Battle of Hope Gardens
By John Maxwell
Douglas forges ahead
White men, white rum
The Squatter's query
Gardens is a very desirable address. Perhaps, after Kings
House, Jamaica House and Vale Royal, it must be the most desirable
address in all Jamaica.
It has been so desirable that for many years, government departments
have muscled their way into the gardens, simply by redefining Hope
Gardens to their own purposes. They have redefined the gardens to
a small sliver of land of about 30 acres - half the size it was
in the seventies and a fraction of its true extent.
About 200 acres of Hope Estate were bought by the government in
1881 for an experimental garden and experimental agricultural station.
In 1946, the Handbook of Jamaica gave the size of the gardens as
about 150 acres consisting of extensive lawns with ornamental
flower beds, ornamental borders, water garden, sunken garden, plant-houses,
orchid house and aquarium, a small aviary and a bandstand and tea
garden. But the domain of the Superintendent of Public Gardens extended
over a much wider area, nearer 600 acres, including the Hope Agricultural
Station lands all of which were considered part of Hope Gardens
in 1971 and have not been transferred to any other entity, as far
as can be ascertained. The Hope Agricultural Station has historical
significance: It was the birthplace of the famous Jamaica Hope,
Jamaica Black and Jamaica Red breeds of cattle.
In many ways the real extent of Hope Gardens is immaterial. The
Hope Gardens Estate is the last largish piece of publicly-owned
green space in Kingston and is protected as such, in the Kingston
Development Order of 1966.
In 1991, on October 1, P. J. Patterson, then Deputy Prime Minister
and Minister of Finance and Planning, wrote to the Minister of Health,
Easton Douglas: The Town Planning Department. Patterson said, had
objected to a proposal by the Ministry of Health to put a nursing
school on 11 acres of Hope Gardens Estate. Patterson pointed out
that the area was zoned for recreational use and that concern had
been repeatedly expressed about the infiltration of non-recreational
uses in the Hope Gardens Estate..
Consequently, the decision was taken that there should be
no further subdivision of the areas, particularly those lands adjacent
to the gardens and its recreational zoning must be maintained.
is indeed a national asset which must be maintained. The population
dictates that lands in juxtaposition to the Gardens
be retained for future expansion programmes
The recently established Hope Zoo Development Task Force has
formulated a plan to expand and improve the facilities in Hope Gardens
Estate which will be developed as a major recreational attraction.
Fast forward to November 25, 1999. The NRCA has ordered the developers
of Hope Country Club to present their proposals for
the latest redefinition of Hope Gardens, a joint venture sponsored
by the Minister of Housing a corporation sole by the name
of Easton Douglas, the same Easton Douglas who Mr Patterson wrote
The presentation is at Jamaica College auditorium, once part of
the old Hope-Elletson estate. The lead developer, Mr Robert Cartade
explains that the Country Club was conceived in 1990/91 and a contract
for sale was drawn up to be signed with the Commissioner of Lands,
one James Monroe. According to Mr Cartade, Mr Monroe unfortunately
departed from office before the deed was done. It is
strange to reflect that this activity was happening while Mr Pattersons
letter was still warm, so to speak, before the ink was dry.
The project was revised from 250 houses to 241, but nothing much
changed except that Mr Cartades company now had a joint venture
partner, the Minister of Housing. Earlier this month, the Minister
declared the area to be a Housing Area, under a law which permits
the Minister to determine the need for housing in any area and to
declare selected areas to be housing area. The law was not designed
to find houses for the rich.
WHITE MEN, WHITE RUM
At the presentation on Thursday, dozens of squatters from an adjoining
community were brought in, summoned, some of them said, by
two white men who offered rum and money. The squatters came
to hear that the development was really in their interest and, to
judge by the presentation, the superior (Selective)
homes were practically an afterthought. Various heavies
supporting the scheme, were on hand, including Robert Stevenson,
a PNP apparatchik who flew into a hysterical frenzy when I demanded
that he declare his interest.
People from Hope Pastures objected to the scheme on several grounds,
one being that the NWC which has been unable to supply them with
a decent supply for more than a decade, says it will have no problem
supplying the new residents of the Country Club. Other objections
dealt with sewerage, twice as much of which was expected as the
amount of water supplied, suggesting that the country club will,
somehow generate an exportable surplus of excrement. There were,
of course, various apologists, including one Colin Geddes, who suggested
that the objections were class-biased, echoing Winston Ben
Monroe a former communist now under investigation for his part in
the Low Income Family Foundation debacle.
The atmosphere was inhospitable to dissenters at first, with the
crowd firmly on the side of capitalism and Colin Campbell, their
MP, who was absent but to whom their votes were dedicated. As the
evening wore on, however, squatters sitting beside me began to question
the bona fides of the scheme and why they had been led to attend.
Their confidence in the developers was further tested when environmental
economist Dr. Mark Figueroa asked why the Environmental Impact Assessment,
which was full
of defects, did not address the question of option
values; why the houses were not to be auctioned, to give the enormous
anticipated capital gains to the government rather than to insiders.
The unearned increment could then go to the poor peoples housing.
This point was amplified by Lascelles Dixon, a prominent architect,
who asked if, since the scheme was supposedly for the benefit of
poor people, why the government didnt propose instead an Operation
Pride project. Wild applause from the squatters.. Dixon argued that
the issue was not about definitions of Hope Gardens, but about public
open space, for popular recreation.
Cowell Lyn, a well known environmentalist and engineer, raised inter
alia, questions about the disposal of sewage effluent, which was
proposed for the irrigation of the gardens, a dangerous procedure,
he thought. Norman Richards, superintendent of Hope Botanical Gardens
and Rheema Kerr, Curator of the Zoo, spoke simply and eloquently
about the potential frustrations of their plans for the entertainment
and education of Kingstons and Jamaicas children and
adults. Their plans would be blasted by the development. Oddly enough,
the EIA did not mention these plans, nor did it mention the Development
THE SQUATTER'S QUERY
I also put in my two cents worth, arguing like most of the dissenters,
for the recognition that Kingston was starved of open space, and
that we needed to stop making our cities breeding grounds for dysfunctional
people. Rose Campbell echoed the views of many when she said that
the project was a moving target the project dimensions seemed
to change depending on Mr Cartades audience.
It was a squatter, Steve Wright, who asked the unanswerable question:
If you want to help us, as you claim, why are your giving
us 30 days to leave?
Outside the hall it became apparent that the imported crowd of squatters
felt taken advantage of, as did many of the rest of us. What was
clear was that by tomorrow afternoon, Mr Easton Douglas will have
received several objections to his scheme, and by Christmas Day,
the NRCA will have received many more. And, as I told Mr Cartade,
some us are ready to go to court to stop this odious scheme to create
a new millionaires club in the midst of a garden meant for the relief
of depression, oppression, anomie, alienation and crime, and for
the furtherance of the public health, welfare and leisure, ease
WE CANT ALL AFFORD NEGRIL
And the Issa family of which Mr Cartade is a member, own acres of
prime land, sitting idle in places like the Golden Triangle, where
one five acre estate, for example, pays the same tax as my taxi-driver
friend, Tony Williams, pays on the tiny plot he occupies in Grants
Copyright © 1999 by John Maxwell