ITHACA, N.Y. –– Following news of the Carpenter Park (officially renamed “Cayuga Park”) affordable housing development receiving state funds to move forward with the project, the Ithaca Community Gardens, which sits squarely in line with one of the proposed buildings on the site has now been approved for a long-term lease by the city’s Common Council.

“The Gardens has been working with the Carpenter Park developers for nearly three years now. We’re very pleased to be this close to finally achieving long-term security, and we’re grateful to the City for recognizing the important role we play in the community,” Marty Hiller, ICG Board president said at Wednesday’s council meeting.

ICG was approved for a 30-year lease by the City government, an agreement that exceeds not only the garden’s previous 20-year deal, but also the lease agreements of both the neighboring Farmer’s Market and the Hangar Theatre.

The initial lease term extends through Dec. 31, 2050, with a renewal term through 2070. The lease can only be terminated by an act of Common Council, and only if there’s a default on the part of the garden they fail to correct. When the agreement takes effect, the land will be zoned for Community Gardens, and for no other use.

However, the extended lease comes with just one caveat –– developers gain an additional 4/10 of an acre of buildable land, requiring a reconfiguration of the gardens as they currently exist. The City is also gaining $82,355 from the land deal, “representing fair value for the differential in value between the Swap Parcels.”

ICG will have its reconfiguration costs handled by developers, and is expected to begin in mid-October.

“The land is being replaced with parcels of land that are less useful for development. And so in order to make that happen, we need to reconfigure the water system in order to have spigots in the right locations for the new gardens,” Hiller said. She added that there is a lengthy list of other things to be done in order to correctly reconfigure, taking approximately one to two months to complete.

“We’re scheduling it in the off-season so that it doesn’t interfere with gardening,” she said.

The next step to ensure ICG’s needs are met will be a binding agreement with developers, likely to happen soon. In 2019, ICG leadership signed a “memorandum of understanding” with them that is now in need of formalizing. The finalized agreement will detail the new infrastructure developers will provide for ICG and a detailed transition plan for the reconfiguration.

“ICG, which is now a 501(c)3 organization, was established for the purpose of promoting food security and food self-sufficiency. Our Gardens serve more than 160 households that maintain plots to grow food for household use. Our gardeners consist of refugee and immigrant families, the elderly, young families, and others, including many who rely on the food they grow to supplement their grocery bills,” Hiller said, again, in her address to council Wednesday night.

“We look forward to serving the Ithaca community for many years to come.”

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com