Neighbors Turned Vacant Lot Into a Garden; Then the Bank Brought in a Wrecking Crew

Categories: Economy
garden2.jpg
Photos by Eric Barton
Vegetables used to grow here.


For almost a year now, residents of downtown Fort Lauderdale's Flagler Village neighborhood chipped in their time and money on a community garden occupying a once-scrubby scrap of land. They built raised planter boxes and bamboo fences and just put in a new water line. They grew eggplant and broccoli and herbs -- bushels of fruits and vegetables to show for their weekly labor.

Garden before2.jpg
Via Facebook
The garden before the demolition. Click here for more photos
Then, early today, they discovered that their community garden had been razed. Workers showed up this morning and quickly disposed of the raised plots, the fences, the water line, and all of the unpicked produce.

The wrecking crew had been hired by the land's new owner, City National Bank of Florida, which foreclosed on the land last month. Without word to the neighbors who had built the garden, City National sent in its demolition team.

Kate Sheffield, one of the gardeners, discovered the razed land this morning. She was shocked to discover a year's worth of work gone. "We knew all along that it wasn't going to last forever," she told the Pulp. "But we didn't think that it would just be a few months and then the garden would be destroyed."

Isabel Fernandez, marketing director for City National, said the bank didn't know the property had been used as a garden. The bank foreclosed on the property and three neighboring lots last month from the developer, who had financial troubles. Asked about the community garden, Fernandez said: "That's not the official use of that lot."

garden1.jpg
The only remaining signs that the lot used to be a garden are a couple of left-behind planters.
Downtown residents built the garden at 415 NE Third Ave. last summer after getting permission from the developer who owned the property, Sheffield said. What started as just a couple of patches of produce soon grew to 20 plots maintained by 15 people. Some came once a week, while others were there every other day.

The garden arrived at a time of resurgence for Flagler Village, a community of homes, apartments, and businesses (including New Times) north of Broward Boulevard and east of Federal Highway. It brought together a few like-minded residents who revived the neighborhood's civic association and began planning for beautification projects, more art walks, and monthly meet-ups.

Shortly after City National foreclosed on the property, a Fort Lauderdale code enforcement officer cited the garden on May 18 for overgrown weeds and trash. Gardeners came out May 27 and cleaned up the land. "We spent the day weeding -- in the rain -- to comply with the code violation," Sheffield said.

But Fernandez said the bank didn't know that the gardeners had cleaned it up. After the bank received the citation, it hired a crew to clean up the land without knowing that the workers would be tearing down a community garden. "When we got the property," Fernandez said, "it was not being maintained."

City National was founded in 1946 in Miami Beach and claims that it maintains a policy of community development. "Help build the community, and the community will help build the Bank," City National's slogan boasts. It has had its own history of financial troubles. In April 2010, it entered into an agreement with the Comptroller of the Currency after the government agency discovered "unsafe and unsound banking practices" due to shaky loans.

Finding foreclosed properties in Flagler Village isn't hard -- the housing bubble led to speculation in the neighborhood, and now several lots sit empty. When asked if she'd work on taking over another lot to build a garden, Sheffield mustered a bittersweet laugh. "I don't know," she said. "That's all I can say about that right now."


Follow The Pulp on Facebook and on Twitter: @ThePulpBPB. Follow Eric Barton on Twitter: @ericbarton.
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26 comments
Travelgirl
Travelgirl

Another bank on the go...move over Bank of America...there is a another terrible bank on the horizon. 

Davidbexton
Davidbexton

You should work on your reading comprehension. The developer who gave them permission to have the community garden on the lot defaulted on the property---they didn't own it anymore. The garden was so poorly maintained that the bank received notice from the city that the lot had to be cleaned up or face fines. Don't create a fantasy in your head about people's "right" to squat on land they don't own---especially when they fail to remove trash and weeds from their "garden."

April - CastIronCook
April - CastIronCook

How horrible. It seems like a situation where anyone up the chain of command from crew to bank could have stopped and said "Lets work things out" and it could have ended much better for everyone. At least the people could have retrieved their tools and planter boxes... that stuff adds up and gets expensive.

Ghostmaster
Ghostmaster

I bet you those crews took home the veggies in that garden.  Who trashes veggies?  No one i know of.  You take it home to your family if it is ready to pick. 

Gerryjerry89
Gerryjerry89

this is awful. Those bastards owe your community. The way I see it, the "bank" after obtaining the property should have inspected it, discusssed it with the community, and given something back to make it right. If I had any amount of money in that Bank, or any other connection with it, I would pull it out, walk across the street and put it in another bank.   I am so sorry. Betterr yet, I would engage in some peaceful protest at this back and begin a back ground check on the primary holders. Yes, a garden is a small thing, but when many small things come together, it makes a real big pile of stink. Have you thought about an educational picket?  This should not be dismissed as "oops, my bad!" and move on.   

Jezebel
Jezebel

The stupidity of the cleanup crew is particularly depressing--how could they not notice that there were planter boxes and vegetables growing there before they razed the place?

Patti Lynn
Patti Lynn

Great story Eric.  Now, how about appealing to Mayor Jack Seiler for assistance in obtaining the free use of vacant city-owned lots for urban gardening?  Also, perhaps CNB might want to make a contribution to restore the garden on 3rd Avenue.  It would benefit the bank, the neighborhood, the city, and the gardeners.

Original Gardner
Original Gardner

Kudos to Kate and the rest of the gardeners for turning an eyesore into an oasis - albeit for an all-too short time. Developers and/or banks with empty lots should be knocking on Kate's door begging her to start another garden on their properties. In fact, they should throw in the funds needed to build the raised beds and purchase top soil. CIty National - are you listening?

twas
twas

Nice report Eric, though I hope it wasn't a cut and paste from the SS. You guys gotta quit doing that, we look to you for the black listed news.

Julia Morgan
Julia Morgan

Way to live up to their motto...  I hope this garden will find a new place.

Disgusted
Disgusted

I find the City National Bank of Florida's comments suspect at best. The Bank representative said that the City National Bank of Florida did not know that a community garden was functioning on the lot for the past eight months, but then said that the lot was not being maintained when they took it over one month ago.  How does the Bank know anything about whether the lot is being maintained when they did not even know that there was a functioning community garden or that the gardeners worked, in the rain, to pull weeds to help address the City's concerns. 

As far as a community garden not being "an official use of that lot," the gardeners had permission to use the lot from the developer and the City.  The gardeners were not given notice of the ownership change.  To the extent that the City National Bank of Florida would prefer to have the lot empty and barren (a presumably "official use") then the Bank should have given the gardener's notice so that they could remove their personal property before the City National Bank of Florida destroyed it.

parkland man
parkland man

Hey they should use the land to hang sb lawyers and start with that sb john edwards hes a real sb suing cocksucker and cheating on his dieing wife what a fn dirtbag he is,most lawyers are like that,fuck lawyers

gardenisbetterthannothing
gardenisbetterthannothing

hey davidbexton, usually code violation warnings are issued when an unhappy neighbor with an ax to grind calls the city. Could this be you, davidbexton? otherwise, why should you care? well, i hope you're happy now that you get to look at a dirt pile instead of a garden. the condition of a community garden is dependent on the condition of the community, hence the name. so in a way, you let that lot go to weeds too. no one ever mentioned rights or squatting (gardening with permission is not squatting)- that is your own fantasy. save your comments for topics you comprehend.

nanook5
nanook5

Jack Seiler hates people that make and share food. Just ask the homeless in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

The Pulp Blog
The Pulp Blog

Nope, the Sentinel didn't have this story. And Julia, I'm with you -- I hope they find a new place for it. In fact, there's a big vacant lot right next to the New Times office on NE Fourth Street...

Chaz Stevens, Genius
Chaz Stevens, Genius

Todd;

Have you ever heard the phrase "Baker Act" mentioned about you by any family members, colleagues, or neighbors?

I am thinking you have...

Hellvis
Hellvis

I see you have a habit of outing people on here, "Mr I'm on TV"  What a douche!

parkland man
parkland man

Your new name is the end of suckdition u fn pussy,you should have stayed with gonot,hes a cunt like you.

parkland man
parkland man

Oh there you are what happened yesterday pussy

Hellvis
Hellvis

@Chaz  , Yes he is a screwball, if you dont like what he says just do what others do and ignore him.

Chaz Stevens, Genius
Chaz Stevens, Genius

The right to post anonymously doesn't include the right to remain anonymous.   Posting in secret is a coward's way of forgoing all civility in your discourse.

If you have followed Todd's various rants, you will have paid witness to his ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge.   He's also "famous" for creating straw men and arguing against things I have neither said nor even implied. 

But then again, what do I know, I am merely on TV.

Chaz Stevens, Genius
Chaz Stevens, Genius

Todd;

Aren't you even the bit curious (if that is even possible) how I figured out you were "parkland man -- a random anonymous Jew hating race bating Internet Troll cretin."   Oh trust me bro.   I know all about you.     You should spend 1,000% less time on the interwebs and much more time trying to get your life back in order.

Meet you?  If I wanted to waste my time, that's a simple feat to accomplish.   What do boys like you say?  Oh yeah, if we wanted to hook up on the down-low, all I had to do is go to Bella Sera on any given Friday night.   Like say last night.

However, seeing as your life is in a complete downward financial spiral, I'd offer to meet at the Court House as you can't seem to even pay a $23 traffic citation.   How about I come over and help clear up that matter?   Unlike you, I have spare change.

When I told folks over at City Hall about you and your online antics, rest assured CASA will not be calling you anytime soon.  So you'll have to find out another "hobby" to occupy your time.  How about using some those spare hours publicly proclaiming how much you hate Jews -- in fact, go for broke and do it over at Century Village -- right outside of those condos you're going to lose.

You know broke.

And you buddy Al Capellini?   He's fucked also.

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