The history of the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust starts with former NYC Mayor Giuliani who in 1999 planned to auction 112 community gardens. For years before the auction, hundreds of community gardeners had organized, demonstrated and filed lawsuits to save their gardens from development.
With an auction looming, then Attorney General Eliot Spitzer joined the gardeners lawsuit and stopped the auction. In 2002, Mayor Bloomberg signed a deal negotiated with General Eliot Spitzer and The Trust for Public Land (TPL), to pay $3 million to save 69 gardens as permanent open spaces. Bette Midler who paid $1.2 million and founded The Restoration Project saved other gardens. TPL invested in physical improvements such as fences, tool sheds and sidewalks to make the gardens safer and more inviting. TPL then organized local land trusts to take care of the gardens.
In 2004 the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust (BQLT) was incorporated to manage 34 gardens - 29 gardens in Brooklyn and 5 in Queens -- with a plan to eventually own those gardens. BQLT is a not-for-profit, tax- exempt organization. BQLT is a membership organization with a unique structure where the gardens are the members and garden representatives act on behalf of their gardens in an official capacity either on the BQLT board or as voting members. Votes are cast at the annual meeting. BQLT is now the owner of 32 of the community gardens and has more than 500 volunteers.
BQLT gardens are open spaces that provide opportunities for diverse groups of people to meet and cooperatively work together, as well as engaging in educational, cultural and arts activities. Most gardens grow vegetables and fruits that provide nutritious meals. Summers are filled with fish fries, Independence Day cookouts, jazz concerts, and art exhibits. Gardens are used as open space classrooms by local schools, meeting spaces, celebrations and memorials.
BQLT gardens are located in Bedford Stuyvesant, Boerum Hill, Bushwick, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, East New York, Flatbush, Fort Greene, New Lots, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn; Queens gardens are in the Cambria Heights, Corona, East Elmhurst, and Jamaica neighborhoods. Gardens cannot be sold or developed and by law are permanently saved as open spaces.
BQLT office is located in the Magnolia Tree Earth Center in Bedford Stuyvesant.