Letter: Stop state bullying of JP community gardeners

Imagine a state agency cutting off water to a JP community garden in the heat of the summer? In some parts of the world, this could be considered a dangerous and hostile act.

That’s what’s happening in JP. The agency that manages state assets is bullying our scrappy neighborhood association, pressuring us to sign a one-year license agreement that gives the state the right to evict gardeners with 60 days notice and no just cause.

In mid-May, after vegetables had been planted, the state cut off water to the gardeners for three days to force us to sign the bad agreement. Only after a story in a newspaper and the threat of a “hose and bucket brigade”—to be covered by several local TV stations—did the state turn the water on and come to the negotiating table.

For 29 years, residents of the Asticou-Martinwood-South Street neighborhood have peacefully grown several tons of food each year at the State Lab property in Jamaica Plain, near the Forest Hills T Station. Half the gardeners are employees at the State Lab and half are from the community.

In 1987, neighborhood leaders from the Asticou Martinwood South Neighborhood Association (AMSNA) negotiated the garden with the state—in part as compensation for having to live next to an ugly, noisy, and poorly managed state property. We suspect the state would like to develop the property, which is why they are in a wicked hurry to force a short-term agreement.

The Commonwealth’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) is the agency responsible for the water shut off, but they refuse disclose who in the agency made the lame-brained decision to deprive gardeners of water during a hot week in May. As a citizen who supports effective and accountable government, I find it appalling that the state would use such heavy-handed tactics. It gives government a bad name.

Our elected officials, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and state Rep. Liz Malia, have worked to keep the water on while the neighborhood negotiates with the state for an agreement that protects the garden and the state.

Over 700 JP and Roslindale residents have signed a petition to stand with AMSNA and the South Street gardeners. Please sign the petition at chn.ge/2aWtauY.

If they shut the water off again, we may need your help with our bucket and hose brigade. Stay tuned.

Chuck Collins

Jamaica Plain

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