Through our staff’s facilitation and the efforts of neighbors across the City, since January 1, 2014, ten new official community spaces have been created:
1278 Myrtle Avenue (Bushwick, Brooklyn, licensed & transferred to the Parks Department);
Glenmore Grows (East NY, Brooklyn, with the Cypress Hills Development Corporation);
Ashford Variety Garden (East NY, Brooklyn, with the Cypress Hills Development Corporation);
Ashford Teaching Garden (East NY, Brooklyn, with the Cypress Hills Development Corporation);
Chestnut Street Community Garden (East NY, Brooklyn, with the Cypress Hills Development Corporation);
Harlem Valley Garden (in East Harlem);
Electric Ladybug Harlem Serenity Garden (in East Harlem);
Mandela Park (in East Harlem);
Green Space on 4th (Gowanus, Brooklyn); and
Smiling Hogshead Ranch (lease signed with MTA, Long Island City, Queens).
In addition, we have secured the MTA’s approval of our architect’s plans for a pocket park in East New York on the roof of the A train tunnel; the park will be run by the Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Service. A lease is imminent. Dozens of other spaces have made progress on their campaigns with our guidance and will be official in the coming months. In December, we helped save a neighborhood space in Queens and facilitate its transfer to the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust. The Merrick Marsden Neighbors Association (MMNA). MMNA had maintained the space since 1967; 596 Acres connected them with attorneys Mohen & Segal LLP to represent them for free in court so that they did not lose the land last year to a tax foreclosure and in the transfer to the Trust.
We have also analyzed and made vacant municipal land data available online for Staten Island, mapped the history of Urban Renewal Planning in NYC (1949-present, urbanreviewer.org, a Planetizen Top Ten Website of 2014) and published a new print New York City Advocate's Guide to Community Land Access. We have been recognized as land access experts in the press, including in How You Can Turn New York City's Vacant Lots into Community Gardens (DNAinfo.com) and Housing Plan Targets Vacant Lots; Some Neighbors Leery (CityLimits).
Help us keep making this immense impact in all of NYC's neighborhoods by coming to our party this week: Thursday, October 2 at 7pm at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO, Brooklyn. More details here.
We've been lucky to have Faith Titilawo with us this summer, an extern from East NY Farms! Below are her thoughts and reflections from ten weeks with us. Thank you for everything, Faith!
Photo by Murray Cox.
As the summer comes to an end, so does my time interning for 596 Acres. I think it is only appropriate that I write a reflection on my time at 596 Acres and how it affected and influenced me.
When I first started interning for 596 I had certain expectations, but like most things in life, my expectations were nothing close to reality. In fact reality was way better. I admit at first I was overwhelmed by the amount of information that was being thrown at me about land access and services that 596 Acres provided for communities. On my second day here I went to a meeting out in the Rockaways with people from the neighborhood who wanted to turn an empty lot in their community to a garden. It was inspiring to sit amongst people from 596 acres, Rockaway Wildfire, and community members as they discussed what they would like to see in their neighborhood. I could feel the excitement and determination humming through the group as they strategized on the next steps. I believe this is when it hit me, when I was finally able to understand the work that 596 Acres is doing and how important it is. Because of this I was able to absorb information better and understand the intricate details of accessing land in New York City.
Most of the programs and internships that I have been privileged to participate in were mostly structured. However, while interning at 596 I was given more freedom and therefore more responsibility with the work I was expected to complete. Paula gave me a general idea on how she wanted me to complete the project but gave me free reign with the project. I believe the best part of my internship was the diversity of projects I was responsible for. I was allowed to take initiatives on the projects I was assigned to.
Throughout the internship I felt very included. I loved that I was privy to the inner workings of a non-profit organization. From budget meetings, to gala planning and lot labeling I experienced all that 596 acres had to offer. I learned many critical skills that I believe will take me far in life. I learned a lot about city agencies and the big players that control land in NYC.
Although my internship was fun, I did face some challenges. During my second week I was giving the task to write a How-to guide on starting a farmer’s market. It was the first time I have ever attempted to do something like this. While writing the article I became very frustrated with research and dealing with city agencies to get the information I needed to write the article. Fortunately, I had people like Paula and Mary that gave me feedback on my article and were very positive and encouraging. They took an active interest in my learning and I felt comfortable coming to them when I had a question.
Going to Governors Island every Friday and Saturday to introduce the new Urban Reviewer website was one of my favorite memories during this internship. The island was beautiful and I got to meet so many people from here in New York City and from around the world. I remember meeting and connecting with folks from New York City, France, Brazil, Australia, etc. Through this experience I began to feel more comfortable talking to people and learning to read my audience in order to tweak my speeches to cater to their interest.
All in all, I really enjoyed my time at 596 Acres. I learned more than I expected to learn and met some incredible people. This journey taught me to be more independent, responsible, open-minded, patient, and organized. My time at 596 Acres sparked in me, an interest in policy making and its effect in people’s lives. As I move on to my next step in life, college, I hope to major in Public Policy and build on the things I learned from this internship. I highly recommend this internship to anyone who wants to learn about their city, connect with people, and gain some experience and knowledge on public policy. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at 596 Acres, it is an internship I will always remember.
It is a gorgeously designed little book that tells the story of Urban Renewal past present and hopeful future in New York City, including a list of all Urban Renewal Plans active as of the date of publication (these are places where the story of neighborhood change is still being written).
It's a great short text about New York City. A deep dive into policy and feelings, into specificity and trepidation. We're sure you'll like it. We're excited to find out what you learn!
The book is $10, which includes shipping within the United States of America. If you need it elsewhere, please drop us a line: email@example.com.
When an organizing group is applying to GreenThumb (a program of the Parks Department that licenses gardens on most city-owned land) earning a letter of support from the local Community Board (CB) is a key requirement and often, a daunting task. This summer, thanks to a grant from the New York Community Trust, in addition to our usual work of lot labeling and helping neighbors organize, we visited the seven community boards with the most amount of vacant, public land in the five boroughs: Bronx CB1 (7 acres in the South Bronx), Bronx CB3 (6 acres in the South-Central Bronx), Brooklyn CB3 (5 acres in Bedford-Stuyvesant), Brooklyn CB5 (85 acres in East New York and Cypress Hills), Brooklyn CB8 (⅗ of an acre in Crown Heights and Weeksville), Brooklyn CB16 (19 acres in Brownsville and Ocean Hill), and Queens CB14 (128 acres in Rockaway).
We approached each board with three broad goals: (1) to educate them about how accessing the city’s land works and the role of Community Board support in the GreenThumb application process, (2) to expose them to the reality of the amount of vacant, city-owned land in their district, and (3) to introduce them to neighborhood groups that might come seeking a letter from them in the near future. We visited each board at least two times, first distributing our New York City Advocate’s Guide to Land Access and later sharing district-specific maps that highlighted all the vacant, city-owned lots, the agencies which have jurisdiction over them, and the contact information for the neighbors that are spearheading projects on those lots.
Initially, the most interesting thing was the varying routes we took just to speak to these boards - the same routes that organizing groups need to navigate. Since community boards are volunteer bodies, each runs according to its own procedures. Whereas CB1 in the South Bronx asks presentors to fill out a short application to be put on the agenda of their Land Use and Housing Committee to make a ten-minute presentation, Brooklyn CB5 in East New York invites residents to just show up and introduce their projects in a 3-minute speaking slot which occurs at the start of every meeting. Some boards are a shot in the dark: Brooklyn CB16 in Brownsville doesn’t have a distinct pathway, but you can make an announcement at the very end of a two hour meeting and see what next move is suggested for you to make. The Queens CB14 Land Use Committee started the process of creating a pathway after our presentation; they were not aware that Community Board support was an integral part of the GreenThumb application.
Some of Community Boards have resistance to new projects for varying reasons and the result is confusing or unattainable requirements for support. On the other hand, we also encountered boards that were surprised to hear they would be asked for anything, not knowing their support was an essential step for these neighborhood groups or a requirement for applying to GreenThumb. One of the most interesting meetings we encountered was with Queens CB14 in the Rockaways, who has yet to experience a group seeking a letter of support despite their excessive amount of vacant, City-owned land. Our presentation prompted a discussion immediately following the meeting to lay out guidelines for what they want to see from neighbors asking for their support.
We were surprised that nearly all the Community Board members we interacted with were unaware of the details and specifics of how accessing public land works and had a range of misconceptions about the roles of city agencies and programs. Brooklyn CB8’s close-knit Parks and Recreation Committee in Weeksville was extremely interested in 596 Acres’ work; they repeatedly thanked us and even invited us to table at an upcoming neighborhood street fair. The Housing Committee of Bronx CB3 in the South-Central Bronx invited our return to give future presentations at any time.
Residents were present at these meetings, too, so along the way we collected new organizers and friends, folks adding themselves to our site and starting to work on projects after learning about the possibilities available to them. A few community board members even became organizers themselves, having just learned that opening up the fences around our shared public lands in their districts and on their own blocks is a real option! Our hope is that moving forward neighborhood groups organizing to start gardens, parks, or open space will have an easier time working with their community boards to create new and exciting community hubs.
We got this great letter from the organizers of the space at 1278 Myrtle Ave. at the corner of Central Ave. in Bushwick. It's been a long journey already and now they are ready to truly begin:
It was a wonderful first turn out last Saturday at 1278 Myrtle in Bushwick. All eleven people who showed up were really committed to fulfilling what is possible there and expressed diverse knowledge, creativity and connection to the Community Compost Site & Wildlife Garden BK ROT proposed with Sure We Can, our partners in composting.
Everyone was full of openness and possibility and ready to move forward so much so that we moved from our seated meeting to walking the land, observing what is already present there- volunteering future actions, gathering resources, planning meetings for envisioning. It seems we are all moving at the same speed- wanting to make this happen but aware of the time it takes to cultivate the land and a place in community.
After the meeting a couple of us made a run to pick up more oak stumps since we were one short so we now have 17 ‘seats’ in the lot! We placed them in a large circle creating nice visual awaiting our return & inviting others.
In our absence the lot is in good hands - SWOON’s wheatpaste lives in the space beautifully! We will return for an informal clean up this Saturday, August 23.
Thank you for your energy, enthusiasm and know how in pushing this forward at strategic moments… it looks like the neighborhood will take it from here!
Growing Soil & Community Together,
Renée // Sandy
Lease Signed with MTA: A New Era for Smiling Hogshead Ranch
Join The Ranch Organizers for a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Smiling Hogshead Ranch is celebrating the execution of an agreement with the property owner, the MTA/LIRR. This is the official transition from an informal garden to a fully endorsed public space. Please join us and the ranchers for an inauguration ribbon cutting ceremony!
This event is free and open to the public. Donations appreciated for light food and drinks graciously provided by our garden members and the following sponsors; The Queens Kickshaw, Beyond Brewing Company, Singlecut Beersmiths, V-Spot Vegan Restaurant and The Regal Vegan.
Where: Smiling Hogshead Ranch, 25-30 Skillman Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101
When: Saturday, September 6, 2014 (Rain date September 13, 2014), 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Jimmy Van Bramer - District 26 Councilperson & City Council Majority Leader
Penny Lee - NYC Dept. of City Planning (Invited)
Gil Lopez - Smiling Hogshead Ranch
Paula Segal - 596 Acres
Saleen Shah - Citizens Committee for New York City
Gil Lopez - 347.509.4464 / 407.432.8156
Mia Vlah - 216.338.3300
For additional questions about the MTA’s role, contact the MTA Press Office - 212.878.7440
About Smiling Hogshead Ranch
Smiling Hogshead Ranch (http://SmilingHogsheadRanch.org/) is a volunteer led urban farm in Long Island City, Queens, NYC. The Ranch is committed to demonstrating and promoting systems that encourage food and environmental justice. At The Ranch, community members grow a variety of herbs and vegetables as well as fruiting and nut trees, shrubs and vines. They also demonstrate a form of bioremediation using mushroom mycelium and build the Ranch’s infrastructure with mostly found and refurbished materials. The Ranch's guerrilla garden beginnings are rooted in an alternative cooperation form of direct action, as such we support the reclaiming of the commons and full transition to a more equitable society, starting exactly where we are.
Where: Smiling Hogshead Ranch, 25-30 Skillman Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101
Sunday, August 17, 2014
You are invited to an inflatable birthday bike ride - everyone is invited to Governor's Island 3-6pm for infated loops around the island, cupcakes and a party!
AEOLIAN RIDE's 10th Birthday! 10 years ago, 52 people showed up on bikes, I put inflatable costumes on them and we rode bicycles from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Since then Aeolian Riders have taken an amazing ride through 20 cities around the globe. See it happen here: http://www.aeolian-ride.info/video.html
What's an Aeolian?
You. On a bike. Inflated. :) "Aeolian" is a Greek word- to be caused or carried by the wind. The costumes inflate as you ride - but don't worry you won't get carried away - at least not by the wind.
Why is this happening?
Aeolian Ride has a magical effect of creating a loop of joy between the spectator and the performer. It also transforms the everyday street to a place for public art where the public is the art.
What does the Aeolian Ride want for its birthday?
No presents! - Ok, yes presents! The Aeolian Ride would like to give to those who give to the community. Ticket sales proceeds will be donated to596acres.org - a wonderful non-profit helping communities get access to public spaces, including our party space, Spontaneous Interventions.
Can I inflate and ride?
Have a bike and a helmet? Great! Now you just need a ticket. Hurry, there are a limited number of suits! A portion of proceeds go to 596acres.org
My kids want to inflate too!
Are they over 5 with a helmet and wheels? Sweet! Sign the kids up!
Can I just party?
Promise to show us your favorite dance moves? Your ticket awaits.
Who's crazy idea is this?
Aeolian Ride was created by artist, Jessica Findley, and has been supported by people who love to play. See her work at www.sonicribbon.com
12:45pm - Adult Ride Sign in & Suit up!
Meet near Grand Army Plaza on Prospect Park West
1:15pm - Aeolian Ride! (Big kids only :)
Inflatable bike to through Brooklyn, over Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan
2:45pm - Ferry!
Take Ferry from Manhattan to Governor's Island
3:00pm - 6:00pm - Birthday Party!
Music perfomances by Deva Mahal, Jacob Bills of O Paradiso
Fundraising Cupcake Dance Party on Governor's Island at Spontaneous Interventions building 403, Colonel's Row
!!! Due to the overwhelming response we are opening up the kids ride to all ages- that means adults too! on Governer's Island !!!
Guided Aeolian Kid's Ride loops around governor's island.
3:15 - 3:45pm - Aeolian Kid's of all ages Ride 1!
4:00pm - 4:30pm -- Aeolian Kid's of all ages Ride 2!
4:45 - 5:15pm - Aeolian Kid's of all ages Ride 3!
5:30pm - Piñata time! Ending the party with an explosion of sweets!
6:00pm - Clean Up Time!
6:30pm - Return Ferry
7:00pm - Last Ferry
OFFICIAL LAUNCH: urbanreviewer.org
URBAN REVIEWER: A New Tool Examining the Legacy of Urban Renewal in NYC
Reviewing Past Urban Plans > Discovering Present Impact > Supporting Future Actions
Brooklyn, New York – June 17, 2014 – Urban Reviewer is New York City’s first detailed, annotated digital map of master plans from the Urban Renewal era. The tool, created by 596 Acres, in collaboration with Smart Sign and Partner and Partners, details over 150 plans for top-down neighborhood redevelopment, which have affected more than 15,000 lots throughout the five boroughs since 1949.
The tool + How to use it | For almost two years, a dedicated team of researchers, urban planners, designers and other experts have been working with 596 Acres to gather all the paper plans from NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and a few secondary sources produced by NYC Government offices. From neighborhoods demolished under eminent domain to open spaces that were never developed, the searchable map allows users to learn more about their neighborhoods in a changing city over the past 65 years. Users can filter results by mayoral terms or search the map by address, zip code, or master plan name. Urban Reviewer is part of a series of online tools developed by 596 Acres to help connect community activists with resources to learn about their neighborhood and drive action.
Using Urban Reviewer to Identify Vacant Lots | One example of how Urban Reviewer has already led to action is with the identification and transformation of vacant lots. As Paula Z. Segal, Executive & Legal Director at 596 Acres, explains: “making plans accessible helped us find places that were cleared with the intention of creating open public spaces. In our work through 596 Acres, we have already found two of these and helped neighbors transform them into something better.” The map connects all of the currently vacant publicly owned lots that were created through the adoption of a master plan with their corresponding page on 596acres.org and all the necessary information to organize for their transformation. But the platform could also raise public awareness, provoke insights and lead to actions on a variety of other issues. People are encouraged to share their findings and the actions that resulted from using Urban Reviewer to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Historical context | Between 1949 and 1974, federal funding spurred the demolition of neighborhoods that were deemed "blighted" to make way for new development. Inspectors working for the Slum Clearance Commission during the early period of Urban Renewal and employees of The Department of Housing Preservation and Development during the later period determined the "blight" designation. These departments created plans for the blighted neighborhoods to get demolition approval. The demolition used an expanded version of eminent domain acquire land, relocate people and businesses, and demolish buildings. The lots received designations like “housing,” “industrial,” or “open space.” Urban Reviewer analyzed these paper-only plans from The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and transformed them into digital maps accessible to the public. On the maps, users will be able to see every lot that was designated for "renewal" and what form that renewal was supposed to take. For more historical perspectives see Urban Reviewer essays What Was, And What Is, Urban Renewal in New York City? by Mariana Mogilevich and Who Makes A Neighborhood? by DW Gibson, http://www.urbanreviewer.org/#page=essays.html.
Increasing Government Transparency | The laborious process behind this project speaks to the difficulty of accessing city documents. For instance, 596 Acres could not afford to purchase copies at 25 cents per page from HPD; the statutory rate under the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). 596 Acres had to take advantage of a portion of the law that requires government agencies to make their documents available for inspection to arrange for a team of dedicated volunteers to visit the HPD Records Access office regularly for about a year to extract the information you see on the NYC Urban Reviewer. The volunteers were not even allow to photograph nor make copies of the plans. There is a bill in the NYC Council called the OpenFOIL bill that would make a big difference in everyone’s ability to see and share government documents: it requires city agencies to post all requested documents to a public web portal after even a single request. If this law was in effect today, HPD would be obliged to post all the +150 plans used to create Urban Reviewer.
Future Development | 596 Acres is presently looking for funding to make the information available onsite, augment the online tool with oral histories, and develop it with other cities.
Urban Reviewer: Reviewing Past Urban Plans > Discovering Present Impact > Supporting Future Actions: urbanreviewer.org
Paula Z. Segal, Esq.
Executive Director and Legal Director, 596 Acres
718-316-6092 x 2 - email@example.com
About 596 Acres
596 Acres is New York City’s community land access program. We help neighbors organize around and gain access to the city’s warehoused and empty public land. Our work enriches the quality of life for all New Yorkers by facilitating community-based civic action and helping to transform unused vacant land into new open spaces. We are currently adapting our model in Philadelphia (groundedinphilly.org), in Los Angeles (laopenacres.org), in New Orleans (livinglotsnola.og) and are in discussion to extend this land access movement to 15 other cities worldwide that have expressed an affirmative interest in 596 Acres’ approach. We are a small and young organization that has been working on a shoestring budget since 2011 and are now looking for financial partners to help us revolutionize land access processes worldwide. Spread the word!
On April 22nd and 23rd, 596 Acres and the Tishman Environment and Design Center at the New School co-hosted the first ever Vacant Acres Symposium, bringing together knowledgeable and passionate (and badass!) urban vacant land advocates from around the world. The program featured two days of presentations and discussion on land access, strategies for land tenure protection, racial and economic justice issues in access to vacant urban land, and the wide variety of urban contexts experienced by our participants from cities around the world.
Day 1 brought together urban gardeners, activists, community members and even an elected official to discuss the particular experience of New York City with regard to vacant land and land access, in front of a standing room only crowd. Memorable moments included included a gardeners’ history of community gardens in NYC, presented by Haja and Cindy Worley with a slideshow from their extensive archive of photographs and documents from the movement; Meera Bhat’s thoughtful words about the experience of farming on privately owned land in Brooklyn -- and the important role that urban gardens and farms have to play even when some of them may be impermanent; Ellen Horan’s first-hand account of LaGuardia Corner Gardens’ court battle with New York University; Joel Kupferman’s account of a new court battle that is just beginning between the city and the Boardwalk Community Garden in Coney Island; and Picture the Homeless’ Arvernetta Henry’s rousing call for more community owned property in NYC.
Having thoroughly worked up an appetite with the afternoon’s panels, a number of the participants enjoyed a convivial dinner together, continuing the day’s conversation and getting excited for the next day’s, over delicious food at the Sunview Luncheonette in Greenpoint.
We reconvened bright and early the next morning for Day 2 of the gathering, which widened the discussion nationwide -- and worldwide. U.S. participants hailed from Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Detroit; East Palo Alto; New Orleans; New York City; Philadelphia, and international attendees came from Berlin (Germany); Manchester (UK); Melbourne (Australia); Montreal (Canada) and Sao Paolo (Brazil). The general trajectory of the day followed a line of inquiry that had been established on Day 1 in the New York context. The themes of the panels were: (1) “Identifying Opportunities and Facilitating Transformations” (2) “Protecting Community Access to Land” (3) “Developing Models for Predictable Land Tenure” and (4) “Establishing Long Term Land Management.”
The day’s highlights are too many to count, and many of them were individual moments of connection and insight that took place in the energetic workshop discussions that took place after each of the day’s panel sessions. One of the most striking things about the day was the diversity of approaches, contexts and organizations represented. The participants represented academia, the non-profit sector, grassroots activists, private companies and more. They came from cities struggling with gentrification and displacement and cities struggling with disinvestment and abandonment (some of these are the same cities). The feedback we have been receiving indicates that the most powerful thing about this event was simply gathering all of these participants in the same room together to share ideas, strategies, stories, struggles, and all the wealth of their experiences.
Some of the participants were kind enough to share their reflections on the conference:
“...it was very illuminating to hear about other successful experiences… I look forward to continuing the connection we started thanks to your symposium, to strengthen our work.”
- Sara Longo, Oakland CA
“Being a part of the Vacant Acres Symposium was an incredible opportunity for our organization to learn from the innovative work [of] new friends across the world… We are especially thankful that the Symposium provided a dedicated space to discuss cross-cutting issues that impact many organizations trying to do similar work. We met many organizations that we feel we can continue to learn from in the coming months and years. These organizations include Neighborspace Chicago, the New York Community Garden Coalition, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Baltimore Community Law Center, African American United Fund and our cohort 596 Acres, New Orleans Food and Farm Network and the Garden Justice Legal Initiative.”
- Mark Glassock, Community Health Councils, Inc., Los Angeles, CA
“For me, the Vacant Acres Symposium was a whirlwind full of amazing people and inspirational stories about how to increase access to land and stabilize land tenure for urban agriculture programs… Thanks again for the opportunity!”
- Nicole Wires, Collective Roots, East Palo Alto, CA
“The Vacant Acres Symposium was an amazing opportunity to connect with individuals and organizations working on making our cities into strong, healthy and vibrant living places to live… The experiences shared...provided us with many creative solutions to the challenges we face.”
- Israel Cruz, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, CA
“The symposium showed how access to land is a crucial question when it comes to chang[ing] the way cities work and people can contribute to this change from the bottom up. It was very valuable in strengthening contacts we already established, and also creating new ones that will probably lead to new collaborations in the future. In general, it makes a huge difference to not just theoretically know that this kind of engagement and discussion goes on in a lot of places at the same time, but to personally meet and exchange knowledge and experience, especially between practitioners. So I am very grateful that you made it possible for me to come to New York and share this great experience.”
- Marco Clausen, co-founder Prinzesinnengarten, Berlin, Germany
“Vacant Acres helped ground me in the realities of making land work to build community, and how laws need to be adjusted to make that happen more easily. As a Detroiter, whose city has massive quantities of vacant land I was delighted to learn about ideas that have worked in other communities… It was very valuable to share ideas with the folks of New Orleans, whose situation seems similar to Detroit in that we both have lots of vacant land. I made numerous contacts that I can share with the people who are using our vacant land to revitalize the city.”
- Jacqueline Hand, professor of law, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
“The most important thing about the Vacant Acres Symposium was the bringing together of practitioners who were implementing real on-the-ground projects. It was much more than papers presented at a conference. NOFFN and New Orleans will benefit from our attendance in a very direct way -- being exposed to the diverse methods of engagement with communities, policymakers and governments will greatly inform our approach. Some highlights include learning about the vacant land disposition programs in Philadelphia and Baltimore; learning about movable garden bed technique used in Melbourne, Australia; Pop up public space deployed in Los Angeles; the similarities between Detroit and New Orleans...and more.”
- Sanjay Kharod, New Orleans Food and Farm Network, New Orleans LA
“I connected with people from around the world in both urban and rural settings that had very resourceful and creative ways of imagining more equitable and democrating ways of creating land access and tenure. I am hoping to stay connected with everyone…”
- Shane Bernardo, EarthWorks Urban Farm, Detroit, MI, USA
“The symposium was truly a transformative experience...This work that we are all engaged in can be extraordinarily difficult. I am one of a handful of such advocates in the South. And in a smaller pool of advocates working in a post-disaster region faced with enormous development pressure. I have felt very isolated and alone in my efforts. I have often felt the challenges too great. After the conference I now know I have peers in far-flung corners of the world... to turn to for advice, guidance, wisdom and support.”
- Bridget Kelly, Land Trust for Louisiana, New Orleans, LA, USA
Many of the participants expressed anticipation for the next gathering of this group, and we share that hope. We are actively seeking volunteers to host and help plan the next one!
This report back was written by Vacant Acres volunteer and 596 Acres Advisory Committee member Rachel Dobkin, who worked on getting travel grants for our participants (Hurray Rachel!). You can see more photos from the event here, taken by Marco Clausen. In the coming weeks, 596 Acres and the Tishman Center will be posting the slides and audio from the two days of presentations. Stay tuned.
There's a great bill making its way through NYC City Council that would require the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to create a streamlined and centralized system through which people can request to see government documents: an OpenFOIL bill. Our favorite part of this bill is that it would require agencies to post all their responses in a centralized place where people can actually see the documents that other people have requested without having to request them again. An OpenFOIL portal would really build a more open governement.
This would be a great way to get all the City's Urban Renewal Plans to be posted publicly - we've been thinking a lot about this while working on the Urban Reviewer - which you can see in preview here, full site coming soon.
On June 9, Paula testified in front of the NYC Council Committees on Technology and Governmental Operations, with a story from the vacant lot trenches:
I am the director of 596 Acres, New York City's community land access advocates. Thank you for allowing me a few moments to speak today about how government data, information and the Freedom of Information Law currently impact our work.
Before I do that, I'd like to add a note about the FOIL campaign that led to the release of MapPLUTO from it's 10-year-old paywall which put a $3,000 per year price tag on having accurate financial and ownership information by parcel for properties in the city. In partnership with the CUNY Center for Mapping, and BetaNYC and our friends in the media, we mobilized dozens of successful FOIL requests for this data set, each one promptly provided by the Department of City Planning for the cost of duplication - five DVDs, each in its own jewel case, each with a price tag of $1. Through FOIL, advocates were able to get for $5 what community groups had paid thousands of dollars for in the decade prior. It was a welcome relief to see that the Department of City Planning chose to make the information available through a download link without the need for a formal FOIL request and eliminate the paywall entirely after several months of this campaign. It is my hope that the MapPLUTO fees paid by advocates and community-based organizations over the last ten years will someday be refunded. Our campaign serves as a great model for the implementation of the OpenFOIL bill; I would urge that one request should be enough to make it mandatory that an agency post a requested document online. A campaign should be redundant and unnecessary.
To support our core work and create the most accurate available map of vacant publicly owned lots that present opportunities for community land access, we have used two of the data sets currently in the open data portal. This new data set is pretty good but not perfect and we regularly rely on FOIL requests to fill in gaps we revealed in agency plan information and procedure. I'm here today in support of a centralized FOIL portal will make it easier for us to do our work. It will also make irregularities in FOIL responses that regularly mark our correspondence much less likely.
As then-Public Advocate de Blasio's report noted, agencies tend to expedite or delay requests based on the identity of the requester. In our experience, this prejudicial treatment goes even deeper. I am going to bring one example to the attention of the committee - an example that is somewhat sweet and illustrates that, even where agency records access officers have the best intentions, the current process does not reliably produce documents as they are requested.
There is a swath of properties in the Melrose section of the Bronx that are slated to become a park under the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Plan. I spoke with the Bronx Borough Parks office manager, who assured me that, even though the properties remain in the jurisdiction of Housing Preservation and Development, this is a project that Parks is working on and promised that documentation would be emailed to me as soon as it is available in their office. When no follow-up information appeared within a month of this conversation, I made a FOIL request for these documents through the Parks Department Records Access Office, referring to the Melrose Commons Park, the "Urban Renewal Site" number that the Parks Department is using and the block and lots numbers of all properties included in the footprint of this planned park. The request was acknowledged and I received a response within twenty days, as the acknowledgement promised.
What the response revealed was that staff at Parks know who I am and what 596 Acres does, but did not disclose any documents related to the site I requested documents about. Instead, we received several copies of GreenThumb community garden licenses for gardens in the neighborhood of Melrose Commons - with different names and clearly different block and lot numbers. Our core work is making such spaces possible but this was clearly not what I requested.
This sweet error exposes the quixotic nature of current agency responses to FOIL requests. We are looking forward to a more transparent and streamlined process that will make such errors less likely.
Thanks to our friends at Occuprint and MANY Design, we have a new publication for you: A New York City Advocate's Guide to Community Land Access, in English & Spanish, click to download the whole thing!
Having a bilingual print version of the New York City Advocate's Guide to Community Land Access amplifies our ability to share what we've learned in our two-and-a-half years of advocacy with a much broader audience than an online publication or even a print version in a single language. This continues our practice of collecting valuable information about how to generate community property and then giving it away.
We are using the guide as a jumping-off point for an education series aimed at the members of the seven community boards with the most vacant public land in the city in their districts; we're sharing how motivated community members can officially co-create their neighborhoods one lot at a time and putting the guide in their hands so that they can pass on the knowledge.
If you'd like a stack for your community, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call: (718) 316-6092.
Photo Credit: Michael Anderson, MANY Design.
Design & illustrations by MANY Design.
MapPLUTO is a mashup of geographic information and real estate data about New York City, the most powerful and comprehensive data set about the real New York that any government agency maintains. For ten years, until July 2013, the Department of City Planning charged $3000 per year for any organization or person to have access to an up-to-date version of the data for the whole city. This fee gave real estate developers, urban planners, architects, and engineers a huge information-access advantage over schools, community-based organizations, and residents seeking information about land in the city. We're so glad to have been part of changing that.
As of last week, thanks to newly-freed MapPLUTO, OASIS, the map of everything about New York City that matters inside and outside government, has up-to-date ownership information for the first time since 2010. This is particularly useful for people who are looking to access to vacant private land and need a simple way to figure out who to talk to about potentially collaborating to improve the neighborhood. No more having to dig through the City property Register or the Department of Finance website! Got other ideas of how you want to play with the reality of the city? You can download MapPLUTO for free here right now.
Last year, we partnered with students, scholars and advocacy organizations to create an environment in which a free MapPLUTO became inevitable. According to the Committee on Open Government, this kind of data is defined as “government records” under the FOIL, and government records are meant to be accessible to anyone who asks to see them. Because Planning is a City Agency, it is subject to Freedom of Information Law. We encouraged many people to submit FOIL requests for MapPLUTO. The request were all honored; each person who made one had to pay a $5 duplication fee and was rewarded with 5 jewel cases holding DVDs of city data, one per borough. Other advocates brought the issue up in the government offices where data policy was being written and we went to the press with it. And then, quietly, City Planning put up a link and made it possible to get the data directly, no letters and no DVDs needed!
Now if everyone could only get their 10-years of fees back…
New Book: Gracias Por Guiarme: Papel y tierra comunal/With Gratitude for the Guidance: Paper and communal land.
Drawings by Daniel Eizirik. Text by Paula Z. Segal.
A joint publication of 596 Acres and contorno, in English & Spanish.
This book-documentary introduces the reader to different personal perspectives on communal land ownership in modern Mexico. Gracias por Guiarme: Paper y tierra communal is set in the state of Oaxaca and includes dialogues, drawings and historical research to introduce the reader to the crazy quilt that is the legal structure of land there two decades after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Meet resistance and resignation, hope and power and inspiration.
Cover with silkscreen on hand-made Mexican paper in Oaxaca City by Maya Almaraz for first edition; on coffe-stained archival paper by Kevin Caplicki (dreamwildly.net) at the Bushwick Print Lab for second edition.
Both editions high definition printed by Radix Media, a worker-owed printing cooperative in Brooklyn.
Limited first edition (108 copies; sold out)
Second edition (216 copies; available)
80 pages, 2 in color.
Some notes on creation: http://contemplandolatierra.wordpress.com/
Yesterday we labeled 7 lots in the South Bronx with the help of two wonderful volunteers. We chatted with neighbors passing by and have already received several phone calls and emails in response to the signs! More photos and links to the lots' pages here.
The Tishman Environment and Design Center at the New School is teaming up with 596 Acres and practitioners from around the world for a 2-day symposium about transforming vacant land into community resources. Neat!
66 West 12th Street, Room 510
1:30 pm – 1:45 pm
Coffee and Registration
1:45 pm – 2:00 pm
Alan McGowan, Chair and Professor, Environmental Studies,The New School, NYC
Paula Z. Segal, Director, 596 Acres, Brooklyn
2:00 pm – 3:15 pm
Identifying Opportunities & Facilitating Transformations: Creating Oases in All Our New Yorks
Moderated by Laura J. Lawson, Chair and Professor of Landscape Architecture, Rutgers University, New Jersey
The history of community gardening in NYC
Haja and Cindy Worley, Gardeners, NYC Community Garden Coalition
NYC’s unique program for making municipal land available for community use
Nancy Kohn, Director, NYC Parks Department GreenThumb
Design solutions for transforming community gardens into inclusive space
Martin Barry, Green Infrastructure Fellow, Design Trust for Public Space
Potential incentives for private land-owners to make their land available to neighbors
Assembly Member Joseph Lentol, New York State Assembly
Running a farm on a privately-owned vacant lot in Brooklyn
Meera Bhat, Farmer, Prospect Farm, Brooklyn
3:15pm – 4:00 pm
Protecting Community Access to Land: Keeping Our Greens
Moderated by Paula Z. Segal, Director, 596 Acres, Brooklyn
The role of public trust doctrine & litigation
Legal Teams and Plaintiffs from the LaGuardia Corner & Boardwalk Community Gardens:
Aziz Dehkan, Executive Director, NYC Community Garden Coalition
Joel Kupferman, Esq., Attorney for Coney Island Boardwalk Garden, Brooklyn
Ellen Horan, Gardener, LaGuardia Corner Gardens, Manhattan
Sara Vacchiano, Esq., Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Attorneys for LaGuardia Corner Gardens
Transparency, accountability & legislation
Raymond Figueroa Reyes, Board President, NYC Community Garden Coalition
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Establishing Long Term Management: In Perpetuity
Moderated by Robert Crauderueff, Crauderueff & Associates, Inc.
Non-profit ownership and the role of design and capital projects
Chris Vanterpool, Director of Capital Administration, New York Restoration Project
The land trust model of protection for community property
Demetrice Mills, Board President, Brooklyn Queens Land Trust
Combining housing and community space through a community land trust on the Lower East Side
Katy Lyle, Board Member, Cooper Square Community Land Trust
Building capacity for more community property in NewYork City
Arvernetta Henry, Member, Picture the Homeless, NYC Community Land Initiative
SHARING BEST PRACTICES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Coffee and Registration
9:00 am – 9:30 am
Laura Auricchio, Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies,The New School, NYC USA Paula Z. Segal, Director, 596 Acres, Brooklyn NY USA
9:30 am – 12:00 pm
Session 1: Identifying Opportunities & Facilitating Transformations
Moderated by Paula Z. Segal, Director, 596 Acres, Brooklyn NY USA
Gaelle Janvier, Project Director, Alternatives, Montreal Canada
Chelina Odbert, Co-founder, Executive Director, Kuonkey Design Initiative, OH USA Jeffrey Kruth, Urban Designer, KSU Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, OH USA
Bob Grossman, Director, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, PA USA
Gil Lopez, Co-founder, Smiling Hogshead Ranch, Queens NY USA
Israel Cruz,T.I.L.L. Program Manager, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, CA USA
Sara Longo, Doctoral Candidate, UC Davis Department of Human Ecology, Davis CA USA Mark Glassock, Policy Analyst, Community Health Councils, Inc., Los Angeles CA USA Thomas Gooch, Co-founder, 3,000 Acres, Melbourne Australia
Sanjay Kharod, Executive Director, New Orleans Food and Farm Network, LA USA
12:00 pm – 12:30 pm
Session 1 Activity
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
Session 2: Protecting Community Access to Land
Moderated by Mark Glassock, Policy Analyst, Community Health Councils, Los Angeles CA USA
Becky Lundberg Witt, Staff Attorney, Baltimore Community Law Center MD USA Aissa Richardson, President,African American United Fund, Philadelphia PA USA Marco Clausen, Co-founder, Prinzessinnengarten, Berlin Germany
Farida Vis, Research Fellow, Everyday Growing Cultures, Manchester UK
Aresh Javadi, Executive Director, and members of More Gardens!, NYC USA
2:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Session 2 Activity
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Session 3: Developing Models for Predictable Land Tenure
Moderated by Amy Laura Cahn, Garden Justice Legal Initiative, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, PA USA
Johanna Rosen, Program Associate, Farms for Farmers Program, Equity Trust, Amherst MA USA
Miriam Avins, Executive Director, Baltimore Green Space, MD USA
Thiago Soares Barbizan, Architect and Urban Planner, Cidades Sem Fome/Cities Without Hunger, Sao Paulo Brasil
Jennifer Kates, Esq., Legislative Assistant, City Council, Philadelphia PA USA
4:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Session 3 Activity
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Session 4: Establishing Long Term Land Management
Moderated by Sanjay Kharod, Executive Director, New Orleans Food and Farm Network, LA USA
Matt Delsesto, Urban Activist and Scholar-Practitioner, Boston Food Project, MA USA
Kevin Egolf, Director of Business Development, Iroquois Valley Farms, NY USA
Ben Helphand, Executive Director, NeighborSpace, Chicago IL USA
Jacqueline Hand, Esq., Professor of Law, Univ. of Detroit Mercy School of Law, MI USA
Shane Bernardo, Outreach Coordinator, Earthworks Urban Farm, Detroit MI USA
5:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Session 4 Activity
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Close and Reception
Wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served
Testimony to the Committee on Housing and Buildings, Vacant Property In NYC
Hello Chair Williams and members of the Committee. My name is Paula Segal and I am the Director of 596 Acres, New York City's community land access advocacy organization. Thank you for opening up the conversation about vacant properties in New York City and giving me an opportunity to speak. I am going to focus my remarks on vacant land in New York City. I am glad to see that other advocates are here to address the opportunities presented by other types of vacant property.
I will divide my comments into and make recommendations for three distinct types of vacant land, as found in our neighborhoods: (1) vacant lots in the City portfolio, (2) privately-owned vacant lots, and (3) lots that will soon be acquired by the City in neighborhoods impacted by Superstorm Sandy.
City-Owned Vacant Lots
Across the five boroughs, there are approximately 540 acres of city owned vacant land. This land is divided among different agencies, with the bulk of it in the inventory of DCAS (510 lots, 185 acres), HPD (1025 lots, 181 acres) and SBS (42 lots, 80 acres). MTA has an at least additional 99 acres of vacant land in New York City; while not a city agency per se, their vacant land impacts New Yorkers in much the same way.
The primary area of work of 596 Acres is identifying opportunities for New Yorkers to shape their own neighborhoods; facilitating the transformation of city-owned vacant land into community spaces is a big part of this. In the last two years, twenty groups we have worked with in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens have gotten permission to change 5 acres of weeds behind fences into flower gardens, play spaces, vegetable bounties and other community resources. Some of these groups have direct agreements with city agencies that allow them to use the land and others are licensed through the GreenThumb program, either as temporary interim-use spaces that remain in the jurisdiction of other agencies or as groups managing lots that have been transferred to the Parks Department. We are working with approximately 120 other groups who are exploring the potential for transformation latent in 52 acres of vacant lots in their neighborhoods.
We have been able to find lots that are good candidates for such transformations because they are too small to build on without a variance under the modern building code -- 100 Quincy Community Garden in Bed Stuy, formed last year, is one such lot which was formerly in Housing Preservation and Development's inventory; St Nicholas Miracle Garden in Harlem, which was a school garden in the 1930s and then a sliver of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services portfolio for half a century before becoming a garden again last year, is another. These transformations are a testament to the fact that not all land in the city's portfolio presents a future opportunity for housing development.
I urge this committee to require the agencies to examine their inventory and transfer lots that are not well-positioned for development to other agencies – such as the Parks Department – that can turn them into public benefits. Our analysis of the city's property portfolio is based on datasets available through the open data portal and direct input from New Yorkers. I hope that our map, which you can see at 596acres.org, will be useful to this committee as it looks closely at the City’s vacant land portfolio.
One strategy that we use is actually labeling public lots so that neighbors are the first to know that these spaces present an organizing opportunity for open space or other community-enriching development. We urge the City to adopt this successful tactic to make information about public land transparent and available through signage that announces that the land is publicly owned and suggests ways that neighbors can get access to it. These signs can announce programs like GreenThumb and the DOT Plaza program directly on the locations that could participate in these programs and directly to the people who already walk by those places.
On the other hand, some land in the city portfolio is extremely right for development. We urge the Committee to explore strategies for making sure that development on these sites is as strongly influenced by people who live and work near them as possible. One suggestion for how to enable greater public participation: require developers to put up signs on sites where development is proposed or where land use review is imminent in advance of public comments being accepted on the proposals. Signs should clearly indicate that input from local communities is invited and how it will be accepted.
Another suggestion is having the Council review all imminent development proposals for Community Benefit Agreement opportunities and make sure that, where such opportunities exist, already-organized groups like tenants’ associations, churches and block associations, are the first to know and get training about the legal mechanisms involved.
Privately-Owned Vacant Lots
There are over 2,400 acres of vacant privately-owned land in New York City. These are sites that present opportunities for collaboration between the owners and neighbors. We support neighbors who reach out to us when they try to negotiate for access to these lots in their neighborhoods as well, with some success. I would ask you to help incentivize this collaboration and am pleased that the Council considered a resolution last year in support of state legislation that will permit the Department of Finance to create a new tax abatement program - modeled on the not-for-profit property tax abatement - for owners who let their lots’ neighbors use them to create temporary parks, farms and open spaces. This program will reward owners who work with their lots’ community and neighbors to convert an underutilized fenced off lot into a resource. With such a reward, it will be easier for more private owners of the holes in our city to opt into cooperation with their neighbors.
It’s important to note that this tax inventive goes hand in hand with the Mayor’s proposed plan to tax vacant land to encourage development. Together, they shift the incentives away from private owners’ warehousing unused land in areas zoned for residential construction with no benefit to the public.
Acquisition for Redevelopment in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy
Land that will be acquired by the City of New York will become public land and presents opportunities for neighbors to control development in communities where Sandy made a lack of control the norm. I hope this committee will explore legislative options for creating conditions for equitable use of this public resource.
Following Sandy, the federal government set aside funds for the State and City of New York to acquire destroyed or damaged properties. Some funds will be used to buy homes for the creation of open space that will serve as a buffer against future storms. Other funds will be used for an acquisition program that earmarks lots for city redevelopment. This redevelopment program is still unwritten and I urge the members of this Committee to focus attention on it as a neighborhood redevelopment program early this year. New development in Sandy-affected areas should be mixed-income and reflect pre-Sandy income levels – not so-called “middle-income” levels that are well out of the means of neighborhood residents and actual middle-income New Yorkers. Preference should be given to displaced residents. Long-term affordability mechanisms should be put in place.
We have a unique opportunity to redevelop these areas in ways difficult to implement in other New York City neighborhoods. Block grant funding can be used to support new community land trusts and non-profit, neighborhood-based development corporations. These trusts and developers must be under a mandate to create and permanently maintain housing that is affordable to neighborhood residents who have been displaced by the disaster or by the unworkable economics of the storm recovery process.
With the opportunity to redevelop large swaths of land, the incoming administration has an incredible opportunity to stabilize New York City’s low- and moderate-income coastal neighborhoods. Site design and community engagement in the design process will shape New York City’s future social and ecological resiliency. It will determine whether the storm leaves in its wake safer communities for those who experienced it first hand or an opportunity for speculation and developer-driven change along our coastlines.
Thank you very much for accepting my testimony today.
 These numbers are from Columbia Urban Design Lab’s report “The Potential for Urban Agriculture in New York City: Growing Capacity, Food Security, & Green Infrastructure,” available at http://www.urbandesignlab.columbia.edu/sitefiles/file/urban_agriculture_nyc.pdf (2012). There’s a caveat here: the Lab’s numbers turned out to be about twice the amount of public vacant land in reality when we subjected the city’s data to a more refined process (see http://596acres.org/en/about/our-data/); we’d love to do the same for private lots but need some fiscal support to be able to do it. But even if we half the numbers above, that is an awful lot of acres. If we had support to refine the city’s data regarding private vacant lots, the process would look like this: (1) We would start with MapPLUTO, which is the most complete and up-to-date land use database for the city. (2) We would filter the data to find just the parcels with private owners that have no buildings on them. (3) Someone would then look at each parcel individually using satellite imagery and Google Streetview to ensure that the parcel is actually not in use.
 See The Sustainable Economies Law Center, Policies for a Shareable City #11: Urban Agriculture, available at http://www.shareable.net/blog/policies-for-a-shareable-city-11-urban-agriculture (2011). Here’s California’s version of a tax incentive bill, passed in 2013: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB551 (cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco are implementing this enabling legislation through ordinance now).
Thank you to everyone who has submitted an abstract for Turning Vacant Acres into Community Resources on Tuesday, April 22 - Wednesday, April 23, 2014, at The New School, New York NY.
We are extremely excited to host a super conversation: Farida Vis will be talking about allotment rents and distribution in England, Sanjay Kharod will be presenting the New Orleans Food & Farm Network FarmCity toolkit, Equity Trust's Johanna Rosen will talk about adapting farmland preservation tools to the needs of urban agriculture, and so so much more. We will be announcing the full program in the coming weeks.
We have some extremely good news -- especially for those who hoped to join us but couldn't due to financial reasons: the Southwest Airlines Foundation and the Small Planet Fund have both provided small amounts of travel support for organizers who would not otherwise be able to get here.
Please send a short message to Alex Shaw if this is you (Alexandra Shaw <email@example.com>) explaining your need for travel support and what you hope to get out of attending the conference by 5pm on Thursday, February 20. Also let us know if Southwest Airlines serves your travel hub.
We hope to match everyone who needs support with either a travel voucher or some dollars to offset the cost of a flight ticket. Forgive us in advance for our scarce resources but also let your land access facilitator friends know that some support is available. If we can help you get some funding to attend from an organization you've identified, please don't hesitate to ask for a letter of support or invitation.
If you did not previously submit an abstract because funding for travel was not available, please do so as well and let us know.
To help you plan your travel, here's the schedule for the 2 days:
Tuesday, April 22
1-5pm Focus on NYC
6pm Dinner with Vacant Acres participants (we'll reserve a lovely place where we can all fit, but can't pay for dinner unfortunately)
Wednesday, April 23
9-5 Vacant Acres Worldwide Symposium
5-7 Reception at The New School
You can register here.
"I'm So Lucky You Found Me: public land inside the city" is a handmade book by 596 Acres and collaborator Daniel Eizirik, a Brasilian artist who spent winter 2012-13 documenting the experience of transforming Brooklyn's acres. You can read about the process (and see some images) here.
This is 596 Acres' first book! We learned so much making it - about the life of lots in various stages of transformation, about printing and scoring and hand-stitching books, and about the connections between Brooklyn's neighborhoods. These books are lovely if we might say so ourselves. Here's an article, with some images of the inside, from our friends at Inhabitat.
The books are on the shelves at some places we like a lot:
Build It Green
69 9th Street
Bergen Street Comics
470 Bergen Street
La Jicara Librespacio Cultural
Porfirio Díaz 1105
Colonia Centro, Oaxaca de Juárez
Calle Macedonio Alcalá 307
Colonia Centro, Oaxaca de Juárez
3108 24th Street
San Francisco, CA
You can also order them directly from us using the big button above. All proceeds go to support 596 Acres.
596 Acres + Mohen & Segal + Merrick Marsden Neighborhood Association + Brooklyn Queens Land Trust = another forever space for the community (in Queens!)
What Our New Mayor Should Do, Part One: Label public land, fund GreenThumb, reward private owners who let neighbors use their land & require developers to explain development proposals at the sites where they are proposed
596 Acres is New York City’s community land access advocacy organization. We help residents all over the city see possibilities behind the fences on their blocks and get permission to access new spaces in their neighborhoods. These become gardens, pocket parks, farms, and playgrounds. Often, we help community members realize the potential of a previously existing resource that has become disconnected from the city agency mechanism that maintained it for past generations. We are looking forward to partnering with the incoming administration to decrease the information gap, amplify community power, and create common neighborhood spaces for all New Yorkers. The following four changes would greatly improve the vitality of our city.
1. Transparency and access to public information about public land. Make information about public land transparent and available through signage on publicly owned lots. Signs should announce that the land is publicly owned and suggest ways that neighbors can get access to it. Announce programs like Gardens for Healthy Communities and the DOT Plaza program directly on the affected locations and to people who walk by those places. If the city administration makes information about publicly owned land more accessible, 596 Acres can focus on helping local communities organize and build sustainable local governance for managing projects going forward.
2. Support greening. GreenThumb gets no funding from New York City - it’s time to change that. GreenThumb provides materials and support for gardens on public and private land. They provide a long-established process for community groups to open fences in their neighborhoods and put public land to use. One of the things that I find myself doing often at 596 Acres is telling community members not to give up on their communication with GreenThumb -- they are swamped. City funding would increase capacity of this crucial program that serves the needs of all New Yorkers who want to create community controlled spaces..
3. Reward cooperation. Incentivize community access to privately-owned vacant land through a new tax abatement program, based on the not-for-profit property tax abatement.This program will reward owners who work with their lots’ community and neighbors to convert an underutilized, fenced off lot into a resource, like a temporary park, farm, or open space! A tax incentive will encourage more private owners of the holes in our city to opt into cooperation with their neighbors.
4. Include neighborhood voices. Enable greater public participation by requiring developers to put up signs on sites where development is PROPOSED or where land use review is imminent, in advance of the public participation period. Signs should clearly indicate that input from local communities is invited and indicate how it will be accepted. Signs should be placed every 15 feet and include before and after photos .
What Our New Mayor Should Do, Part Two: Support Equitable Redevelopment in Sandy-Affected Communities
Land that will be acquired by the City of New York will become public land and present opportunities for neighbors to control development in their communities. We believe the new administration has the power to create the conditions for equitable use of this public resource. We call for equitable re-development of land acquired by New York City and New York State in Sandy-affected areas.
Following Superstorm Sandy, the federal government set aside funds for the State and City of New York to acquire destroyed or damaged properties. Some funds will be used to buy homes for the creation of open space that will serve as a buffer against future storms. Other funds will be used for an acquisition program that earmarks lots for city redevelopment.
Electing for the city to acquire and redevelop your property -- with no guarantee that you and your family will be able to return to the neighborhood and benefit from redevelopment -- is a desperate choice, but a likely one for many New Yorkers in Sandy-affected areas. Once the Biggert-Waters Act goes into effect, roughly 34,500 properties in our coastal communities that were flooded by Sandy will be affected by rising insurance costs. Properties currently outside the high-risk flood insurance zones with annual premiums of $429 could face new annual burdens of $5,000 to $10,000. No funding has been made available to elevate homes that were not completely destroyed in the storm. Those who cannot afford to pay for elevation will face rising insurance costs.
Over 30% of households in areas with looming insurance price hikes earn less than 60% of the Area Median Income. Moreover, New York City is in the midst of a severe affordable housing shortage, with a homeless population of over 50,000 people. New development in Sandy-affected areas should be mixed-income and reflect pre-Sandy income levels. Preference should be given to displaced residents. Long-term affordability mechanisms should be put in place.
Through the funding allocated for acquisition and redevelopment of properties in Sandy-affected communities, the city has a unique opportunity to support local development capacity that puts communities in control of their housing. We urge that the block grant funding be used to support new community land trusts and non-profit, neighborhood-based development corporations. These trusts and developers must be under a mandate to create and permanently maintain housing that is affordable to neighborhood residents who have been displaced by the disaster or by the unworkable economics of the storm recovery process.
With the opportunity to redevelop large swaths of land, the incoming administration has an incredible opportunity to stabilize New York City’s low- and moderate-income coastal neighborhoods. Site design and community engagement in the design process will shape New York City’s future social and ecological resiliency. It will determine whether the storm leaves in its wake safer communities for those who experienced it first hand or an opportunity for speculation and developer-driven change along our coastlines.
This statement was made by a coalition of organizations and individuals who have come together, with leadership from 596 Acres, as a watchdog group for redevelopment in Sandy-affected areas of New York City:
Tom Cunsolo, Staten Island Alliance
Meghan Faux & Margaret Becker, Legal Services NYC
Zoe Hamstead, Doctoral Student, The New School
Peleg Kremer, Post Doctoral Fellow, Tishman Environment and Design Center, The New School
Elizabeth Malone, Neighborhood Housing Services of NY C, Program Director, Resiliency & Insurance Services
Paula Z. Segal, Director, 596 Acres
In the "quiet" of the NYC mayoral transition, we are taking some time to get organized with our friends from around the country and around the world, building a network of community land access facilitators and planning for bringing them together in NYC in the Spring. Let us know if you have folks who should be on our radar for invites. More information about the convening is coming soon!
And check out what the people in Sao Paulo are doing underneath the powerlines and above the oil pipelines on the city's periphery, leveraging the expertise of recently urbanized rural farmers to allow these communities a certain level of sovereignty, even in the city.
Our prints, fabulous Julia Samuels creations: Find the Lot In Your Life!
22" x 30" 3-color hand pulled screen print, published by the artist in an edition of 85. This archival version of 596 Acres' Brooklyn broadsheet features a map of Brooklyn, NY with all publicly owned vacant lots highlighted.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) gained access to the city-owned vacant lot at 31 Lafayette Avenue for use as a bike park and art installation in 2013. 596 Acres NYC Team had a great meeting with BAM's Chief Financial Officer Keith Stubblefield this week and learned about the process of turning this recently vacant lot into a beautiful community resource.
BAM is a cultural institution; that status gives it access to the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA). DCA describes themselves like this:
"The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs is dedicated to supporting and strengthening New York City's vibrant cultural life. Among our primary missions is to ensure adequate public funding for non-profit cultural organizations, both large and small, throughout the five boroughs."
BAM was for many years situated directly accross the street from a City-owned vacant lot, an eyesore that became all the more conspicuous as BAM underwent its DCA-supported facelift in the last few years. The City-owned lot was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, a department that holds title to City-owned land and assigns it to agencies like Housing Preservation and Development, Parks and Recreation, Police, Fire and Cultural Affairs so that those departments can create places that fulfill their missions. When a lot is assigned to DCAS, that means that no mission-driven use has been identified for it yet. The BAM team verified with DCAS that the Department had no plans for the lot and started the two-year process of getting access.
Mr. Stubblefield and his team took advantage of BAM's cultural institution status and invited DCA to cooperate with them in a land access campaign. The BAM team initiated the invitation with a proposal to DCA; DCA in turn requested that DCAS transfer 31 Lafayette to DCA jurisdiction and DCAS made the transfer.
Once the transfer was complete, they submitted the same proposal package, with an emphasis on the design of the space to Brooklyn Communtiy Board 2. Community Board 2 approved the design, the last step in getting permission to put up the piece. The Community Board's letter is below.
The BAM team plans to maintain art installations (giant canvas paintings) in the space, with bike racks designed by David Byrne in front, just directly across the street from their theater.
If you're part of a cultural institution and you would like access to DCAS-owned land please be in touch. The 596 Acres Team will support you and BAM management is willing to help us connect the dots.
February 20, 2013
Signe Nielsen, President
Jackie Snyder, Executive Director
Public Design Commission
City Hall, Third Floor
New York, New York 10007
Dear Ms. Nielsen and Ms. Snyder:
Community Board 2 has reviewed and made a determination on a proposal by the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), in coordination with the Department of Cultural Affairs, to install a wall on the city-owned property at 31 Lafayette Avenue for the rotating display of art. It is also proposed that bicycle racks designed by David Byrne, configurable to spell words, be installed in front of the mural wall, which will be if approved across the street from BAM’s Peter Jay Sharp Opera House.
BAM presented the design to the community board’s Youth, Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on January 23, 2013. After discussion, the committee voted unanimously (7-0-0) to recommend the Public Design Commission approve the design.
On February 13, 2012, the community board voted unanimously (39-0-0) to ratify this recommendation. In the case of both votes, a member of Community Board 2 who is an employee of BAM recused herself from voting.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Hon. Letitia James, New York City Council
Keith Stubblefield, CFO and VP of Finance and Administration, Brooklyn Academy of Music
NY State Community Land Access Advocates Urge Cuomo To Sign Bill Requiring Cities to Respond to Requests for Access to Public Land Within 180 Days - You Can Help!
A statewide coalition of community land access advocates has signed and sent the letter below to Governor Cuomo, encouraging him to sign a bill that would expand the authority of the State office of Community Gardens and create timelines for municipalities to follow when responding to community requests for use of public land. The bill requires city agencies to respond within 180 days. It's a start.
You can let the Governor know you think it's a good idea. Here's how you reach the governor's office: call (518) 474-8390 or fill out this form:
http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php (Agriculture is the topic)
August 12, 2013
Dear Governor Cuomo,
We, the undersigned, represent a coalition of community gardeners and land access advocates throughout New York State. We write to express our support for Senate Bill 2372/ Assembly Bill 3743, a bill expanding the authority of the Office of Community Gardens.
Throughout New York State, there are thousands of acres of fallow vacant, publicly- owned land within our cities and towns, which can be put to use by local communities ready to create a green oasis of healthy food and beauty. Many organized block associations and groups have developed methods for obtaining access for use of public land locally, at times in collaboration with, without or in opposition to their municipal governments. Oftentimes the process is ad-hoc, depending on community capacity and needs.
This bill successfully establishes a clear and transparent process for neighborhood groups of new community gardeners to gain official access to vacant public land in their urban communities. The Office of Community Gardens will now have the responsibility and the authority to hold municipalities accountable for responding to the visions of New York State community gardeners and land access advocates for transforming our public land. It is our hope and expectation that the Office of Community Gardens will do so in a manner that effectively addresses the environmental justice issues of the lack of open space equity particularly in underserved, marginalized communities and that it do so in a manner that protects community gardens and their natural environmental resources for the benefit of the broadest possible public good. We also hope that the municipal application forms for accessing vacant public land will be simple, long term and straightforward.
Finally, we are also encouraged by the Legislative Findings praising the crucial role of community gardens across New York State. These words confirm the responsibility of government to safeguard land as a community resource and to create more community gardens.
596 Acres, New York City
Albany Green, Albany
Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo, Buffalo
Greenprint Niagara, Niagara Falls
Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, Jamestown
New York City Community Garden Coalition, New York City
Announcing, our new phone number: 718-316-6092!
Please share widely.
The first 596Acres-initiated community determined green space opened its gate as a compost drop-off site a week ago on Saturday, December 3 -- the 462 Halsey Community Garden. Shatia Jackson, organizer and co-founder, had this to share about the journey so far and the path ahead. We originally posted it on December 12, 2011.
Getting permission to use the lot at 462 Halsey Street has had its hiccups and has taken 4 months to see it through. My involvement started when 596acres put a sign on the fence, alerting us that there is so much vacant land in Brooklyn that it would be a crime not to try and utilize it for the betterment of our neighborhood and explaining that this empty lot is owned by Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), a New York City agency.
We started by gathering community members through fliers, a facebook page, a yahoo group and local publications. We got together a group of people who were interested in gardening. From there, we had our first meeting to discuss our vision and what we wished to accomplish in August. Through the 596 Acres network, we connected with Brooklyn Permaculture who have been instrumental in helping us plan out this garden using all natural, cheap permaculture methods.
We spread the word as much as possible about this garden venture by attending New York Community Garden Coalition meetings, passing out information at local festivals and leaving fliers at local businesses. Once we felt secure in the number of serious members we had on board, we contacted HPD and Green Thumb and tried to get ourselves registered.
This part of the process was the most confusing because we contacted HPD and they told us that we had to contact Green Thumb and then vice versa. We even had problems with figuring out exactly who to contact within both organizations since it seemed that each individual gave us incorrect information. Finally we were put in contact with the correct people and started our application process. Green Thumb has a protocol for managing HPD-owned land and will, if you are trying to start a project on such land, send you all the necessary info and applications and they serve as a middle-man between you and the agency.
While our application was being processed, we continued to network, meet and finalize our goals/blue prints and raise money. We had a very successful fundraising effort on IOBY.org and that is how we were able to buy all of our start-up tools. In addition to fundraising, we have applied for grants and have so far been approved for the "Love Your Block" grant totaling $1,000.
We have had two weekends of working on the garden thus far. and I can't believe how far we have gotten! We completed our compost station which has 4 bins, raked up all the dead leaves to use for compost, got rid of about 15 bags of garbage and pruned all the trees to optimize sunlight. The volunteer turnout was amazing: at our peak we had at least 20 people helping out. The community's interest is overwhelming! For anyone who would like to help out, we will have our gates open every weekend as long as weather permits.
I hope sharing our journey helps other upstart gardens!!
Java Street Gets the Green Light -- In The Words of Stella, who's been with the collaborative since the start
This is a repost from the Java Street Garden Collaborative blog. We originally posted it on March 2, 2012.
After a brief presentation at last week's CB1 meeting in front of the Parks & Waterfront Committee, given by Stella Goodall and supported by some terrific graphics and presentation materials created by Rena Mande, Amanda Rekemeyer and Phil Grimaldi of DSGN AGNC, we have pretty much been given the green light to temporarily take up residence at 59 Java Street in Greenpoint.
We were joined at the meeting by fellow group members Susan Marie Kosor and Manuel Zuniga; also in attendance was our advocate from Green Thumb, Roland Chouloute. The main concern in discussion was the temporal nature of this particular lot which has apparently already been RFP'd (Request for Proposal) by the North Brooklyn Development Corporation for affordable housing; it seems the hold-up has been funding and which could be long- or short-term in coming. We had the opportunity at last Thursday's meeting to meet Rich Mazur, Executive Director of NBDC, who says he would support our efforts as a temporary garden project. He also suggested that, as we have had such an overwhelming response from potential volunteers, that we might also take a look at his Dupont Street community garden for overflow involvement.
In the past, groups have been granted "temporary" access to vacant public land only to be asked some time later to vacate under very similar circumstances. Once groups get entrenched and gain the support and attachment of the surrounding neighborhood, it can be very hard for everyone involved to simply move on. We already knew we'd be up against this and rather than try to dig our heels in against the inevitable decided to embrace it, giving birth to the vision of a "roving garden group".
Ours is not the only vacant lot in this predicament of having laid in waste for years waiting for something to happen and in the meanwhile becoming a blight on the surrounding area, collecting trash, overgrown weeds and generally bringing down the quality of life to that particular block. Our vision is to create a template for creating a productive active space for all in a short amount of time and then being able to easily and quickly move on to the next such project when the time comes.
We are past the halfway mark in our fundraising campaign going with ioby.org and we encourage you to consider giving, however small an amount, and to share it to help us meet our goal ...so we can effectively break ground and get going this spring!
A land access advocacy curriculum and educational tool by 596 Acres.
596 Acres is a public education project aimed at making communities aware of the land resources around them. With the twin goals of food sovereign cites and community self-determination, 596 Acres is helping neighbors form connections to the vacant lots in their lives. New York City has a paucity of green space per person and the constant refrain is that there is not enough space here for all the awesome ideas that people have for how to green their neighborhoods and get to know their neighbors. It turns out the space is all around us—especially concentrated in neighborhoods that need it most. 596 Acres is working to connect communities to the information they need to gain control of their environments.
Teaching about Vacancies: Help others find the lot in their life!
Do you want to help young people imagine the future of their community? Want to grow something new on a vacant lot? This tool is for you! The activities presented in the following pages are matched to NY State Learning Standards designed for students ages 6 and up, but the basics of each activity can be used with students of all ages and in any learning environment. The curriculum presents three important ways to organize around land: brainstorming vacant lots, identifying strengths among friends/community, and making fliers. Feel free to use or adapt this curriculum anywhere for anyone—in the classroom, in the garden, as part of after school programs, community-based education, or anywhere else!
Tell us how YOU teach about vacancies.
We’d love to know how you teach about vacancies and what ideas you have for adapting our activities so we can share your amazing teaching and curriculum ideas with our 596 Acres community. Did you teach the activities in this curriculum as part of a lesson plan? Do you have sample student work from these activities that you would like to share with others? Do you already teach youth to get involved in their communities by transforming their environment? Share your stories and ideas with us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for exploring our curriculum materials!
Be sure to visit us at 596acres.org where you can view our map of vacant land in NYC, watch a lot, start organizing, find helpful resources, or connect with neighbors and organizations already working to get land access.
THE BRONX, NEW YORK CITY - On Thursday, March 21, the 596 Acres’ interactive online map will begin providing information about vacant public land in the borough of the Bronx. 596 Acres will also begin distribution of print maps and signs for labeling lots throughout the borough in the coming weeks. Simultaneously, 596 Acres launches their website in Spanish!
"I'm glad that community-level interest, thought and planning around vacant space will be taken more seriously," said Aazam Otero, a Bronx resident and public space advocate.
(2) placing signs on vacant public land that explain each lot’s status and steps that the community can take in order to be able to use this land,
(3) visioning sessions for education about public land holdings by invitation from community groups,
(4) engaging the community when an interested potential leader reaches out, and
(5) direct advocacy with New York City agencies. 596 Acres, a volunteer led project, has created countless opportunities for neighbors to come together and take control of their landscape, to learn which government agencies make decisions for their neighborhoods, and to talk to residents new and old.
Patchen Community Square (patchensquare.com), Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn;
Java Street Garden Collaborative (javastreetgarden.tumblr.com), Greenpoint, Brooklyn;
A Small Green Patch (asmallgreenpatch.com), Gowanus, Brooklyn;
Myrtle Village Green (myrtlepark.org), Northwest Bedford-Stuyvesant/Wallabout Village, Brooklyn;
100 Quincy Community Garden (100quincy.wordpress.com), Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; and
Just Food Conference panel with the Philadelphia Garden Justice Legal Initiative: “Food For The People: Tactics To Claim Land And Increase Food Sovereignty.”
Thank you so much to the nearly 50 people who attended our Brooklyn General Meeting on Sunday, March 10th. Representatives from Lots all around Brooklyn (and a few Queens folks) were in attendance. We also welcomed some folks who are still looking for the lot in their life. Hope you all found one!
The Run Down:
In the first half of the meeting, two different lots with access, 100 Quincy Garden and Myrtle Village Green shared their collected wisdom about the experience of gaining access.
-- 100 Quincy Garden - Khemenec, Kate, and Sheena shared their experiences gaining access. They answered many people's questions about the process of getting approval from Greenthumb for their license, and they talked about what it takes to demonstrate that the whole block is behind you. Reach out to them at their website or check out their lot page to read about some of their experience if your group is facing the same questions.
-- Myrtle Village Green - Stephan and Paula talked about the long term experience of gaining access to Myrtle Village Green. They have great knowledge about how to keep a group together when faced with adversity! Reach out to them at the MVG website or check their lot page to read through the whole story.
-- After that, we popcorned out questions. Most people's questions were specific, and it seemed like a lot of the assembled group had specific answers. We broke out into smaller discussions and hopefully everybody got the answers they needed.
This is all awesome, and it's not even spring!
Next General Meeting is on Sunday, April 14th in MANHATTAN! 242 West 123rd st. The Harlem Flophouse. 3pm - 5pm
Please RSVP to email@example.com. (it's not required, but it helps us with snacks!)
596 ACRES JOINS THE SILENT BARN AS STUDIO RESIDENT, RELEASES ARTIST’S BOOK ON PUBLIC LAND INSIDE THE CITY: "I'M SO LUCKY YOU FOUND ME"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
596 Acres, a young Brooklyn-based project that is making a big impact on New York City by providing tools for communities to unlock vacant public land, has found its first permanent home at the new Silent Barn as a studio. In the last year, working out of out pockets, our kitchens, coffee shops and donated spaces around Brooklyn, 596 Acres has played a key role in the creation of eight community controlled spaces that used to just be lots behind fences - these are new gardens, parks and playgrounds that are run by neighbors all over the city! Four more spaces are poised to open this Spring. With a new permanent home at the Silent Barn, the impact on community can only deepen.
Since the start, 596 Acres has been grounded in print production - 596 Acres broadsheets and graphics show up on fences around the city, in galleries around the country and even in the Venice Biennale.
596 Acres now expands its Print Archive in 2013 by publishing a artist book with Brasilian artist Daniel Eizirik: "I'm So Lucky You Found Me: Public Land Inside the City." The book is a drawn documentation of vacant land in the city, created on location at Brooklyn's vacant lots with the collaboration of neighbors and vacant lot transformers. It will be available for sale ($10!) at the Book Launch at the Silent Barn on Friday, January 11, 2013, and through 596acres.org.
596 Acres Print Archive: http://596acres.org/en/about/596-acres-archive/
Contact: Paula Z. Segal, Founder & Director, 596 Acres, firstname.lastname@example.org
596 Acres, The Law Office of Mohen & Segal & The Silent Barn present
I'm So Lucky You Found Me Book Launch & Studio Warming Party
Friday, January 11, 2013
7 p.m. at 11 Stanwix Street, Brooklyn NY 11206
Music starts at 8 p.m.:
Celestial Band (yoruban based gospel sounds, from a 596 Acres organizing community)
Zeke Healy & Karen Waltuch (guitar & viola, all dressed up)
G Lucas Crane v. Non Horse (on tapes)
CONSUMATA (cumbia sabanera groove train)
This is a private party. RSVP by emailing email@example.com.
Thanks to our friends at Good Eye Video (Brooklyn NY, cinematography) and Daniel from Contorno (Brasil, editing and animation), we have this great new video of organizers speaking about the lots in their lives. We're so glad to be able to introduce them to each other and to you. And we're thrilled to be the catalysts and facilitators of change in their neighborhoods!
Friend and collaborator Daniel Eizirik is working on documenting public vacant lots with 596 Acres this winter, in conjunction with the exhibition "On Purpose" at the BRIC Rotunda gallery (33 Clinton Street, Brooklyn Heights). The drawings are created through shared experiences on location. The locations for this documentary are publicly owned vacant lots - those that have been transformed and those that remain sites of future transformations.
Until December 21, Daniel will be drawing and working as a facilitator of drawings by collaborators including neighbors and vacant lot organizers (this could be you!). If you wish to collaborate and participate in these immersions, contact Daniel directly (firstname.lastname@example.org or 516 943 3667). He would love to come out and meet you in your neighborhood or to attend any events you are having locally. & feel free to forward this and re-post the images (credit Daniel Eizirik).
In January, we will be putting these images together into an artist book that you can keep (SAVE THE DATE: Lots of Land/Land of Lots release will be on January, 11, 2013).
Before you email us, please check our Rockaway Relief Common Questions.
This summer, 596 Acres worked closely with communities in Rockaway around issues of vacant public land during a three-week residency in Edgemere, Rockaway. We were welcomed and made lasting connections. A dozen groups started oranizing projects around sites and are engaged in our network.
The people in those groups live in Rockaway. They are some of the most affected by Hurricane Sandy; the affects of the storm are exasserbated by a history of unequal resource distribution to the Rockaway neighborhoods. Thousands have been without heat or power for a week now. Access to food and medical care is being provided by awesome on-the-ground community responders like you and me. The problem is worse because Rockaway is cut off from the transit network and there is a gas shortage.
With our friends at UnLocal, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities and the Gowanus Studio Space, we are doing what we can to coordinate assistance for our friends and neighbors. We are trying to listen closely to their needs. Read below for how you can help.
for 596 Acres
|This message was sent on Sunday, November 4 at 8pm. It is a follow up to an earlier message, sent 24 hours prior, that generated an overwhelming response. That earlier message is below but the most current information is here. <3|
Our weekly newsletter is awesome! We tell you you what's going on across the Acres network, where you can plug into projects in your neighborhood, about resources your autonomous projects can use and how we're growing as an organization. It arrives in inboxes on Thursdays.
Sign up today! To make it more fun, we're gonna give away a set of gift certificates for wine tastings at three conveniently located Long Island vineyards: Roanoke Vineyards (Riverhead, NY), Laurel Lake Vineyards (Laurel, NY), & Clovis Point (Jamesport, NY). The 200th person to sign up will get one!
Save the Date: 596 Acres Harvest Benefit Event
PEOPLE WORKING OUR LAND TOGETHER
596 Acres and Sun In Bloom present
A Celebration of our Neighborhood Bounties
A lot of vacant lots in New York City are privately owned. We are starting to work with community groups and private landowners who see the benefits of having a site activated versus sitting abandoned and vacant. Two examples:
The lot that Feedback Farms (a part of A Small Green Patch) is on is owned by a private landlord. It is sandwiched between two publicly owned lots (HPD) to which A Small Green Patch has a license; when they got that license, they contacted the borough president Marty Markowitz's office for help reaching out to the private landowner -- turns out he was friend of Marty's. The private landowner is donating rent for the year and will be getting a thank you letter from our fiscal sponsor that might help on his taxes; he also hasn't gotten a single Sanitation ticket since the creation of the Farm (those were a real problem before) and gets to feel good about how he is contributing. Feedback Farms has a general liability insurance policy that covers farming/gardening activities at the site.
The lot that One Kin Farm is on is also private land. The owner was approached by the lead gardeners on that site, who, building on 596 Acres' experience with A Small Green Patch, offered to carry an insurance policy (which we helped them arrange for free), take care of the lot and give the owner a thank you letter from a 501(c)(3). They also took him on a tour of thriving gardens in the neighborhood and generally charmed him.
We are working with other groups who are also trying to reach out to private landowners and still others who are in the midst of negotiations. There is another private owner in Bushwick who is looking for stewards for his land now.
The big difference is that when it's a private owner, it really is all about the relationship. If you can get a meeting with them, we can help you figure out how to frame what you can offer.
Get in touch if you know an owner who wants his land used for public good & greening!
We're planning an August residency at the Rockaways to dovetail with the release of our data for Queens. There is A LOT of vacant land there. We would love to partner with any existing organizations to schedule visioning sessions and pick targeted lots to label. Get in touch!
NY4P leads a RALLY at CITY HALL next Tuesday, June 5 at 10am in the Fight Against Further Parks Department Budget Cuts!
New Yorkers for Parks and New York City Council Members Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito and James Oddo will speak out on the steps of City Hall next Tuesday, June 5, at 10 AM – and gardeners need to join them! Many Parks advocates will be on hand, we need to SHOW THEM THAT GARDENS ARE IMPORTANT TOO!!!!
Join the rally to call upon the City Council and Bloomberg Administration to restore Parks Department’s funding!
- GREENTHUMB's Federal Grants budget will be slashed by $70,000!!! It's already operating on a shoestring, and now we need the City to provide tax levy funding to make up that enormous difference! $70,000 could pay for:
- two GrowTogether conferences
- 4,666 raised beds
- 106 loads of topsoil
- 70 steel sheds
- 1,400 linear feet of new fencing
GreenThumb has had as many as 5 Outreach coordinators in the past. Currently they have only two to serve all five Boroughs. This means that two people have to handle resource requests, staff workshops and giveaways, answer constituent phone calls, and do deliveries and site visits. Wonder why that soil delivery is taking a long time? Now you know. Everyone is stepping in and helping out as much as they can, but with a staff that small there is no way they can provide anywhere near the service level we need!
The Federal Block Grant Program, that FULLY funds GreenThumb, has been cut by Congress, and to some extent the City's Office of Management and Budget has no choice but to cut allocations to many City programs. It’s important to note, however, that GreenThumb has never received an annual allocation of CITY tax levy funding to supplement the federal dollars. THE CITY OWES US THAT MONEY! Seeing that GreenThumb is included in the CIty budget is something that is in both the Mayor and the City Council’s power to change.
What You Can Do:
1. Get to the steps of City Hall Tuesday, June 5, at 10 AM – and feel free to bring signs (no wooden or metal poles) reflecting your SUPPORT FOR GREENTHUMB!!! Tell your neighbors and friends to come, too! Plan to arrive 20 minutes early, because you’ll need to pass through security on either the eastern (Center Street/Park Row) or western (Broadway) side of City Hall.
2. Testify at the City Council Budget Hearing on Wednesday, June 6, at 3:30 PM – The public comment period begins at 3:30, but arrive earlier to sign up if you want to speak – the comment period is first-come, first-served and the Council is trying to minimize the impact of the public testimony (and testing the stamina of their constituents) by having public testimony for ALL City Budget issues on the same day. We NEED a strong showing supporting GREENTHUMB!!!
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
City Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan
3. Submit a written statement to the City Council. Even if you cannot attend the City Council public hearing, you can submit a written statement. Email or fax your statement to Tanisha Edwards at email@example.com or 212-788-7061 on or before June 6. Indicate that the statement is to be included in the record for the Parks Department Executive Budget Hearing.
4. Contact your local Council Member and the Mayor. Let them know that GARDENS matter, and the GreenThumb budget needs to be better funded now!
We're exploring our potential role as a facilitator of relationships between private owners of vacant lots and the communities who live near those lots. We are starting with a single relationship: One Kin Farm in Bed Stuy which starts building next week and has the space to do so through the generosity of a private landowner who shares our vision of a network of decentralized community spaces operated by engaged citizens. One Kin Farm can use your financial support on IOBY: they are going to get bunnies! If you know of other landowners who are looking to activate their properties with community participation for interim use, please contact us. We would love to add them to our network!
There's this privately owned vacant-lot that people could use. How do I get started?
This is a great opportunity for your neighborhood and the wider 596 Acres community. Two ways you could start:
1. If you'd like to be involved in the project yourself, put a sign on the fence to the lot telling your neighbors that you have permission to use it and how to reach you to start scheming for how to do so this spring.
2. If you're looking for other people to spearhead the effort (and take care of things like insurance and fundraising), we can add your lot to our interactive map to draw people to your budding project that way. Let us know the address of the lot and if you'd like to do that. We have been talking about adding a layer for private lots that people WANT community uses on and this would be a great way for us to start building that layer. Click the contact button to get in touch with us.
& we're psyched! You can read about us on the Awesome Fondation's blog!
1. 463 Tompkins Future Urban Orchard! This site is negotiating for city agency approval now; neighbors are making plans for what to do with mound of a downed house -- a terraced orchard, perhaps? Contact Beatriz at (646) 481-1708 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
2. 462 Halsey Community Gardens: This site opened with city agency approval in April 2012. Come by any day & join us for a party this Sunday!
3. Putnam & Patchen Future Community Garden! Two block associations and the neighbors have come together and are negotiating or agency approval, which is imminent. They hope to be growing something by June 2012. Contact Alison at email@example.com or Alexis at (646) 351-9859 to get involved.
At an awards ceremony presided over by Mayor Michael Bloomberg last night, 596 Acres won the award of "Best Green App" from the NYC BigApps 3.0 competition. Thanks so much to everyone who voted for us!
The official announcement is here: http://nycgov.tumblr.com/post/21324992484/nycedc-last-night-mayor-bloomberg-announced
Selected other coverage:
This site gives you contact information for the person for each piece of vacant public land who we think has the ability to tell you it's status and give you permission to use it. Sometimes our sluething is off -- or sometimes people change jobs. When you call, start by asking if they are the person you should speak to about a vacant property in North/South Brooklyn. If they're not, ask who is (and remember to tell 596 Acres!).
If they are, tell them you are calling from a neighborhood organization. Describe the lot, how long it's been empty. Give the Block and Lot number and maybe the address.
0.329 acres have been activated by community groups who found out that vacant land in their neighborhoods was actually public land. That tiny amount is all of the Java Street Garden Collaborative, Feedback Farms/A Small Green Patch and 462 Halsey. We have a long long way to go.
GreenThumb gets no funding from New York City. Here's what we have to say about that:
"My name is Paula Segal. I am here representing a community-based project called 596 Acres. I am here today to testify for city council funding for community driven parks projects and, specifically city funding for the GreenThumb program.
596 Acres connects communities with land resources around them to enable the formation of community-controlled public spaces where New Yorkers can work together and play together in their own neighborhoods. Our project is a data project -- we use maps and hand-made signs to identify unused public land in Brooklyn. Our pilot project, which started by labeling a dozen unused Housing Preservation and Development sites last summer and supporting community members who saw those signs in navigating the existing processes for getting access. Three of those sites are now GreenThumb gardens -- the Java Street Garden Collaborative in Greenpoint, Feedback Farms in Gowanus and 462 Halsey Community Gardens in Bedford Stuyvesant.
GreenThumb provides materials and gardening support for gardens on public land. They provided an already-established process for these three community groups to actually open their fences and put public land to use that the people who live right near those lands could control and use for recreation and food production. Without the help and support of GreenThumb, these groups would be going it alone and would likely still be weedy, vacant lots behind fences.
One of the things that I find myself doing a lot as a community advocate through 596 Acres is telling community members not to give up -- GreenThumb is swamped. Sometimes materials take a long time to arrive. Sometimes emails take a long time to get answered. City funding for this crucial program that is serving the needs of New Yorkers who want to work together to create community controlled spaces would increase the capacity of the program, and have the effect of increasing the capacity of all New Yorkers to affect the use of our common lands in our own communities.
596 Acres is here today to ask the City Council to use the Parks budget process as an opportunity to add city funding to GreenThumb. Even a small amount of funding added directly from the City budget would immediately increase green space capacity in our neighborhoods, especially those where parks are scarce."
This past Saturday, 596 Acres had the honor and privilege of presenting our tactics to the awesome youth of Flip the Table: the NYC Youth Food Council.
In the words of the Council's organizers, Flip the Table "is training future leaders in the sustainable food movement, lending a problem-solution framework around which youth can mobilize and envision change. We do this by connecting fifteen Brooklyn-based youth within a network of urban farms, non-profit organizations and institutions while raising awareness about local, regional, and systemic issues surrounding food systems." We are so impressed and urge you to support them on IOBY if you can.
Saturday's presentation was to a packed room at Pratt Institute -- the youth love this program so much that they bring their friends to check it out and on this particular Saturday, the wonderful folks from the vast geography of the NYC food justice movement who are serving as Flip the Table mentors were in attendance as well.
We got a sweet note from one of the attendees after: "i just wanted to thank you again for coming in and talking with us. i really appreciated what you shared and the work you are doing. its really exciting and hopeful to see and imagine the possibilities of getting our hands in the dirt in our own communities, taking agency in our own lives, and having rich foods be available to more than just the wealthy."
Thanks, Flip the Table, for making an opportunity to share our work with a concentration of the awesomest justice-fighter in the City. What a day!*
*We were also at the Center for Architecture that same day, on a really impressive panel addressing freedom of assembly and the design of public space. Watch the video if you were enjoying Saturday morning elsewhere (Paula Z. Segal gives opening remarks at 1:02 and participates in a conversation that begins right after with the rest of the panelists).
Take the Acres with you
We've been working on making our map work better on smart phones. Now iPhone users can pinch the map to zoom in or out, and the map generally looks better. You can also add an app-like bookmark by going to 596acres.org on your phone, clicking on the icon at the bottom of the screen in the middle (on older iPhones this is a +, newer ones have a box with an arrow shooting out of it), then selecting "Add to Home Screen." Now 596 Acres will look and act more like an app on your phone.
Groundtruthing just got way, way, way easier. Take a walk in your neighborhood. Tell us about the vacant public lots in your life.
Thank you to everyone who came out last night. So great to meet so many of you in person, even better to watch you meet each other. We are brewing an awesome concoction for spring!
Next Meeting: Sunday, February 12 at 5pm.
Location TBD. Pie flavors will be unknown until arrival.
On the agenda:maps for all 5 boroughs, tools for groundtruthing, who needs fences?, national day of action for empty lots #F27, a seed saving library & whatever you want to talk about.
We also decided that we will start sending out a regular Friday email blast with news from the Acres and anyone else in our community with news to share. Got news? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday at 8pm. Want to make sure you are getting all the news? Sign up for the newsletter!
borough-wide general assembly today at 5:30pm at The Commons.You can start by joining us at our first
It's time to demystify those dots on the map! This January -- we turn to you to tell us what is happening in your neighborhoods. Some of the "vacant lots" on our map -- which is really the NYC Planning map -- aren't really vacant at all.
Some are community gardens & parks. Some have other uses. And some are absolutely perfect community greenspaces for us to dream about in 2012. We want to know what's what! Before we print our next publication. We invite you to take a walk in the next few weeks, and think about springtime coming, a structured way. We need your help looking at every dot in Brooklyn in real life.
Can you commit to checking out the ones in your neighborhood? And uploading photos or notes to the pages for those lots? That would be great! We have a goal of getting this done by January 15. If you have any questions -- email email@example.com.
Here are some lots around which communities are congealing (join them! contact info after each link):
Bed Stuy - 776 Myrtle Avenue (Garden On Myrtle)
Bed Stuy - 462 Halsey Street (462 Community Garden)
Bed Stuy/Wallabout Village - 913 Kent Ave (Myrtle Village Green)
DUMBO/Vinegar Hill - Waterfront site
Gowanus - 487 4th Avenue (A Small Green Patch)
Greenpoint - 61 Franklin Street
Greenpoint - 59 Java Street (Java Street Community Garden Coalition)