Flower power: NYC locals regain access to all of beloved garden after bruising legal battle

GARDEN IN MANHATTAN
General scene of fence surrounding kiddie park 129 Staton Street, Manhattan.

Lower East Side locals are rejoicing after finally tearing down a fence that cut a beloved children’s community garden in half and involved a decade-long legal turf war with a real-estate mogul.

Supporters of the Children’s Magical Garden struck a deal earlier this month in Manhattan Supreme Court with real-estate developer David Marom, allowing the community to regain control of the other half of the lot on the corner of Norfolk and Stanton Streets where Marom had planned to build a seven-story residential tower.

The settlement marks an end to an ugly court battle in which Marom, the president of the New York City real-estate development company The Horizon Group, was once accused of threatening to dump a Porta-Potty in the garden.

Local City Councilman Chris Marte addresses supporters of the Lower East Side’s Children’s Magical Garden, which just scored a major legal victory. Zachary Schulman for Children's Magical Garden
Local City Councilman Chris Marte addresses supporters of the Lower East Side’s Children’s Magical Garden, which just scored a major legal victory. Zachary Schulman for Children's Magical Garden
Supporters of the Children’s Magical Garden are thrilled over the legal win. Zachary Schulman for Children's Magical Garden
Supporters of the Children’s Magical Garden are thrilled over the legal win. Zachary Schulman for Children's Magical Garden

Marom has agreed to donate his plot of land, which he purchased in 2014 for $3.35 million, to Children’s Magical Garden in honor of his mother, according to lawyers for both parties and the Real Deal.

“It’s an incredible achievement of many years of everybody coming together to support the garden,” said Kate Temple-West, president of the group, to The Post. “Now we can let the garden reach its full potential, for all the kids and the community.”

Community members celebrated last weekend in a ceremony where kids, parents and area elected officials ripped up the chain link fence that stood between the green space and Marom’s lot, which locals claimed had been illegally separated from the garden.

The garden was started by activist Carmen Rubio in 1982 on a burnt-down site-turned-dump across the street from PS 20 and has been a volunteer-run space for after-school programs, recreational activities and community events for more than 40 years.

Marom and his group’s attempts to build a residential building on the portion he took over were met with fierce community opposition, dating back to the garden’s initial 2014 suit.

Marom has agreed to donate his plot of land, which he purchased in 2014 for $3.35 million, to Children’s Magical Garden in honor of his mother. John Roca
Marom has agreed to donate his plot of land, which he purchased in 2014 for $3.35 million, to Children’s Magical Garden in honor of his mother. John Roca
Lower East Side locals are rejoicing after finally tearing down a fence that cut a beloved children’s community garden in half and involved a decade-long legal turf war with a real-estate mogul. Helayne Seidman
Lower East Side locals are rejoicing after finally tearing down a fence that cut a beloved children’s community garden in half and involved a decade-long legal turf war with a real-estate mogul. Helayne Seidman
The garden was started by activist Carmen Rubio in 1982 on a burnt-down site-turned-dump across the street from PS 20. Helayne Seidman
The garden was started by activist Carmen Rubio in 1982 on a burnt-down site-turned-dump across the street from PS 20. Helayne Seidman

Marom was accused by Children’s Magical Garden of ordering workers to dig up plants and trees and dump construction waste onto the garden in 2019.

He was then sanctioned for destroying related evidence in 2022.

The new agreement ends several separate lawsuits, including one that alleged Marom violated what are known as “anti-SLAPP” laws, which are designed to stop powerful people from silencing critics.

Marom was accused by Children’s Magical Garden of ordering workers to dig up plants and trees and dump construction waste onto the garden in 2019. John Roca
Marom was accused by Children’s Magical Garden of ordering workers to dig up plants and trees and dump construction waste onto the garden in 2019. John Roca

Marom’s legal team told the Post that it is happy both parties reached an agreement.

Temple-West said the settlement came as a huge relief and that the garden’s supporters will now be able to dedicate more time and resources to its programming efforts.

“Our season begins in April, and we’re really excited,” Temple-West said. “It’s really because the community cares so much about the garden that this result was able to happen.”