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Community Garden Grows Animosity

Verbal sparring broke out once again at a council meeting between Cindy Burnham and Red Bank's council members over the community garden.

If the purpose of a community garden is to unify neighborhoods, bring people together to work toward a common goal, then the Red Bank Community Garden has already failed, well before a single seed has even been planted.

Once again, discussion at a borough council meeting concerning Red Bank’s proposed garden devolved into an argumentative, he-said, she-said confrontation between members of the council and Fair Haven resident Cindy Burnham in a scene that’s played out numerous times within the past year or so.

Burnham has spearheaded the community gardening effort since its beginnings, helping form an early gardening committee with the help of the borough’s Environmental Commission. But as the process has progressed and as the garden organization and development has been turned over to the borough, her role has been marginalized.

Burnham believes the borough is trying to muscle her out of the initiative she started. The borough believes Burnham is actively trying to sabotage the community garden. And so it goes.

The most recent in a slew of conflicts stems from the borough’s decision to create a Red Bank Community Garden Ad Hoc Committee to develop and oversee the creation and maintenance of a community garden on Marion Street. The move ruffled the feathers of Burnham, who believes the borough has stolen her thunder by replacing a committee that already existed, one she helped create.

The borough contends that the official committee is necessary since the garden is located on borough-owned property. The gardeners were given the option of creating their own 501-3c or latching on to another to help manage liabilities, or hand the garden over to the Red Bank Parks and Recreation Committee.

Begrudgingly, it appears, the garden was handed over to the borough.

“We were ready to plot and it was this council that stopped us,” Burnham said, ending her address to the council by saying her “hope is that now the borough has control we can work together in a civil manner and not use the garden as a political football.”

Borough Administrator Stanley Sickles rebutted Burnham’s claims that the garden was ready to go. For one, he said, Burnham personally went door to door on Marion Street to tell residents to oppose locating a garden there. Burnham, from the audience, did not deny the charge but said it stemmed from her efforts to have the garden placed at 94 W. Front Street on a highly-visible plot of land adjacent to the Red Bank Public Library.

It wasn’t until the towns started seeing fliers pop up, he said, that it was known if the then-garden committee was interested in moving forward. The borough stepped in, with the guidance of board solicitor Daniel O’Hern, to take control of the garden before any planting was done.

“I don’t think you’ve appreciated the fact that this garden is going on borough property,” Councilwoman Kathy Horgan said. “It’s not your property, there are things we have to do before we can move forward. You’ve put the cart before the horse.”

The council also rebutted claims made by Burnham that nearby community gardens, like the one in Shrewsbury, which was approved by council there, installed and funded with Green Acres money, and planted in just a few months, aren't run by their respective towns. 

Horgan said she believed Burnham has made the community garden the “Cindy Burnham project.” Burnham, she said, has disagreed with every decision the new committee has come up with. Burnham defended her position, however, saying she’s kept up the pressure for those living in Red Bank.

“I’m not even going to use it,” she said. “It’s for the residents.”

With the borough and its new committee moving swiftly ahead with the Red Bank Community Garden, Burnham's ongoing involvement in the project likely depends on her willingness to compromise and see that the garden grows more than frustration and ill-feelings.

Cindy Burnham September 27, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Muscled out? Sabotage the garden? Oh please! These were comments that the council made to the press after the meeting. I was at this meeting to call Ms. Horgan out on the many missleading & irresponsible statements she has made lately regarding the Community Garden. This was a very comical & entertaining meeting. To watch Horgan, Zip, Sickels & O'Hern yelling at me, while Murphy mumbled something nasty into his microphone really goes to show the clueless bullies that they really are. I am still on the committee and still working towards getting this garden going again inspite of this councils efforts to delay, derail & deter. The fact is that the Community Garden Committee had four plots leased and was ready to plant, the first week of August and we were stopped by this council on Aug. 13th. Here's the truth. If Ms. Horgan & Mr. Zip really wanted a garden, they could have made it happen two years ago. Councilwoman Horgan & Lee both stated many times that they wanted the garden to be more centrally located, so that more RB Residents could have access. So they put it on Marion St? 1 block from Fair Haven? I have come to realize that these do nothing polititions will say anything to make themselves look good, even if it is untrue and they will go to even greater lengths to make others who are not part of "Their family" look bad if they achieve something. It's just bad Red Bank polititions once again.
Ken Barber September 27, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Why is government always afraid that a non-government project will succeed? This garden project is small and if it had problems, the government could close it down within hours.
Leah Ashton September 27, 2012 at 03:53 PM
A community garden is supposed to be for the community and if the residents on Marion Street said they had a problem with the plot of land picked for the site, then shouldn't they find another place? Also if this is truly a community Garden, it should be put someplace where all of the community can get to it? This is why a lot of residents don't get involved with town projects. it ends up being craziness.
lawrence williard September 28, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Go back to Fair Haven, Cindo!
Col. Korn September 28, 2012 at 12:03 PM
You tell them Cindy! We know the truth and all their lies cant change it! With people like you in our corner at least we have a fighting chance. I say lets vote the bums out of office and have a general clean sweep of their shenanigans once and for all! Their are plenty of decent hard working fair minded people in Red Bank to Fill those offices. Lets motion them to office and bring back the Glory that was once Red Bank! Your Obt. Svt. Col Korn, Chief O’ Mayhem in the Great WW-2 (And the Cold War) Now Chief O’ Security, Sanitation (And the Complaint Dept.) OXOjamm Studios.
Stone LaPierre September 28, 2012 at 12:15 PM
The bottom line TRUTH is that the RB city council has never wanted a garden and will stop at nothing to be sure that a garden never grows in Red Bank. Why wouldn't they want a garden? That's ridiculous, who wouldn't want a garden? Well go figure, who doesn't like gardens, how could anyone not want a beautiful garden where everyone could enjoy it, benefit from it? That is the unanswerable question here - just when the Garden Committee that has been fighting for over 2 years is about to get started on the little piece of desert one step out of Fair Haven that the council allowed them to have - they appoint a whole new committee, that not only knows or cares nothing about the garden but uses funds and wastes time undermining and repeating all the progress and work that has already been made by The Garden Committee. Why would they do that? Because the RB Council will never let a garden happen and starting all over again with a new committee will surely delay things another 3 years - at least. A new survey from the army corp of engineers, the EPA, 6 more plans from master gardeners, new soil and water testing, a poll of all residents in a 3 mile radius, air testing and whatever else has already been done at least 4 or 5 times, etc., etc., etc. If the mayor and his thugs will never allow a garden in RB, ask yourselves what else is he denying the people of RB...you might just be surprised, very surprised. and while you're at it ask him for a copy of the budget from the River Center?
Nancy Adams September 28, 2012 at 03:03 PM
The RiverCenter budget is available any time anyone wants to see it; it was also posted by the Borough when it was up for annual approval in March, but I fail to see how RiverCenter or our budget has anything to do with this topic. If you do look at our budget, you will see that we spend over $20,000 on horticulture (all those beautiful flowers you see throughout the downtown on sidewalks and light posts.) This year, we spent $10,000 on repairs to the benches that furnish your sidewalks and replacements for many others that were damaged or hit by snowplows or delivery trucks. If you look further in the budget, you'll see that we spend $52,000 on the holiday decorations that brighten up your downtown through the holidays.
Nancy Adams September 28, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Note that since RiverCenter is an independent non-profit funded solely by the businesses, the residents of Red Bank spend no dollars on these things that beautify a large portion of their hometown. And we do more: Guinness Oyster Festival, Food & Wine Walks, International Food Festival, Holiday Horse & Carriages, Dine Downtown, Girls Night Out, and more. I could go on. Please call our office if you'd like to discuss the RiverCenter budget & the large amount of work we do that benefits the Borough & increases property values for its residents. 732-842-4244,or go to our website that is being renamed through our new branding campaign launching over the next several weeks ($40,000), acoollittletown.com. We hope you'll thank the businesses by supporting them.
Edward Van Embden (Editor) September 28, 2012 at 03:29 PM
We post a copy of RiverCenter's budget here annually.
Andres Simonson September 28, 2012 at 05:49 PM
The shame, of course, is that we don’t have a Community Garden right now, but rater a Calamity Garden. For this, there’s plenty of blame to go around – Council needs to take a long hard look in the mirror, and although I’m always thankful for Cindy fighting the fight, I think she is rousing too much rabble at this point. In the interest of community, let’s just make sure we’re ready for Spring planting at the Marion Street site. Where we shouldn't capitulate though, is the lot next to the library. This lot is on the NJDEP Recreation and Open Space Inventory, and by just about any metric, is the ideal community garden site. I've still not heard a convincing argument from the Council about their resistance, and that is not just sour grapes speaking. It’s like the rights of a couple Canada Geese outweigh the will of their constituents. Not what I consider a representative form of government.
Cindy Burnham September 29, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Andres, I just had to call Councilwoman Horgan on her lies. Now that I have, I am more than ever determinded to make this garden a success. The RB Community Garden Committee, was ready to plant the first week of Aug, until the council shut us down. Now, you can be sure that this garden will be ready to grow by early next spring! Residents will recieve notices about the garden in the mail and you will be able to download the garden application from the RB website and send in your completed app with your check of $25, to the Borough . It will still be first come first serve to ALL RB RESIDENTS, so keep your eyes open around early March of 2013.

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