Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Garden

The Garden is a documentary created by Scott Hamilton Kennedy in 2008 about the South Central Farmers plight. The South Central Garden was a garden that was farmed on by roughly 350 families, they relied on this garden as not only a livelihood but also for their own personal use. The movie tells about how the garden was sold to a private contractor who closed the garden and bulldozed the garden. It was located within South Central Los Angeles at the intersection of East 41st Street and Alameda Street. This area is very industrial with many large buildings surrounding the area where the garden once was. Prior to the space being used as this garden the Alameda-Barbara Investment Company owned it, then the land was taken over by the city of Los Angeles through eminent domain. The city was going try and use the land to introduce a new idea of a waster to energy incinerator in a project known as LANCER. Following the 1992 riots in Los Angeles the land was converted to the 14-acre garden for use by anyone who wants to grow on it. The reason that the garden was originally made was to give people something back following all the riots and what had been happening in L.A. prior to and during the riots. One of the people who were involved in the Alameda-Barbara Company sued the city for breach of contract; in the original agreement Alameda-Barbara Company could repurchase the land under certain agreements. Ralph Horowitz, the partner in Alameda-Barbara, settled with the city for around $5 million. The on January 8th, 2004 Horowitz informed the farmers of the garden that they would until February 29th, 2004 before he was going to take over the land. The collective group of the South Central Farmers obtained legal counsel and filed a suit against the sale of the property to Mr. Horowitz. The Los Angeles County Superior Court issued a temporary halt on Mr. Horowitz progression on the land until all the lawsuits could be settled. Eventually the famers lost their lawsuit against Mr. Horowitz, and he was given the right to evict the farmers from the land. He gave the farmers the right to buy the land back from him, but at an outrageous price, he wanted them to pay $16.3 million. The farmers had raised $6 million prior to finding out the amount that Horowitz wanted for the land, and after they found out the price the continued their fundraising efforts. Finally, on June 7, 2006 Annenberg Foundation said that they would donate the money to buy the land back, Horowitz rejected this offer because it came after the deadline he had stated for the farmers to raise the money. The people who farmed on the land where rightfully outraged at the actions taken by Mr. Horowitz. They tried to protest what he was doing with the land in any way possible, finally on July 5, 2006 bulldozers began to bulldoze the land, and 10 of the protestors were arrested. This movie brought up some great points about what’s going on in the country on a greater level through the use of this farm in South Central L.A. People are overlooking doing good for the community around them in order to make money, or just because they don’t feel like doing something good for the community. Yes, Mr. Horowitz went through proper legal channels to obtain the land and he has the right to do what he wants with the land, but it was very shady meetings through which Mr. Horowitz was able to acquire this land. He met in closed-door sessions with city council to try and debate and reach agreement on a price for buying back the land. I do of course realize that we live in a capitalist society and a free society where people can do what they want, to a certain extent, with the land they own, and people do need to make a profit, but the farmers got the amount of money he wanted for the land but he rejected their money because they were two weeks late. That to me makes no sense, it seems that this man had it out for the farmers because some of them had said some things in anger about him. Everyone says stupid things when they are angry, but this man took them very personally, and affected all the 350 or so families who farmed on the land. Mr. Horowitz for me represents the quintessential American businessman today, a person who overlooks emotions to make money. He overlooked his emotions, I’m sure he wanted deep down to help these people, but his mind took over and he realized that it would be beneficial to him to hold onto the land. I have no problem with people wanting to make money, but something about the way he went about handling the whole case with farmers seems unethical and wrong, but there is nothing that can be done about it because he followed the law in every way.

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