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SNAPSHOT: Gardens and Gentrification

Does cleaning up vacant lots spur gentrification? Andrew Maroko, a professor at Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy, and Juliana Maantay, a professor at Lehman College, sought to quantify the observation that the “greening” of derelict properties in poor neighborhoods often precedes the arrival of condos and cafes. Their findings were published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The researchers found that the association between creating community gardens and neighborhood gentrification, while statistically significant, “is quite modest.”

A row of sprouting seeds

“On the one hand, there were significant income increases in areas in close proximity to community gardens,” suggesting gentrification is taking place over time, they wrote. On the other hand, “proximity to community gardens is only one of many possible factors” leading to gentrification, and there’s also some evidence that “community gardens may in fact help to ameliorate, impede, or at least slow down the pernicious impacts of gentrification.”

Some activists now favor a “just green enough” strategy that cleans up vacant or underused property for “community-led re-use” like small gardens, without manicuring neighborhoods or rezoning in a way that invites development. The researchers cited community gardens as an example of “community-led efforts” that benefit residents without disrupting neighborhoods. In contrast, larger greening initiatives like waterfront walkways, major parks, and rezoning industrial areas may lead more directly to upscale development. Read more.

SNAPSHOT is SUM’s new afternoon science brief.