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31 Arrested As Garden Is Bulldozed

February 16, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ Amid wails of outrage from more than 100 protesters, a beloved community garden whose Spanish name means hope was bulldozed to make way for low-income housing.

Police arrested 31 people _ 16 men and 15 women _ who tried to block Tuesday’s demolition of the Esperanza Garden in Manhattan’s East Village. Some protesters had chained themselves to concrete blocks and fences. Others formed a human chain near a giant sculpture tree frog.

Last May, negotiations conducted by mainstream environmental groups and actress Bette Midler saved 112 city gardens from the bulldozer by amassing millions of dollars to buy the lots the gardens are on. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had wanted to put the gardens on the auction block.

Unfortunately for Esperanza Garden lovers, their little green space was not among the lucky 112.

Green Guerillas, a nonprofit organization that assists community gardens, said the city has the lowest ratio of green space of any American city _ 1.5 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents.

The mayor said the lot and hundreds of others throughout the city can be used to ease a housing shortage. ``If you live in an unrealistic world, then you can say everything should be a community garden. Then where would people live where they are able to get affordable housing?″ he said.

The Esperanza Garden site is projected to accommodate 75 apartments.

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