Amtrak Must Pay & Stop Weed Spraying in Urban Communities
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In September of 2018, Jenny's Garden (formed in 1975 and one of the oldest community gardens in New York City) was contaminated with three herbicides by Amtrak as a part of their annual weed spraying program and killed about 30% of the garden, including the final harvest, numerous fruit trees, three compost bins and more. (for complete order of events, see the final section of this petition)
Riverside Park Conservancy (RPC), a private non-profit organization which partners with the New York City Parks Department to maintain the park which Jenny's Garden is located within, has demanded that Amtrak compensate the community for the harm in the amount of around $170,000, covering materials, labor, and continued maintenance (see breakdown below). At the writing of this petition, we've learned that Amtrak has passed off these expenses to its subcontractor, and by doing so does not claim any responsibility or change in policies to prevent this from happening again.
City Council Member, Mark D. Levine and Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer wrote to Amtrak's President & CEO on 9/28/18 requesting information regarding their weed spraying program and requests for changes in the future, including notification of local communities in Upper Manhattan prior to any future spraying. As of today, there has been no response. (full list of requests is below).
By this petition, we're requesting for Amtrak to compensate RPC immediately for the amount requested, and follow through with the following reparation requests by the community and local officials:
- Amtrak and its subcontractors cease all future Weed Spraying along the Empire Line rail right-of-way from West 135th Street to West 145th Street, which is adjacent to Jenny's Garden.
- Amtrak install signage along the Empire Line rail right-of-way that states "NO WEED SPRAYING," and ensure that the signage is up year round.
- Amtrak to send a schedule to local officials of the weed spraying program moving forward.
- Amtrak to send information on the protocols Amtrak has adopted, if any, for notifying residents and local governments before applying these chemicals in their communities.
- Amtrak to create a Memo of Understanding with Riverside Park Conservancy and NYC Parks Department for Amtrak to manually maintain the vegetation along the Empire Line, and suspend the herbicidal spraying in park adjacent areas.
- Amtrak to notify the relevant city elected officials and Community Boards at least 30 days in advance of any future application of herbicides in our communities.
- Amtrak to provide permission and contribute to the creation of a mural along the 'Amtrak Wall' that is perpendicular to the garden (and home to numerous amounts of graffiti).
- And lastly in final reparation for the damages, destruction and contamination, the community asks for Amtrak to repair and repave the northern park path from Riverside Drive to Jenny's Garden, in order to make accessible for all members of the community, especially those physically impaired.
For more information you can email us at RVCGarden@gmail.com or follow us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/JennysGardenRiverside/
ORDER OF EVENTS (including news/press coverage):
- Thur 9/20 – Jenny noticed deterioration among the fig tree, marigolds, and peach tree that line the Amtrak adjacent fence to the garden.
- Fri 9/21 – Amtrak admitted that they had sprayed along the fence on Sat 9/15 as a part of their annual Weed Spraying Program; outside contractor
- NOTE: gardeners ate harvest from the contaminated areas on Sun 9/16 without knowing about the weed spraying.
- Fri 9/21 – we notified Parks, Green Thumb, Riverside Park Conservancy, DEP, Office of Emergency Management, and CM Mark Levine & MBP Gale Brewer
- SIDE NOTE: The Amtrak Weed Spraying Program has been known to have devastating affects to both public and private lands around the country. Most recently, a class action lawsuit was filed in August 2017 in Philadelphia. Click HERE
- Sat 9/22 - the garden continued to show the devastation. That’s when several gardeners cordoned off the affected areas, now known as the Kill Zone.
- Devastation was shown along 12th Avenue going south as far as West 135th Street, up north as far as West 145th Street.
- Press Coverage: AMNY, Spectrum News NY1, Univision, ABCNY and more!
- Wed 9/26 – Amtrak officials showed up unannounced (even though it was clearly stated that Park officials needed to be present). The Amtrak official continued to state that they didn't know what herbicides were used (as they hire a subcontractor for their weed spraying program). However when Park officials were able to quickly arrive on site, Amtrak was able to produce the paperwork (a stack 6" high) on the three herbicides used.
- Three Herbicides Used:
- Nufarm Polaris AC Complete, EPA Reg. 228-570;
- Aqua Neat Aquatic Herbicide, EPA Reg. 228-365;
- Viewpoint Herbicide, EPA 432-1580
- Fri 10/5 - After Parks was able to review the herbicide data sheets provided by Amtrak, it was determined that: "It is not known how much herbicide product was applied to the garden. Herbicides are meant to kill plants, but direct human contact with the products can cause eye or skin irritation; they have not been shown to cause chronic health problems. NYC Parks recommends that people do not eat produce affected by the spraying event. Anyone experiencing health effects, should consult a health care provider."
- Horticultural Impact & Public Health: "The herbicide may persist in affected soil for several months, and could last into the spring growing season. Any future plants (edible or non-edible) grown in such soil may be affected and may not grow properly or even die from the exposure. Edible plants should not be grown in such soil. To reduce this risk, NYC Parks plans to remove and replace the top three to six inches of soil from the affected planted areas and areas where future planting is planned, and in a perimeter zone of two to three feet around those areas. This soil removal will take place in areas in which the gardeners plan to grow plants, such as raised beds or plants grown directly in the ground. On other areas (paths, storage areas, etc.) the soil does not need to be replaced. Tests for these herbicide products are not readily available, and it would be more prudent to simply dispose of the affected plants and soil. Dead plants should not be composted as herbicide would contaminate the compost. NYC Parks will work with Riverside Park Conservancy to replace the affected soil. Gardeners should not work in the affected areas until the soil has been replaced."
- Fri 10/12 - Dozens of RPC gardeners and several volunteers began the work to remove the contaminated soil, debris, compost bins and wood. This work would continue for the next month.
- Sun 10/21 - Garden volunteers began rebuilding garden boxes and exterior beds. This work would continue for the next month.
- Sat 12/8 - Garden volunteers were able to replace the last bags of soil into the rebuilt beds, nearly three months after Amtrak's Weed Spraying contaminated and destroyed more than 30% of the community garden.
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