garden. Toby Sanchez, representing the Campus Road Gardeners, with the South Midwood Residents asa financial agent signed a revocable lease with the College in 1997.2. Following the release of the Dormitory of the State of New York’s negative declarationTuesday, May 18, 2010 the College evicted the Gardeners and has closed the garden (as of 9:30pm May 20, 2010) and hired professional landscapers to begin dismantling the garden.Gardeners have been told that very soon it will be bulldozed and completely flattened.3. The College has announced plans to create a new “Brooklyn College Garden” on 2500square feet, barring trees, shrubs, and bushes, utilizing raised bed planters. The rest of theformer garden area will be paved for a parking lot.4. Gardeners petition the court for immediate relief from this sudden and irreversibledestruction of a garden that took 13 years to develop. 5. The DASNY determination of a negative ruling included severalelements that were capricious, arbitrary, and illegal. Petitioners requestthat the dismantling and bulldozing of the garden be restrained through aTemporary Restraining Order (TRO) and a Preliminary Injunction and thatthe Court require the College to produce an Environmental ImpactStatement (EIS) that would accurately address the true environmentalimpact of this planned and imminent destruction of a precious communityresource, aesthetic public open space, and ecologically important land. 6. We support the Athletic Field's construction, in so far as that construction is not planned to interfere in any way with the current Campus Road Community Garden. Ourobjections are confined only to issues affecting the Campus Road Community Garden, andtherefore only the parking portion of the current Athletic Field Plan. II. PartiesA. Petitioners 7. Andrew C. Snyder has been a community gardener at the Campus Road Community Garden since 2008. He strongly values the experience of working collaboratively withother gardeners to support the flora, fauna, and habitat in Brooklyn, and has plantednumerous butterfly host and pollinator-attractors in his garden plot. He is opposed to theCollege’s precipitous and calamitous actions because of the severe adverse impacts it will  3 have on the local physical environment, irrevocably altering the community character.8. Roy Ben-Moshe has been a Brooklyn College student since 2004 and became a gardener during the current growing season. He strongly values the experience of creating a green oasis in this heavily paved portion of Brooklyn. He is opposed to the College’sdecision to bulldoze the community garden because it contradicts the College’s announcedcommitment to sustainability and place-based education.9. Murray Lantner has been a community gardener at the Campus Road Community Garden since 2008. He lives three blocks from the garden site and has been working hisplot with his wife and newly born daughter. He is opposed to the College’s destruction of the Community Garden because it will mean the terrible diminishment of the only community garden in a radius of more than a mile, and because he values theintergenerational and college/community interactions that the garden has enabled.10. Toby Sanchez is the founder and leader of the Campus Road Community Garden.She lives within a mile of the garden and her and her late husband, Roy Sanchez, were thekey initiators and organizers of the garden. Together they contributed thousands of  volunteer hours to turn an ugly strip of grass into a lush and beautiful garden. She isopposed to the College's plans to bulldoze the community garden because she values theopportunity it offers neighborhood residents to make friendships, to mentor youth, and toenjoy a beautiful green spot in a busy urban environment.11. The Campus Road Community Garden at Brooklyn College was founded and is ledby Toby Sanchez and has included thousands of volunteer hours of collaborative gardening since 1997. The organization includes more than 20 active and experienced gardeners,many new gardeners, and a waiting list of more than 50 individuals. The Gardeners have worked to find solutions to the College's parking issues, have dedicated their time tosupporting the College's announced mission of sustainability and place-based education,and have particpated in numerous forums and town halls on related subjects. They opposethe destruction of the garden because that destruction is the end of years of shared labor,the end of a place that helped them raise children, mourn loved ones, and findintergenerational, interethnic, and interfaith friendships that enrich their lives. They alsooppose the shrinking of the garden, and its confinement to tiny raised squares, and theelimination of bushes, because the new, small, “Brooklyn College Garden”, will not enablethe College's efforts to prioritize place-based education, sustainability, andcommunity/college interaction. For example, the Brooklyn College “College Now!”program, which has been run every summer for more than 5 years, has mentored morethan 100 high school students in community development, healthy eating, ecology, andcollege-readiness. This program depends absolutely on a functioning and vibrant community garden and will be practically destroyed by the bulldozing of the garden and itsreplacement by a large parking lot and a small flattened set of planters. B. Respondents 12. Respondent Karen L. Gould is the President of Brooklyn College and, uponinformation and belief, is responsible for policy and planning decisions.  4 13. Steve Little is Vice-President for Finance and Administration at Brooklyn College and,upon information and belief, has implemented the College's administrative efforts to evict the Community Garden.14. Joanna Oliver is Environmental Manager of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York which issued the negative declaration for the College’s destruction of theCommunity Garden as part of their Brooklyn College Athletic Field Project.15. Dormitory Authority of the State of New York provides financing and constructionservices to institutions intended to serve the public good in New York.16. Brooklyn College is a part of the City University of New York, the publicly fundeduniversity system of the City of New York. Construction began at its present location in1935. III. Statement of Facts 17. In 2009 the College announced that they were proceeding with plans to expand theathletic field, which had long been discussed, and the gardeners began to plan the moving of the garden and to negotiate for a new space on campus. In 2009 the gardeners realizedthat the actual plan was to situate the expansion Athletic Field perpendicular to the gardenand that the actual plan for our beloved Garden was to become just another asphalt parking lot.18. The Gardeners began attempts to negotiate the preservation of the Garden with theCollege. A highlight included a meeting with President Gould and her staff in October2009 in which she promised that we could preserve approximately 2500 square feet of theexisting garden. Further negotiation sessions and a collaborative solution were promisedbut the College did not return requests for meetings. Students attempted to present petitions for the preservation of the Garden to administrators with hundreds of student andfaculty and community signatories. The petitions were refused on the basis that they didn’t include social security numbers. The Gardeners cooperated with faculty supporters toorganize Town Hall Meetings on the topic that were attended by more than one hundredcommunity members, faculty, students, and staff. Each of the two Town Hall Meetingsoverwhelmingly supported the preservation of the existing garden in all its vibrancy. At a March 31 meeting Vice-President Steve Little asked the gardeners help in restarting negotiations with the Target Parking Garage, situated across the street from the College,and promised that if the negotiation was successful an additional amount of the gardencould be preserved.19. Gardeners, working with the support of elected officials, successfully begannegotiations with the representatives of Central Parking Systems and Target to negotiateset-aside parking in the Target Parking Garage, a multi-level parking garage across the street from the College. At one point, the negotiation of 50 or more spots, for daytime work days, was being discussed for Brooklyn College faculty use. At that point, approximately May 1, 2010, the College reassumed the lead in negotiation and excluded publicrepresentatives and Gardeners from the still ongoing negotiation.
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