Friday, April 8, 2011

Who’s The Asshole Who Destroyed Nashville’s Community Garden?

The Greenhouse Of Death

The Tennessee Dept. of Transportation, aka the “Department of Concrete,” is living up to its nickname by punching local hippies kicking the African American community bulldozing Nashville’s best known community garden:
B.J. Doughty, TDOT spokeswoman, said the group, called EarthMatters Tennessee and led by Sizwe Herring, had basically allowed the site to deteriorate, moving from its originally stated “green” goal of sustainable crop production and composting to a hodge-podge of uses.

“I don’t know of a single vegetable growing there,” Doughty said. “There were a couple of abandoned vehicles on the site.”

What the hell? Have you looked at the calendar, lady? Global warming notwithstanding, Nashville’s last frost date is April 5 -- three days ago. There ain’t gonna be any vegetables growing there for a while. Are you a total moron, or just pretending to be one?

And I’m calling major bullshit on that “allowed the site to deteriorate” stuff. This is my neighborhood. I drive past here every day; I jog past here, I walk my dogs by here. It has not deteriorated. It’s a working garden. I’m sorry it doesn’t look enough like Cheekwood for you. This isn’t for the perfumed set to ooh and aaah over as they drink their sweet tea. This is for people to grow food. It’s an all-volunteer operation and yes, there are people working out here most Saturdays! In season, this is a vibrant community garden with, yes, vegetables and a rose garden honoring Deford Bailey.

Smelling a tremendous waft of bullshit over this story, I headed down to the site this afternoon and witnessed the carnage for myself. There I met and spoke with Sizwe Herring, heard an EarthMatters board member wonder how she could possibly raise the $10,000 TDOT threatened to charge for its “cleanup,” and listened as an elderly African American lady with her hair in curlers laid into the TDOT crew about how humanity was destroying God’s creation and nobody seemed to care. It just about broke my heart to see this rag-tag group of people who had been called to the site on a workday while TDOT supervisors in their starched white shirts put the riff raff in their place.

Near as I could gather, the EarthMatters folks had been given a month to clean up the site, but then for some reason TDOT bulldozers arrived early. I honestly don’t know what happened on that end. What I did hear is that two -- two -- residents across the street from the garden complained about noise and called the garden an eyesore.


One of the TDOT supervisors told me the garden was not the problem, the greenhouse was. It was filthy. Oh my. A dirty greenhouse, can you imagine? /sarcasm. You can see the picture of it above.

If you’ve been to the site, you know that the greenhouse sits far back from the street, behind a chain-link fence covered with honeysuckle. I can’t imagine how that could possibly be an eyesore to any residents. You have to be inside the garden to even see it!

Someone else said the problem was the composting operation, which according to BJ Doughty in the article above was part of the original deal the state made with EarthMatters. So if the state decided it no longer wanted composting, they surely didn't have to bring bulldozers out to stop it.

The other complaint from these two neighbors was noise, which is the most hilarious complaint of all. Apparently the gardeners had drumming and flutes and other live music on work days -- something I never saw, but of course I’m not out there every weekend. Regardless, the irony of someone complaining about noise when they live in the shade of the Interstate is pretty rich. Plus, Sevier Park backs up to those houses and the city actually hosts live music concerts there every summer. So, I'm calling bullshit on that complaint too.

The TDOT folks were doing a lot of talking and we heard one thing from one person and another thing from someone else. One guy told me the gardens would not be destroyed, but for some reason the hand-painted pavillions were demolished when I got there. I just don't know why a pavillion is a problem. I'm totally not getting it.

I don’t know these folks who complained. Maybe they are extraordinarily sensitive -- in which case, why move next to I-440? I just smell something else going on here, something along the lines of people not liking the poor blacks and dirty fucking hippies working together to plant a garden. That just really chaps some folks in the wrong place. I'm sorry but this just smacks of racism to me. If I'm wrong, well, bygones.

Anyway, I called Sen. Henry's office and his assistant offered to send me photos of the garden before TDOT "cleaned it up" -- which I said was unnecessary since I live near there and see it every day. She then said that there's nothing the Senator could do, the state Senate does not tell the departments how to run their business.

She actually said that. Which makes me think the state legislature is basically useless. I mean, it's good to know if TDOT accidentally bulldozes your house while pushing through a highway that your state Senator can't do a damn thing about it. But I digress.

And she then passed the buck to TDOT's Winston Gaffron at (615) 350-4300. So whatever. You know what to do.

ADDING.... The more I think about it, the more this stinks. TDOT folks have been acting so defensive about this whole thing ... from BJ Doughty saying she never saw a vegetable growing there to the starched-shirt crew on site this afternoon telling me the greenhouse was an eyesore.

Someone better dig into this.

Without further ado:

Raised Beds. With Stuff Growing In Them

Pavillion Destroyed By TDOT

I Know Let's Put A Racetrack Here

Here’s a garden tour from two years ago: