Frequently Asked Questions
How do I use the map to find out about this vacant lot I'm looking at?
Check out this slideshow for step-by-step instructions!
What about Staten Island????
We would love to see vacant lots in all five boroughs used by their communities. Getting the data for the boroughs isn't the difficult part--organizing and talking to community groups in those boroughs is. We've just recently added Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx and are learning so much! We're also having Organizing Fellows work in each boroughs.
If you are passionate about getting this data in your borough and are interested in doing the (non-technical) work involved, please contact us.
Why isn't the vacant lot near me on this map?
Our map only shows land that is owned by the NYC government and is marked as vacant in the Department of City Planning's database. If you know of a vacant lot that is not on this map, chances are good that it's privately owned. The best way to be sure is to look for the lot on OASIS. The tab marked "Location Report" should contain the owner and links to more information regarding the lot. For a tutorial on how to access information about this particular lot on OASIS, go here and click on "How do I access information about locations on the map?"
Once you find that the lot in your life is privately owned, please read our update about working with private landowners.
There's an existing garden missing from your map!?!?!
You won't see all the NYC gardens on our map because many gardens in NYC are on private land -- some are owned by great organizations whose mission is to protect community spaces like the New York Restoration Project, some are part of land trusts, and some are on private land. Our map only shows information about public land (plus the private sites that a few landowners have volunteered to make available to the community!).
I don't want to start a project -- but I would like to get involved in my neighborhood. How do I do that?
You can turn on the layer of our map that shows existing community gardens on public land (the buttons are to the right of the map on the front page - chose the green one with the black circle around it).
But you won't see all the gardens in your neighborhood because many gardens in NYC are on private land -- some are owned by great organizations whose mission is to protect community spaces like the New York Restoration Project, some are part of land trusts (e.g., the Bronx Land Trust, the Manhattan Land Trust, the Brooklyn-Queens Land Trust, and the Brooklyn Alliance of Neighborhood Gardeners), and some are on private land.
A good tool that might help you find an existing garden to plug into is Garden Maps (it shows gardens on public AND private land). But the best tool is your feet -- go for a walk; when you see a place you'd like to be a part of, stop and say hello.
There's a lot I want to work on getting control of for my community. Where do I start?
There are a lot of possible steps. To give you a sense of them, we made the diagram below. You can also download the PDF version.
I'm about to call or email a city agency -- what should I say?
You'll need the identifying information about the lot you are interested in handy - the Block and Lot number is crucial; the address, if the lot has one, is also nice.
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 sleuthing 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.
Ask if such an interim use plan would be compatible with the agency's timeline for the "real" plan. Say you would like to sign a license agreement that would be revokable at any time -- offer to send a sample.
Make sure you get the email of the person who you are talking to. Follow up with a note and copy email@example.com. We can help you negotiate the licence.
We would also love to get a note from you describing what you learned on the phone -- add your Note to the page for the lot you are calling about so that we can all learn from your experience.
I work at a school. My students would really benefit from being involved in a garden. How do I start?
You can see where there is vacant public land and gardens on public land using our map. Another good tool that might help you find an existing garden to plug into is Garden Maps (it shows gardens on public AND private land). You might also want to reach out to GrowNYC's Grow To Learn Program -- they are a school gardens program that might be able to give you the tools you need to go forward. They are a funded NYC program.
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.
What's the difference between a licence and a lease?
A license gives you permission to do something or be somewhere. It can be taken away at any time because it is given freely.
A lease is a contract that can't be taken away by one party because both sides are actually giving up something to be a part of the relationship. When you pay rent to a landlord, you are giving up money and they are giving up the right to rent the space to someone else or use it themselves. You have a contract.
What about insurance?
You need general liability insurance for your project so that if someone gets hurt, they can get care and no one will have to pay for it personally. Insurance sounds intimidating. That said, there are great New York City organizations that support our goals and already carry insurance policies that are big enough to cover 596 Acres projects. We will work with you to find one that will share its policy with your site for free.
If you are at organization that carries general liability insurance for volunteers and would be willing to share it by adding more sites, please let us know. We'd love to connect you with sites that need insurance (and volunteers!).
What if my group needs a lawyer?
Community Development Project of Urban Justice Center provides legal help for base building, and leadership development oriented community organizations and worker cooperatives. Attorneys offer legal advice and assistance to grassroots organizations in a variety of areas, including incorporation and tax exemption, complying with non-profit, employment and tax laws, and real estate and lease issues. They also help groups of workers establish worker-owned cooperative businesses. For more information visit http://cdp-ny.org, or call 646-459-3017.
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest's Pro Bono Clearinghouse matches aspiring nonprofit institutions with pro bono legal counsel for legal incorporation. The Clearinghouse also provides invaluable matches with competent counsel for a range of specialized legal issues for established not-for-profits. (212) 244-4664. Requests for legal assistance can be sent to Jessica Lauredan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm looking for a place to put my temporary art installation/theater piece/sculpture/etc. Can you help me find a vacant lot to put it into?
Art is an important part of each 596 Acres community. As each site is self-managed by neighbors, each group makes its own decisions about how to integrate temporary projects and other artisitic ventures. Feel free to reach out to folks in the 596 Acres network who already have access to public land (pink dots on the map) or private land (blue dots on the map). If you have an idea for a project that you have the resources to manage (like a mural) and are looking for a community that will welcome it, send a note to email@example.com explaining your project and the resources you have to complete it. We'd be happy to share that with all the organizers on our network.