(from the New York Times - 5/13/99)
A day before the Giuliani administration was to auction off city-owned
lots that had been transformed into community gardens, the performer Bette
Midler had her private conservation organization agree to buy dozens of the
less desirable parcels, providing the final financing to preserve all 112
gardens that were set for sale.
The 11th-hour announcement ended a long-running dispute between city
officials who said the parcels were ripe for sale and residents who viewed
themselves as gardeners tending to verdant oases in neighborhoods of
concrete and steel. But the fate of more than 600 other lots that were not
part of the auction remains unclear.
Nevertheless, the $1.2 million purchase of 51 lots by the New York
Restoration Project -- arranged by a singer and actress better known for
her engaging flamboyance than for her diplomatic skills -- provided a vital
piece in the city's negotiations with environmental groups.
The offer cleared the way for another conservation group, the Trust for
Public Land, to buy the rest of the 112 parcels for $3 million, a figure
that included an additional $1 million from Ms. Midler's organization.
According to the deal, the two organizations are to work out plans to turn
over the properties to the community groups that tend to the gardens. If
the properties are ever used for anything other than gardens, ownership
will revert to the city, said Deputy Mayor Randy Levine, who helped in the
Community Food Security Project
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