City-owned Parcel Ruled Not Parkland

The Ford Amphitheater sits on the former site of a garden. Image Credit: Molly Kaszuba

City-owned land was used as an unlicensed community garden. The City of New York owns a parcel of real property at 3052 West 21st Street along the Coney Island Boardwalk. Between 1997 and 2004 the City licensed the site as community garden under the City’s “Green Thumb” program. In 1999 the City terminated the garden’s license in order to develop the site into a parking lot for a minor league baseball stadium. The City relicensed the garden in 2000 and 2003 following litigation stemming from the 1999 license termination. The City entered into a settlement agreement with the community garden in which the community garden expressly recognized that the site was not dedicated parkland.

In 2004, the City terminated the garden’s license and relocated the garden to a different site. Over the following decade the City continued to target the site for development. Between 2004 and 2013, community garden members revived the garden without permission from the City. In 2013, the City destroyed the unlicensed garden when the City developed the site into an outdoor amphitheater.

The community garden sued the City to invalidate the City’s conversion of the site into an amphitheater. The garden argued that the property was parkland and that the City violated the public trust doctrine by not obtaining permission from the State legislature before developing the site.

A Kings County Supreme Court Justice disagreed with the garden and granted the City’s motion to dismiss the complaint. The Second Department affirmed, agreeing that the City’s actions did not manifest the requisite intent to dedicate the site as parkland. The City merely allowed the garden to exist on a temporary basis as the City moved forward with its plans to develop the site.

(CIT) Coney Island Boardwalk Community Gardens v. City of New York, __N.Y.S.3d__ (2nd Dep’t 2019) 2019 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 4143

By: Laine Vitkevich (Laine is the CityLaw Intern, and a New York Law School student, Class of 2020.)


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.