Bank Repays Urban Farmers After Bulldozing Their Community Garden

It was a sad day back in June when the people who had planted the Flagler Village Community Garden showed up to find that it had been bulldozed. City National Bank had foreclosed on the land and ordered a demo crew to raze the property, apparently without knowing that neighbors had spent months cultivating the garden.

Now the bank has reimbursed the 11 gardeners for the money they put into the property. City National mailed a $1,520 check on August 3 along with a letter from the bank's marketing manager, Isabel Fernandez.

The letter doesn't admit any fault on the bank's part but emphasizes that the bank cares 

about community partnerships. "We are proud of our record of community support and we are happy to support the efforts of the Flagler Community Garden," Fernandez wrote.

The garden began last summer when a few neighbors banned together and planted fruits and vegetables on a vacant lot at 415 NE Third Ave. The owner of the property had agreed to allow the garden. But in May, City National foreclosed on the land. The bank ordered the demo June 3, apparently without knowing the land was being used as a garden.

Afterward, the Downtown Development Authority contacted the bank and asked if any solution could be met, says Kate Sheffield, who helped organize the garden. City National then requested an itemized list of expenses from the gardeners, who sent a list of everything from fertilizer to the recently installed hose spigot. "It took some back and forth," Sheffield said.

Fernandez said the bank's board of directors met and decided to reimburse the gardeners. "I think it's wonderful that we were able to help out the gardeners and see, no pun intended, the fruit of their labors come true," Fernandez said.

The check will likely be split among the gardeners based on what they put into the first project. However, several of them have suggested using the money to start a new garden again in the Flagler neighborhood just north of downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Sheffield says she has been considering that plan. First, she's waiting to see what happens with a proposal to create a city ordinance regarding community gardens. The ordinance will be debated at a September 22 workshop in Holiday Park. Then, Sheffield is hoping someone will offer up a piece of land to be used for a garden.

Perhaps, somewhere out there, is a bank willing to do the right thing and volunteer one of the many vacant lots in Fort Lauderdale for use as the new and improved Flagler Village Community Garden.

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Eric Barton
Contact: Eric Barton