There is no drama like community garden drama. A bunch of elderly gardening enthusiasts have been stirring things up in Flushing, Queens, and tensions at the lovely little Evergreen Community Garden have become so strained that police patrols and volunteer guards have been put in place to keep the peace. One elderly Korean man even went on a hunger strike and threatened to light himself on fire because he wasn't happy with the community garden management.
According to The Wall St. Journal, a Korean-American senior citizen's group had taken it upon themselves to clean up a trash-filled public space back in the early 1980s. Thirty years later, it's now a working public garden with vegetables and produce. But the senior citizens in charge were excluding outsiders from the garden and were illegally selling produce grown on the city-owned land, so the city's Parks & Recreation department took control of the space and installed a new manager.
That didn't make the previous operators very happy. City officials told the WSJ that the garden's 75-year-old former manager clutched a container of gasoline and a lighter and shouted that he was going to immolate himself if he was not put in charge of the garden again. A police hostage negotiation team was called in response, and two nearby schools had to be temporarily shut down during the crisis. Over a community vegetable garden.
"When we made it into a farm, you have no idea how hard it was," he said to the WSJ through a translator. "It took five years. Now it's scary, like a war zone."
"We want to make sure the gardening there is safe," said the parks department's deputy commissioner of public outreach, "and that the passion is put into the activity at hand, not into attacking each other."
Reaching that level of calm might take some time. Just last week a fight broke out at a press conference about the garden, leaving one man under arrest and another in the hospital.