As one might expect from a blog about eminent domain and real estate in New York, we have covered Central Park more than a few times. There are the hidden cemeteries as reported in the New York post and our post abut Seneca Village, a settlement of free African American property owners. This area of Manhattan is where Andrew Williams, a Black shoeshiner, bought three parcels of land between what is now West 85th Street and 86th for $125. By 1850, there was a school, three churches, gardens, livestock, some 50 homes, and roughly 225 residents, the majority of whom were Black.
Amber Tamm, a horticulturist and urban farmer who works at the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm has made a suggestion that is catching on, at least in the press, to convert 14-acres of Central Park into a farm that would feed people in need that are located in Manhattan. The idea is to simultaneously honor a historic black community but also give back to the present ones.
In 1853, the city of New York took control of Seneca Village through eminent domain and razed it to create Central Park. Until recently, in 2011, a group of historians and archaeologists excavated the site and found thousands of artifacts and household items that reflected a middle-class lifestyle.
Tamm wants to take the area back and call it Seneca Village Farms. The effort is timed with COVID-19 and the economic and food insecurity that has arisen from it. “I think calling out Central Park is powerful, because it’s the biggest park in New York City and it has the most flatland,” Tamm said.
In June, a GoFundMe page was launched for Seneca Village Farm which has already raised more than $120,600. The land would be managed as 14 one-acre sites, which would be overseen by one person or group. An urban farming training program would be part of the proposal.
“For me land ownership is more than possession of land, it’s something that I could leave for my future lineage, it’s a way to create a safe space outside of the city to connect with Momma Earth, it was a way to bring community together to heal,” the fundraising page reads. “It’s a way to regenerate soils and grow more local food. This would also be an opportunity for me to find a way to give land access back to the original indigenous people of the future land I decide to rest upon.”
Tamm is planning to meet with the city’s Parks Department to discuss the community farm in Central Park. As with most things that happen in NYC, there are permits. Considering that the Great Lawn is part of the plan that sounds like an impressive obstacle to overcome. Last year, the Central Park Conservancy launched an outdoor exhibit to teach visitors about the historic neighborhood.