Paula Z. Segal, Executive Director & Legal Director of the NYC Community Land Access Program
Paula is the founding director of 596 Acres and a member of the interim facilitation team bringing a Real Estate Investment Cooperative to life for New York City. Paula is a graduate of City University of New York Law School at Queens College. Before joining the legal profession, Paula taught at CUNY and ran an all-volunteer adult English school on the Lower East Side and was a member of the Empty Vessel Project. She is an attorney admitted to practice in New York State and a partner in her own firm, Mohen & Segal, which focuses on legal services for entities working on our shared sustainable economy. She has practiced law in the Disaster Recovery Unit at Staten Island Legal Services and at Rankin & Taylor. In 2016, she will be joining Fordham Law School as part of the Legal Laboratory for the Governance of NYC Commons, an affiliate of LabGov, and as an adjunct instructor in the Community Economic Development Clinic.
Eric Brelsford, Lead Software Developer and Data Analyst
Eric is the freelance programmer who put this site together. He also works on other, not unrelated, projects (Farming Concrete, Food Census, Garden Maps). He is interested in power relations in urban spaces. He is also interested in the potential uses of collective data collection and analysis as tools for direct action and organization. The code for this site and some of his other projects is available on GitHub, and you're invited to poke at it and reuse it however you like.
Mara Kravitz, Executive Assistant
Mara is a New Yorker passionate about reconciling real estate and the real earth’s state – the ways people inhabit, co-create, steward, use, know, name and need places that are important to them. She is on the Steering Committee of the New York City Real Estate Investment Cooperative and is Project Manager for Matriarch Development Company, which is bringing a mixed-use project to the main street of her hometown of Pelham, NY. She enjoys solidarity and gardening. She believes that if structural violence is possible, so is its opposite.
Francisco Miranda, Summer 2016 Intern
Francisco moved to New York from Lima (Perú) one year ago. He is an attorney and has previously practiced law in different law firms as well as in the mining and real estate/construction sector. In Fall 2015 Francisco started an MA program in Theories of Urban Research and Practice at Parsons The New School For Design. He is interested in urban themes that relate to public space, urban displacement, gentrification, property tax policies and the right to housing.
Shannon Pepper, Summer 2016 Intern
Shannon hails from the west coast, bringing with her a love of land and hows it shapes and influences the people on it. She holds a B.S. in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana. After graduating she walked from Mexico to Canada on the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail and reflected on people and orientation and the importance of a flexible perspective when talking about land ownership. After her hike she lived and worked on a ranch in Washington stewarded by Sacred Earth Foundation, a nonprofit land trust with a mission to teach "children of all ages" how to care for the important land and communities in their lives. A road trip that never ended brought her to Brooklyn, where she works in a butcher shop and became fascinated with urban land use policy and how it relates to gentrification, as well as the importance of public green space to the sanity of all people. She spends her spare time with queer studies, figure drawing, hiphop classes, and walking around her neighborhood.
Tiera Mack, Summer 2016 Intern
Bio coming soon...
OUR ADVISORY COMMITTEEOur programming is developed by an advisory committee that is made up of local project leaders that have emerged from sites that have organized using our tools (approximately 50%), members of partner organizations and the paid and volunteer team members who actually carry out the day-to-day work of the project.
Amy Laura Cahn
Mary Elizabeth Prall
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Eric Brelsford, 596 Acres Lead Software Developer and Data Analyst
Chad Berkowitz, attorney
Patrick Foster, attorney, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Moses Gates, Pratt Institute demography professor
Kristin Booth Glen, former CUNY Law School Dean, retired judge from the New York County Surrogate's Court & current CUNY professor
Rachel Dobkin, attorney
Paula Z. Segal, 596 Acres Founder, Director & Lead Facilitator
Moses Gates, Demographer
Moses Gates is a writer, urban planner, and visiting assistant professor of demography at the Pratt Institute. If he were the mayor, his first act would be to open all abandoned observation decks up to the public.
Stephan von Muehlen, Design Manager & Strategist
Stephan is a multi-disciplinary designer living and working in Brooklyn. His work tends to live at the intersection of technology, sustainable practice, and collaboration. He was a member of the Empty Vessel Project, a founder and the Design Director of of the technology startup EnergyHub, and is currently a member of the Mare Liberum boat-building collective and principal at the design and build consultancy Von Muehlen Industries, LLC. Stephan managed the design and production side of 596 Acres in 2012-13. He has been involved in Myrtle Village Green since renewed efforts for a community site on that DEP property were made in 2010 and in part of the compost cluster there!
Josh Bisker, Fall 2015 Intern
Josh Bisker is a bicycle activist, performance artist, and communications professional. Working with local organizations in New York City, he organizes creative actions that advance equitable access to public space. Internationally, he organizes with partners in the Bike Collectives Network to promote a hands-on approach to bike repair education, believing that one simple set of activities -- teaching and learning how to wrench bikes -- opens pathways to ecological responsibility, gender equity, social enfranchisement, economic self-sufficiency, autonomous mobility, public space access, youth empowerment, community resiliency, and more. He is currently working toward a master's degree in urban planning at Hunter College.
Meredith Degyansky, NYC Community Land Access Program Administrator, Fall 2015
Meredith is a conceptual artist, activist, organizer, and educator. Her work explores philosophical notions of debt, labor, and money. She develops alternative economic systems that help people get what they need from each other emphasizing relationships, vulnerability, and exchange. She also is the co-creator of ThinkerSpace, a space created for urban youth to ask unanswerable questions and to experiment with creative thought/production. 596 Acres excites her because she loves seeing communities work together to acquire a shared need that then enables them to grow and share food, bask in the sun, chat, and listen to tunes, together.
Mary Elizabeth Prall, Organizer for the NYC Land Access Program, 2012-2015
Mary is a San Diego native who grew up in an agricultural town that fueled a strong passion for sustainable and local food. She studied culinary arts in San Francisco and spent five years creating wedding cakes and pastries in both Berkeley, CA and Brooklyn, NY. While interning with 596 Acres in 2012, she began organizing and eventually co-founding her own community garden in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. After cooking with the Rome Sustainable Food Project and apprenticing on a sheep farm in Northern Italy in 2013, Mary returned to NYC to work with 596 Acres and continue to help neighbors turn vacant spaces into community resources. Currently, Mary also works for GrowNYC and is a food studies major focusing on policy and politics at the The New School for Public Engagement.
Rachel Albetski, Winter 2015 Intern
Rachel first became interested in vacant lot use after running a school garden in South Central Los Angeles as an AmeriCorps member. Riding her bike to work everyday, she saw tons of empty lots that were in need of revitalization and was psyched when 596 Acres came to LA. Rachel now works as an interior designer in Brooklyn and spends her free time advocating for infrastructure improvements with the organization Transportation Alternatives. An all around urbanist with a passion for environmental justice, Rachel is excited to help communities gain access to land and support the creation of green spaces.
Jakob Winkler, 2015 Spring Intern
Born and raised in Austria, Jakob holds an MA in Political Science and has worked as a research associate at the University of Vienna, Austria, for several years. His research and academic writing focused on political activism in the field of migration policies. Having been fascinated with the urban metropolis of New York City for a long time, he moved here in 2013. In fall 2015 Jakob started a MS program in Design and Urban Ecologies at Parsons The New School For Design. His interests in urbanism center on issues of civic engagement and social justice. He is eager to gain further experience in community engagement and help reclaiming restricted public space for the community. Jakob is also a passionate cook and explorer of New York City.
Alexandra Venner (Zanny), Spring 2015 Intern
Zanny is motivated by adventure, education, big mountains, people, and the processes of city-making. Zanny completed a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada. Although she did not become a particular “expert” in a particular field, her degree highlighted the importance of collaborative relationships between the cultural, social, spatial, ecological and political factors that shape and impact everyday life. She entered the “real” world professional setting as a young graduate who understood that silos do not fix larger systemic problems. Recently, Zanny moved from Vancouver to New York to pursue the Design and Urban Ecologies Master’s degree at Parsons The New School for Design. As a newcomer to New York City, this program serves as a unique and critical platform for Zanny to increase her awareness and address the gap between people and the social inequalities and spatial injustices in today’s urban landscapes. She is inspired to dive deeper into all that she is learning by supporting and bringing added value to work that 596 Acres already does!
Marissa Provenza, 2014 Fall Intern
While touring the country with a rock band, Marissa wound up teaching Nature and Eco-living to a class of twenty children on a farm in Northern California. Upon returning home to New York City she looked for something "green" in her neighborhood, BedStuy, and discovered a vacant lot through 596 Acres. As they often do, the vacant lot lead to love. For Marissa it was a new-found passion for community organizing, urban development and involvement in local politics. Marissa is now the co-founder and Compost Coordinator of the Brooklyn Solid Waste Advisory Board's Compost Committee. She is currently studying at the NewSchool for her MS in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management. Marissa is also a writer and interested in the relationship between the Arts and Agricutlure; the Poetics and Politics of Space. Support local food, bands & art; secure more public space!
Jonathan Lapalme, Strategist
Jonathan (pronounced in French) moved to New York from Montréal two years ago. He is volunteering to improve the strategic positioning and development of 596 Acres. Over the last seven years, his studies and professional practice have brought him to Montréal, New York, Berlin, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Mostar, Medellin, Venice and other cities, where he got the opportunity to deepen his understanding of the economic, social and spatial inequalities mirrored in the uneven growth of cities worldwide. He now lives in Bed Stuy, where he enjoys saying "hi" to his street neighbors (a requirement) and developing relationships with local businesses' workers.
Anthony Mohen, Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) Attorney
Anthony is an attorney, mediator, and native of New York State, Anthony has lived in Brooklyn for the last five years. He supervises students at the NYU School of Law Mediation Clinic and previously worked at the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center. He also volunteers with the Foundation for Responsible and Open Government (FROG), is the Treasurer at the Prospect Park CSA and is a Master Composter with the NYC Compost Project. He spends his spare time biking, reading philosophy, and hanging out with his cats.
Gabriel Willow, Chief Naturalist & Ecological Advisor In Residence
Gabriel is a naturalist, educator, and urban biologist with a particular passion for birds. He leads tours and teaches classes for NYC Audubon and Wave Hill, and was formerly the Senior Naturalist at the Prospect Park Audubon Center. He has taught and led tours to all five Boroughs, throughout NY, and abroad. He is also an illustrator and DJ. Gabriel develops educational programs for 596 Acres and mentors organizers.
Mary Berecka, Spring-Summer 2014 Intern
A native New Yorker, of the upstate ilk, Mary is passionate about local food systems and green spaces in urban areas. She studied trees as a symbol, a biological phenomenon, and a medium at Hampshire College. For three years, she spread her love of vegetables as a manager of a food truck in Boston with Clover Food Lab. Currently she works as a finisher at a design/build shop in Gowanus.
Faith Titilawo, Summer 2014 East New York Farms! Extern
Faith was raised in Brooklyn where she still lives. In her first year of high school she joined the East New York Farms! Project which sparked her passion in food justice and community building. She went on to work with the Youth Food Council, Miracle Corners of the World, and Project Bridge, which taught her the skills she needed to make a change in her community. She aspires to become a doctor that promotes health and healthy living in her community. She is currently interning this summer for 596 Acres through an externship with East New York Farms!
Andrew Tucker, Development Associate, 2013-2014
Is a fifth generation Louisvillian, and recent transplant to New York city. He has spent the last five years doing community organizing with low income groups, the homeless, and public housing residents around issues pertaining to their ‘right to the city’; as well as other geographically specific issues in Kentucky, including clean energy transition, restoration of voting rights for former felons, and tax reform. His interests include common property, urban forensics, the city as a site of conflict/change, and absurdity. He is a new resident to the Flatbush area of Brooklyn.
Matthew DelSesto, 2013-2014 Research Fellow
Matt is a garden advocate, educator, and urbanist who is passionate about the processes, people, and structures that drive urban transformation. He is currently an intern for the Horticulture Society of NY where he works for the GreenHouse program and is also completing the MA in Theories of Urban practice at Parsons The New School for Design, focusing on the intersections of critical criminology and urban environmentalism. For a year, Matt working on a project that analyzes the past, present, and future of NYC urban renewal plans: the Urban Reviewer.
Aviva Coopersmith, Winter 2013 Intern
Anandi Gandhi, Fall 2013 Research Fellow
Anandi is currently a research fellow at 596 Acres. She thinks of herself as a farmer but has wider interests in environmental issues. She was born and brought up in India and has completed her Masters in Philosophy from Ohio. Her past experiences include being an organic farm manager, working with tribal communities in South and West India for forest conservation, and teaching undergraduate students. She is exploring issues in environmental policy and laws and their links to communities and non-profit organizations, which is what attracted her to join the incredible 596 Acres team.
Julian Maxwell, 2013 Legal Intern
Julian graduated from New York Law School where he developed a desire to make NYC a better place through community development and land use planning. At 596 Acres, Julian researched legal issues affecting NYC community gardens and helped develop legal tools to protect them. Julian lives in Far Rockaway with his wife and son, likes to bike and run, and roast his own coffee.
Julia Samuels, Digital Imaging Specialist, 2010-2013
Julia gave 596 Acres its visual identity and continues was our stalwart pre-press coordinator, 2011-13. She was born and raised in Portsmouth, NH. She moved to Brooklyn, NY to study at Pratt Institute where she earned her BFA in Printmaking. She managed a bicycle taxi company in Manhattan where struggles with the city government lead to her prints being published in the New York Times. She now manages digital printing at Pratt Manhattan, and continues her own work in printmaking at the Gowanus Studio Space. She has been published by Cannonball Press and shown by the International Print Center of New York and has studied at the Tamarind Institute of Lithography. Find out more about Julia at her personal site.
Richard Semegram, Communications and Legislative Coordinator, 2013
Richard coordinated our first ever benefit event. He then handled our communications, social media, and worked on our legislative efforts. He is an aspiring tenant advocacy lawyer.
Cheyenna Layne Weber, Interim NYC Commuity Land Access Program Organizer, 2013
Cheyenna is an economic justice organizer and writer working to develop a solidarity economy in New York City. Originally from West Virginia, she began organizing against mountaintop removal mining in high school and became active in the global labor movement in college. She views organizing as an act of love in direct response to oppression. Through SolidarityNYC, a solidarity economy advocacy group she co-founded, Cheyenna supports values-led grassroots economic development in the five boroughs. She is active in GEO (Grassroots Economic Organizing) Collective, Brooklyn Food Coalition, and as a Board member at Lower East Side People's Federal Credit Union. Cheyenna also mentors students and youth interested in preventing burnout and sustaining their activism for the long-term. She lives in Brooklyn.
Kaitlin Dougherty, 2013 NYC Commuity Land Access Program Summer Organizing Fellow Manhattan
Kaitlin is a revolutionary at heart and loves organizing. For 6 years she worked as community organizer for Camden Churches Organized for People in Camden, NJ. It was there she fell in love with community gardening and began to explore holistic health and food as medicine. She's a certified herbalist and yoga teacher. She also runs the Children's Aid Society Food Justice Program.
Kimberly Beazer, 2013 NYC Commuity Land Access Program Summer Organizing Fellow Bronx
Moving through roles of coordinator, instructor and manager, Kimberly, a dedicated greenie with over 15 years experience, has delivered quality project management for community-based organizations, nonprofits, private businesses and city & state agencies. With an MPA in Nonprofit Management and certified in several sustainable infrastructure practices such as green-roof installation/maintenance & IPM techniques, she has worked with many eco-minded organizations such as The Hudson River Clearwater, Greyston Community Gardens, The NY Botanical Garden & Sustainable South Bronx to educate and green NYC.
Rosemarie Miner, Summer 2013 Brooklyn Outreach Fellow
Rose is a self-described agricultural activist; fighting the good fight one herb at a time. A neophile with experience in farming she has lived and worked in New York, Australia and southern France. Here in New York City Rose has worked with the Western Queens Compost Initiative and is currently an AmeriCorps and gardener with the New York Restoration Project. She is also a founding member of 462Halsey Community Garden in BedStuy. Her passions include goats, gardening, food, birth, yoga and laughter. You can catch her cruising on her bicycle helping to improve her Brooklyn community one vacant lot at a time.
Lucy McFadden, Fall 2012 Intern
Born and raised in Tennessee, she has lived in Colorado, New Hampshire, DC, Boston, and now Brooklyn. She enjoys drawing, eating roasted vegetables, and listening to bluegrass. She worked in politics in D.C. for a while, which helped her realize her interest in the design and function of urban space. While she applies to landscape architecture graduate programs for next fall, she is excited to help 596 Acres work its magic!
Eva Meszaros, 2011-2012 Development Associate
Eva helped to seek out funding for 596 Acres and for the communities that have formed around the vacant lots for a year, starting in late 2011. By day, she is an editor and writer for a trade magazine covering the specialty food industry, published by a nonprofit organization fostering small food producers, some based right in Brooklyn and other parts of NYC. She grew up in the farming haven that is California, but her fascination with food policy and love of farmers markets bloomed only in recent years, as did an interest in contributing at the local level to organizations and projects focused on community development and food access.
Oksana Miranova, 2011-2012 Data Analyst
Oksana is an Urban Planning graduate student at CUNY Hunter, with a focus on participatory planning and affordable housing issues. She particularly interested in non-speculative housing models. Oksana was born in Russia, but grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn. She is the co-founder of the Newkirk Cares Collaborative. Her hard work is behind the precision of our data!
Cameron Moss, 2011-2012 Web Design Intern
Cameron is an intern with 596 acres. He is an aspiring web designer assisting with website functionality. He grew up in the Bay Area and has lived in California for most of his life. He currently tutors math and runs the books at his wife's handbag company. Cameron can be found most Saturdays next to the brick oven at the North Dean Community Garden. He is anxious to build another at 463 Tompkins.