UES Eyesore Lot Debacle Prompts Push for Federal Funds to Create New Green Space

Overgrown lot at East 78th and First Avenue before being cleared/Upper East Site
Overgrown lot at East 78th and First Avenue before being cleared/Upper East Site

MANHATTAN – The fight to bring a community garden to an eyesore lot at the southwest corner of First Avenue and East 78th Street ended in major disappointment as the lot was recently sold to a developer– though it did inspire new proposed federal legislation just introduced by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who had added her weight to fight for more green space on the Upper East Side.

Last December, Rep. Maloney joined UES Green Space Now— a grassroots advocacy group—  at the then overgrown, rat-infested site in Lenox Hill to raise awareness and help drive signatures for a petition to turn the lot into a community garden. 

Rep. Maloney signs petition for community garden in December/Rep. Carolyn Maloney's Office
Rep. Maloney signs petition for community garden in December/Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s Office

Though that effort would ultimately fail— the site was razed then sold for more than $70 million— Maloney found the recipe for success in bringing much needed green space to our community and communities across the country. 

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“The COVID-19 pandemic has showed us more than ever that neighborhoods in New York City and many urban communities around the country are in dire need of safe, green community spaces where people can gather,” said Rep. Maloney. 

Rep. Maloney speaks at rally for community garden in December/Rep. Carolyn Maloney's Office
Rep. Maloney speaks at rally for community garden in December/Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s Office

“Most cities don’t have the resources to create these community parks, so it’s our responsibility to step-up to the challenge.”

The Revitalizing Cities Through Parks Enhancement Act— or RECIPE Act— proposed by Rep Maloney would establish a grand program to help non-profit community groups establish small community gardens and parks by helping get leases to vacant government-owned land and providing funding for the transformation into green space.

Upper East Siders raised awareness about the eyesore in December/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site
Upper East Siders raised awareness about the eyesore in December/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site

Upper East Side City Council MemberJulie Menin, who joined the efforts by UES Green Space Now, applauded the proposed legislation— adding that our neighborhood “is one of the densest in New York City yet has one of the smallest amounts of green space.”

“Supporting our parks and creating new green spaces is critical for the health and quality of life for our community,” Menin said.

Overgrown lot at East 78th Street and First Avenue after being cleared/Upper East Site
Overgrown lot at East 78th Street and First Avenue after being cleared/Upper East Site

The RECIPE ACT sets aside $10 million dollars in funding each year for both 2023 and 2024, providing grants for as much as a quarter million dollars to help community organizations create new community gardens in urban areas. 

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Any government-owned space selected for transformation into green space would also be required to be available for seven years— making the new park or community garden semi-permanent. 

To make sure the money goes where it’s needed, no more than ten percent of funding can be used toward administration costs— the funding is intended to be used for leases and transformations.

Overgrown lot at East 78th Street and First Avenue after being cleared/Upper East Site
Overgrown lot at East 78th Street and First Avenue after being cleared/Upper East Site

“As a long time advocate and builder of green spaces across my district… I was inspired by the grassroots effort to transform the East 78th Street vacant lot into a community garden and thrilled to support the cause,” Rep. Maloney told Upper East Site.

“While those efforts did not go as planned, we have the power to turn vacant lots across our City into gardens and parks which will beautify our neighborhoods, increase property values, and provide safe, clean areas for our children to play,” the Congresswoman added.

“My RECIPE Act has the power to do just that by giving community non-profits the resources they need to create community gardens and green spaces for New Yorkers.” 

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