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We're Hiring a Community Land Access Program Organizer!

22 August 2016

Since 2011 596 Acres' Community Land Access Program has helped 36 groups transform vacant, City-owned pieces of land into community resources. We have developed several strategies to help New Yorkers gain access to vacant public land, including our online mapping tool Living Lots NYC, which makes information about public property available and easy to understand, and our THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND signs, which we hang on the fences of vacant lots.

Our organizers regularly present at Community Board meetings, since local groups need Community Board support for their projects; host how-to workshops for potential land stewards; connect diverse neighbors and organizations with one another to strengthen local plans; and win over elected officials. We are looking for someone to continue pursuing our effective strategies that facilitate neighborhood groups accessing vacant land and, where needed, develop and pursue new ones.

Each community land access campaign is slightly different, so we are looking for a self-driven problem-solver who will:

  • Develop and pursue old and new strategies to increase the effectiveness of NYC’ Community Land Access Advocacy Program in tandem with Executive Director and 596 Acres’ Advisory Committee

  • Continue tried and true methods of community land access advocacy:

  • Hang signs on fences of vacant lots City-wide

  • Lead workshops for various community based organizations and neighborhood groups

  • Table for 596 Acres at community events

  • Support and initiate relationship-building and cultivate meaningful collaborations with community leaders and community-based organizations

  • Represent the organization with local and state government officials

  • Collaborate with the press

  • Use social media as outreach and organizing tool

  • Write the News From the Acres

  • Manage 596 Acres’ volunteers and interns

  • Support the organizing efforts of local land access advocates around NYC by monitoring website activity and following up with active organizing groups regularly

  • Process and respond to new local organizers within 48 hours via email and phone

  • Maintain our email-oriented database with extreme attention to detail

  • Stay current on public land policy and processes of application for license and leases through relevant city agencies for community use

  • Liaise with city agencies and intervene in direct community outreach when needed

  • Facilitate monthly general meetings for our organizers in locations around the City

  • Present to community boards in districts with the highest concentration of vacant, public land to share information about 596 Acres' work, current neighborhood land access organizing efforts, and district-specific maps

Here's what we're looking for in an applicant

  • Experience in and commitment to bottom-up organizing, grassroots leadership, and collective decision-making

  • A commitment to urban land as a shared resource

  • Familiarity with City government processes (and willingness to learn more about them!)

  • Demonstrated ability to work in multi-racial, multi-lingual settings

  • Extreme comfort with email and filing

  • Comfort with responding to email immediately within regular working hours

  • Comfort with flexible organizing schedule to accommodate community event needs

  • Willingness to travel throughout the five boroughs


To apply, submit a cover letter and resume to This position is part time, 25 hours per week. Salary is $36,000, with benefits.

Data Analysis Internships for Fall 2016

18 August 2016

596 Acres is seeking two interns who can work with us 10 hours per week for 10 weeks exploring the data behind our built environment. Internship dates will be approximately September 19 - November 23, 2016. 

You will learn intimately how to sleuth online for information about building transactions, city dispositions, the tax lien sale and warehoused public buildings. Here are the kinds of things you will be working on:

- Exploring the impact of the City's Tax Lien Sale on Charities that own properties (read about that in CityLimits here)
- Tracking down NYC Department of Parks and Recreation Buildings that remain closed since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s (directions here, 10 frustrating example buildings here)
- Monitoring the City's transfer of public land to private developers for $1 (like this lot in Bed Stuy)
- Figuring out which Post Office and Library buildings in the City are actually owned by private developers (like this one)
- Archiving voice messages from the public about vacant lots in their neighborhoods

This is an unpaid internship, though we would love it if someone else was paying you! In the past, we have worked with the East New York Farms! Externship program (an intern reflection is here). 

You can work out of our office at Spaceworks (540 President Street) in Gowanus, Brooklyn or remotely. You can make your own hours and there will be opportunities for field research to support most projects.

Please send a resume and a letter of interest

Application due by 5:59p.m. on Friday, September 2, 2016, to with the subject "Data Intern Application."

News from the Acres - August 18, 2016

18 August 2016
we made it out of vacant public land

In early 2013, Bushwick’s youth-run composting service BK Rot, identified vacant lots on Myrtle Avenue as a future place to compost food scraps and spread environmental stewardship with 596 Acres’ help. They led a community land access advocacy campaign that expanded to include Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Brooklyn Community Board 4, and many local residents. By summer 2014, the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation took jurisdiction of the long-forgotten lots for permanent preservation as a community garden: Know Waste Lands, which is now a thriving community resource! Join them in the garden! Open hours are Tuesdays from 8 to 10am for watering, weeding and relaxing in the cool part of the day andSundays from 10:30am to 4pm for composting, weeding, watering and hanging out with the BK Rot crew. Know Waste Lands is located at Myrtle Ave between Cedar Street and Dekalb Avenue. 

This is one story out of the dozens we have helped create in the five years (this week!) since first launched. Support more transformations by donating to 596 Acres. Happy birthday to all of us!

596 Acres is seeking two interns who can work with us 10 hours per week for 10 weeks exploring the data behind our built environment. Internship dates will be approximately September 19 - November 23, 2016. You will learn intimately how to sleuth online for information about building transactions, city dispositions, the tax lien sale and warehoused public buildings. Application due Friday, September 2, 2016. Click here for details.

Weeksville/Bed Stuy, Brooklyn - There’s a vacant public lot dotted with beautiful trees at 45 Somers Street. Planned as "Open Space" when the City created a plan for the area, it used to be a Lots for Tots Park, but has been abandoned for decades. Neighbor and youth organizer Cyeann has started a campaign to revitalize this piece of our commons. She needs help collecting signatures from neighbors in support of activating the space as a community-managed Parks space. Join her! Email Cyeann at or call her at 917-202-1977, and sign up to Organize here:

East New York, Brooklyn - Local youth want to make something great out of the abandoned public land at Livonia and New Lots Ave. Join them: Tewens ( or 518-536-4267), Al ( or 929-385-9722), and Jenae ( or 347-418-2310). Sign up to Organize here:

Harlem, Manhattan - Neighbors want to make something better at W 136th Street between Adam Clayton Powell and Lenox Ave. Join them! Sign up to Organize here:

Bed Stuy, Brooklyn - 462 Halsey Community Garden needs your help! They say: "Our compost crew is very over-worked right now. We've been getting 1000 pounds of food scraps a week and we can't keep up! If we don't get the compost under control, we might have to close our gates. We really don't want to do that!" Visit or email for more information about helping out! ‪#‎ThankYou‬!

Bed Stuy, Brooklyn - Communal Spaces: A Garden Play Festival is happens in Bed Stuy gardens including 462 Halsey this weekend and next weekend! More information here.

Bushwick, Brooklyn & Ridgewood, Queens -  Help spread the word about The Housing Not Warehousing Act in Council District 34! This is a set of bills that will add transparency and accountability to vacant public and private property in our neighborhoods. The bills in the Act: 

  • create a registry that all individuals and corporations holding their property vacant have to enter or pay penalties for failure to register,
  • mandate the City perform an annual count of all vacant property in New York City, and
  • require the City to compile a list of all city, state, federally, and authority-owned vacant property.
Picture the Homeless is coordinating volunteers to flyer on Wednesdays, from 12 to 2pm, at the Broadway/Myrtle station and Fridays from 12 to 2pm at the vacant lot at Bushwick Ave. and Himrod Street. Contact Jenny:

Long Island City, Queens - This Saturday, August 20 from noon to 5pm, join our friends from Smiling Hogshead Ranch at the Long Island City Block Party at the Sculpture Center, 44-19 Purves Street. Come drop off your frozen kitchen scraps and stay for the worm petting zoo for the kids, young and old.

Red Hook, Brooklyn - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a plan to remove toxins from the Baseball Field on Henry and Bay Street, and your neighbor Peter is keeping us in the loop about it. You can read the status and clean up plans they presented to the community earlier this month and their recent Community Involvement Plan. The EPA’s Community Involvement Coordinator (CIC) is Natalie Loney, and her role is to connect the community to the EPA’s work. Contact her at (212) 637-3639 and for more information. Sign up to Organize here for updates (thanks, Peter!):

Bedstuy-Bushwick, Brooklyn - This Saturday, August 20 starting at 6pm, gather for another free summer concert at The People's Garden, Greene Avenue and Broadway with Escasos Recursos, DJ Miss Hap, and more. This summer concert series is a collaboration between the People’s Garden and Consumata Sonidera, Free. More information here. Promo video here.

Get your free daffodil bulbs for planting in public spaces! Register to receive some from New Yorkers for Parks by Thursday, September 1 at 5pm here.

Check out our list of micro grants and resources that can help you make your project a reality AFTER you have access to your lot.


Stay rooted, 
596 Acres

News from the Acres - August 4, 2016

04 August 2016
we built this city


Keap Fourth Community Garden on Williamsburg's Southside is open every day: the gates are opened by a garden member every morning and closed at dusk so neighbors can stop in whenever they feel like, rain or shine (there is a shelter to protect visitors from water and sun). On one recent Tuesday the garden hosted a singing class for the daycare set and a visit from a summer camp. Click here to see more of Murray Cox's beautiful photos of a Tuesday morning at Keap Fourth. This lot was planned as "Open Space" in the Southside Urban Renewal Area Plan, adopted by City Council in 1992. With our facilitation, neighbors organized to make this plan a reality in 2014. For the intervening 22 years, the land had just been waiting. Donate to support 596 Acres' New York City Community Land Access Program here. 

Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn - The Hancock Street Community Block Association has a wonderful vision for the transformation of an 18-foot wide lot that has been abandoned by the City for decades. Click here to see it. They need your help getting signatures from neighbors and letters from local businesses and neighbors in support. Sign up to Organize here. Print the petition here. Contact Mr. Leo Morris at to join the effort.

Lower East Side, Manhattan and Citywide -  596 Acres has started documenting un-used and under-used NYC Parks buildings. In Manhattan Community District 3 on the Lower East Side alone found ten (10!) buildings once built for the public, then closed during the fiscal crises of the 1970s and never re-opened. You can see them on our interactive map and add notes, files and photos and to become an Organizer; you can also see a printable map of all of them here, created based on our investigation as part of NYCommonsThese are opportunities for community centers, public restrooms, cooperative food businesses. Let's get them back! The City is doing well. We need our public spaces more than ever. In the coming months, we will spread our investigation to the rest of Manhattan and the City. Want to volunteer?

"Rapacious development is churning and devouring neighborhoods. Gathering places are first on the chopping block." Read more from Paula Z. Segal about development in Bushwick and our small contribution to the countercurrent in The Nature of Cities.
Around the world, people are recognizing that the city is a resource co-created by its users that must be shared equitably: a commons. The City as Commons: A Policy Reader, a publication of the Commons Transition Coalition, is a collection of specific recipes we can use to change the way we shape our urban environments. Paula Z. Segal's prescriptions for the use of data-driven information to empower the co-creation of open space and elimination of tax lien sales for charity and vacant properties are included. Click here to read it and let us know what ideas you find most relevant to New York City!

"This summer I am trying to visit each and every one of the spaces that 596 Acres has helped create in New York City. I want to meet the communities around them and learn as much as I can about the spaces' impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods." Read more from Francisco Miranda, one of our fabulous Summer 2016 team here

Harlem, Manhattan - Mandela Garden steward training today, August 4, from 5:30 to 7pm. The training takes about 30 minutes. RSVP: harlemmandelagarden [at] Mandela Garden is a refuge for Native North American Wildflowers. The gardeners harvest rainwater for raised beds. Their goal is to make the garden completely sustainable. You can help by volunteering to maintain the garden (weeding and watering). 

Lower East Side, Manhattan - Next Wednesday, August 10, 2016, 6 to 7:30 pm come to Siempre Verde Garden for the next installment of the Art in the Garden Series: Musical Mobiles and Wind Chimes. Create your own unique, rustic and recycled wind chimes! RSVP on facebook here

Bushwick, Brooklyn - Sure We Can, a community-run composting + bottle and can redemption center, has launched a campaign to collect 60 million cans from New Yorkers (that's us!) to raise the funds to buy the lot where they work, remove the land from speculation and secure the space for community in perpetuity. Click here to get your cans in!

Every year, over 140 million gallons of stormwater do not enter NYC's waterways with untreated sewage because New Yorkers have built and maintain hundreds of community gardens. Almost every time it rains, NYC's sewer system overflows, carrying stormwater and raw sewage together directly into our rivers, bays, and oceans. Community gardens absorb stormwater throughout the city, helping to prevent this, and many are in flood zones - particularly critical to protecting our waterways. Read more from Mara Gittleman, New York City Community Garden Coalition Board member here

Check out our list of micro grants and resources that can help you make your project a reality AFTER you have access to your lot.

Mandela Garden needs your tweets to Mayor DeBlasio (@BilldeBlasio): #savemandelagarden

Grass between the toes to all, 
596 Acres

Intern Dispatch from Mid-Summer: Francisco Miranda

28 July 2016

Photo by Murray Cox, copyright 2016. At Keap Fourth Community Garden


This summer I am trying to visit each and every one of the spaces that 596 Acres has helped create in New York City. I want to meet the communities around them and learn as much as I can about the spaces' impacts on the surrounding neighbourhoods.


So far, I have learned that these spaces are not only wonderful examples of how to build community and connections within different neighbourhoods, they are also key for inducing further changes in communities that are struggling throughout the city.


The process of transforming these pieces of land is in itself a political statement. The reappropriation of public assets is behind everything that goes on in these spaces and the people using them are aware of the constant struggle to keep the land accessible and public. These spaces are also platform for further political debate and action. Gardens work as a learning spaces for both children and adults, neighbours learn to share, to help one another and to improve their communities in a healthy and responsible way. Every single person I’ve talked to has remarked upon how they would have never met their neighbors before these spaces were available. Maintaining these spaces requires team work and this has been crucial towards building meaningful connections.


When it comes to real estate speculation and the ramifications of gentrification; these spaces allow neighborhoods to resist; they provide a place where people can start to organise and take specific actions directed at either City policy or specific developments in their local areas. These are public, accessible, open-for-all spaces where the community is in control and in charge. While space and land are constantly being privatised within the normative development logic of the City today, these are places that guide residents to rethink the way public land should be managed.


As I continue on my visits, I keep trying to challenge different definitions of ‘public land’ and ‘property.’ The stories behind the gardens are a strong and compelling testament to how we need to protect them and keep fighting for our right to public land.​


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.

Photo by Francisco Miranda. Ten Neighbors Community Garden

Photo by Fransico Miranda. Greenspace on 4th

News from the Acres - July 14, 2016

14 July 2016
hand built city


Cleaning the office we found this vintage 2012 map of opportunities for community land access on Williamsburg's Southside in Brooklyn. Of the six we identified then, four have been transformed into permanent community spaces by neighbors organizing with our guidance. One became a building, and one remains empty, a scar left by the continued promise of private development on public land. You can support the impacts by donating here

596 Acres would like you and your garden group, block association, business, club and organization to join us in endorsing the Housing Not Warehousing Act. This is a set of bills that will add transparency and accountability to vacant public and private property in our neighborhoods. The bills in the Act: 

  • create a registry that all individuals and corporations holding their property vacant have to enter or pay penalties for failure to register,
  • mandate the City perform an annual count of all vacant property in New York City, and
  • require the City to compile a list of all city, state, federally, and authority-owned vacant property suitable for the development of affordable* housing.

To endorse, send an email with the subject "Endorsing Housing Not Warehousing" to Ryan at our NYCCLI partner organization, Picture the Homeless: *We will still need to work together to make sure this means affordable to the right people, the ones in the neighborhood now.
Rockaway, Queens - Wanda and Joe are gathering letters of support for a Bay-side garden on Beach 84th Street, including this one from our friends at Power Rockaways Resilience. Contact Wanda at (518) 693-9349 to add your organization to the proposal or Organize here:

Crown Heights, Brooklyn - Join Mandy to organize the former Lots for Tots space on Prospect Place near Albany Avenue into a community resource today. Organize here: or contact her directly: or (513) 317-4457.

Lower East Side, Manhattan - Join us for a workshop on Land! Money! Power! in NYC Parkson Wednesday, July 27 from 6:30 pm to 9 pm at 30 Delancey Street between Forsyth and Chrystie Streets inside Sara D. Roosevelt Park. Come learn how to take control of our Parks and community spaces. Public parks and public open spaces are among the few places left in an increasingly segregated city that are truly democratic preserves. Here is more about a Lower East Side campaign to re-open a NYC Parks building that 596 Acres has helped revive as a a partner of NYCommons. The Sara D Roosevelt Park Coalition hosts this workshop. As part of our work on this project, we have started documenting un-used and under-used NYC Parks buildings. Check out a preliminary map here and email to add yours!
"Since I started my internship in May, I have gotten a crash course in New York City land policy: learning by doing." Read more from Shannon Pepper, one of our fabulous Summer 2016 teamhere

Design Trust for Public Space is looking for a range of Fellows to help "Open the Edge" at a public housing campus on the Lower East Side. Details are here. Apply by July 28. We are really excited about this project, which is poised to serve as a prototype for getting more New Yorkers engaged with more of our public lands.

Check out our list of micro grants and resources that can help you make your project a reality AFTER you have access to your lot.

Join the fun at new Hooper Park Community Garden (#36!) on Williamsburg's Southside, finally an open space bringing vitality to the neighborhood! They are also on facebook.

Until August, 
596 Acres

Intern Dispatch from Mid-Summer: Shannon Pepper

13 July 2016

Since I started my internship in May, I have gotten a crash course in New York City land policy: learning by doing.

The Gardens Are Community, Community Spaces in Jeopardy Bike Ride! bike tour with Public Space Party took me to Imani, Maple Street, and Elizabeth Street gardens, all of which are fighting for their right to remain community spaces within the city. What has struck me when visiting these is just how different each is, a reflection of the unique collections of people that make up the groups tending the spaces.

I also edited a blog post by Gabriel Park of Java Street Garden about decentralizing control in community gardens. Democratic management of a community space is often much more difficult and time-consuming than simply following a garden monarch. It does, however, make for a more stable and inclusive place, and helps us to imagine where else in our lives and world we could implement systems like these.

I tabled for 596 at a couple of Crown Heights festivals, talking with community members about the spaces in their neighborhoods, oriented them to existing and potential community spaces, and imagined new life for several vacant lots with kids and crayons.

I'm convinced that hanging a sign is a steady, visible way to initiate change and the spread of information. It really works: people read them and respond!

Recently I have been spending time on the Lower East Side (LES), investigating vacant or barely-used buildings in the NYC Parks Department inventory. I started making a map of them. This involved sifting through 3700 rows of data in a spreadsheet downloaded from the NYC OpenData portal to find these buildings. I sorted and plotted and found 11 buildings that could be serving their communities better.

An in-person scavenger hunt using our new map revealed some underused gems. The LES is just one part of a potentially larger map of underused parks-owned buildings in NYC. I’m getting excited thinking about how we can include and visualize public buildings—not just the land they stand on—in our network of public space resources.

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.

News from the Acres - June 30, 2016

30 June 2016



Greenpoint, Brooklyn - Java Street Community Garden member Gabriel Park says there are 3 major components you need to “decentralize your organization:” good structure for the group, someone to be the secretary at all times, and clear communication. Read on for specific tips and tricks!

Lower East Side, Manhattan - 596 Acres will join The Stanton Building Task Force of the Sara D. Roosevelt Park Coalition at It's My Park Day at Sara D. Roosevelt Park on Wednesday, July 6 from 3pm to 6pm. 596 Acres will bring our What Do We Do With Our Land exhibit, which highlights the use of eminent domain and community land trusts to create community controlled land and housing on the Lower East Side. We originally installed this in front of the Stanton Street building in 2015 for the Ideas City Festival. You can listen to the audio pieces at this link, but you will need to come to the festival to experience the energy of the neighborhood!

Sunnyside/Long Island City, Queens - Join us at a GeoNYC Tour to benefit 596 Acres: The Second Renaissance of Railroads to see the past and the future with GeoNYC and the Queens Borough Historian on Tuesday, July 12 at 6pm. Details and RSVP information here

Melrose, Bronx - Support the Hill Street Community Garden plan! The group is gathering letters of support from local organizations. Contact Victor Maldonado at to send yours and become an Organizer here:

Bed Stuy-Bushwick, Brooklyn - We are thrilled to have connected neighbors to the Madison Community Garden, an NYC Parks Department Green Thumb garden ready for re-activation on Madison near Howard. The group will be meeting again during the week of July 11. Get in touch with Ijendu Z. Obasi at GreenThumb - (929) 295 1389, - and sign up to Organize here: The group is also exploring the possibility of reactivating the lot on the corner of Howard and Madison, which was used as a playspace for the neighborhood in 2012 and then shut down without any community input. 

Crown Heights, Brooklyn - The land on Prospect Place near Albany Avenue used to be a Lots for Tots lot - it even still has the murals and equipment in it! But it's no longer managed as one. In fact, the whole Lots for Tots program closed about 20 years ago. A new community space here could take advantage of the nice murals and some of the furniture that is already here. A group could decide to make changes, too! Currently, the land is being held by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. It will need to be transferred to NYC Parks for community stewardship. Become an Organizer here: The next step is to have a meeting with the neighbors and the block association. Here is a meeting announcement template you can use.

Crown Heights, Brooklyn - Call all your elected officials today if you want the City and the State to actively preserve the Roger That! Garden on Park Place and Rogers Avenue before it disappears to make way for four expensive apartments. The only way this garden space will be preserved now is if someone buys it from the developer. The government can do that. Bills have been introduced in theState Senate and Assembly that direct the State Parks Department to do just that. NYC Parks can also step in to save the day! This week call Council Member Robert Cornegy, (718) 919-0740, Assembly Member Diana Richardson, 718-771-3105, and Senator Velmanette Montgomery, (718) 643-6140, and ask them to make acquiring this land for permanent preservation as open space a priority. The community really needs it!
The Bushwick Food Coop is looking for a Part Time Store Manager! Here is the job description for this paid position. Apply ASAP

Design Trust for Public Space is looking for a range of Fellows to help "Open the Edge" at a public housing campus on the Lower East Side. Details are here. Apply by July 28. We are really excited about this project, which is poised to serve as a prototype for getting more New Yorkers engaged with more of our public lands.

The Macktez Summer Stipend is an an opportunity to get $1000 to finish a summer project: We did in 2014 to create signs for lots in active urban renewal areas and to connect folks on the streets to the Urban Reviewer, the first comprehensive and online database of every urban renewal plan that NYC ever adopted that we created to help guide your organizing. This year's applications are due July 23.

Check out our list of micro grants and resources that can help you make your project a reality AFTER you have access to your lot.

Bed-Stuy organizers testified at the Mayor's Office Real Estate Disposition hearing on June 22 in Manhattan, urging Housing Preservation and Development to use the precious public land at 463 Tompkins Avenue to create a true community resource: a garden or housing affordable to people who live in the neighborhood now to be permanently preserved via a community land trust. The City currently plans to transfer the land to a developer who will use it to build four housing units, to be sold to families making up to $106,000 per year. Zoning allows up to 24 units to be built here. The average family living in the Bed Stuy Community District makes approximately $39,000 per year. Contact Council Member Robert Cornegy to ask him to work with the administration on a better plan: (718) 919-0740.

596 Acres

Decentralized Organizing Tips from Java Street, a 596 Acres garden in Greenpoint

28 June 2016

Guest post by Gabriel Park, edited by Shannon Pepper

A Typical Java Street Community Garden meeting

Five steering committee members, plus three or four other members, show up at a bar near the garden. Some get drinks. If it’s summertime, the group will meet in the garden, but for other times of year, having an indoor space with light is nice. It’s not the bar closest to the garden, it’s just the closest bar that’s big enough for 10 people that doesn’t complain too much about bringing kids. Everyone has the agenda, on paper or on their phones or computers; this list of topics was circulated via a garden newsletter about a week before and posted in the garden.

The group discusses things in the order they are listed. Any issues that need to be voted on are discussed, and they try to come up with plans for the next workday. They try to capture in the agenda notes section: who is responsible for what and by when. Every responsibility gets two people assigned to it: one person takes the lead and the other person does the follow up. The meetings usually last about 90 minutes.

Java Street Garden member Gabriel Park says, from his perspective, there are 3 major components you need to “decentralize your organization:” good structure for the group, someone to be the secretary at all times, and clear communication.

Structure: Fool proof or Proof we’re fools?

The first piece of the effective structure at the Java Street Garden is the Steering Committee. The garden has about 30 members. When new members fill out the form to join, it asks them if they want to be on the Steering Committee. Everyone who answers YES gets to be on it.

The garden currently has between 10-14 people on the Steering Committee, who are subdivided into 5 main responsibility areas: Membership, Garden Design, Fundraising, Partnerships, and Secretary/Treasurer. Having at least 2 volunteers in each area keeps people honest and helps prevent personal relationships from interfering with garden business. For example, if a Steering Committee Member who volunteers on Membership has a personal conflict with a Member, someone else is their backup so the Membership volunteer can opt out of the conversation if needed.

Gabriel says, “the easier you can make it to remember the meetings and the work days, the better.” Skip the calendar. Set things up so that they are easy to remember. The Java Street gardeners set all of their meetings to the first Thursday of the month at 7:30pm and all of our workdays to the third Saturday of the month at 10am. This setup gives them time to meet, plan the workday and get necessary supplies lined up *before* the workday. And all announcements and reminders can say the same thing: “Don’t forget the meeting on the first Thursday of next month at 7:30pm!”

The Secretary Rules

It’s key to have someone organizing the agenda and holding a group to their time limits and voting rules. The Secretary at Java Street Garden uses an Agenda/ Minutes tool that the gardeners designed. Anyone can add to the agenda online prior to the meeting. The Secretary updates the document with notes at the meeting, which become minutes. As long as the roles in the document are assigned/agreed upon, the Secretary doesn’t have to do all the work. For Java Street, says Gabriel, having the Secretary as the point person has been the key to making this tool useful.

They don’t have to be fancy or bound or even written down all that neatly--but you need rules on how decisions can be made. In the Java Street garden, the rule is any member can propose a vote by putting it on the agenda at the monthly meeting, if a quorum is present at the meeting. A quorum is how many people you need to have to make a binding decision. Having a clear quorum requirement prevents a few people from making decisions that impact everyone without input. The Java Street gardeners decided to define their quorum as half of the number currently serving on the Steering Committee. This means that if there are 13 people on the Steering Committee, a quorum would be 7 people, but those 7 people present at the meeting could be any active members. The vote is communicated to the Secretary who can help frame it clearly as Yes/ No and facilitate some time before the vote to present different views. Then the vote is taken by a show of hands and the majority wins at the meeting. The Secretary records the outcome in the minutes.

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Java Street has used this process to decide which projects to pursue at the workdays (if they are debatable), as well as when to revoke someone’s membership. It’s not perfect--something they agreed to in May could be proposed again and voted down in June. “However,” says Gabriel, “It’s been great for us in some respects: for example, each November we vote on whether to convert all of our raised beds to community beds or leave 50% of them as ‘private’ beds which are assigned to member volunteers through the lottery process at the February meeting. Even though we may continue to propose and affirm the same practice each year, doing so affirms our majority commitment to the norms we have in place and allows room for change.


Everyone loves to talk about communication, but actually communicating is hard in a decentralized organization. It’s not because people aren’t talking; it’s that people don’t know who to listen to. Everyone has a different idea about what would look nice planted by the front gate, and what’s a weed, and what the license says. “Some tears are unavoidable every year: if you don’t put rocks around it and label what you plant, you are going to cry when someone builds a box on top of it. No amount of shared files or bullhorns will prevent that--you just have to work tissues into the budget.” There are, however, some tools you can use to ease the pain.

Use Google Drive or some other easy file sharing for keeping track of documents that anyone who needs to can get access to. Anyone who emails who wants to join, gets a standard reply from the Membership team that says: “Hi! If you want to join, read this 6 page agreement. If you agree, use a Google Form like this to sign up.” Once someone signs up, they receive a Monitoring Hours Sign Up form. When people show up for their shift, they sign next to their name verifying their attendance. The aim is built in accountability through self-reporting!

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Having a handwritten project list like this on a clipboard in the garden helps keep a consistent thread of communication going about which garden projects need attention. Keep everyone updated on the happenings with a follow-up like this.

A Newsletter can serve as a hub for all the group document links. Each Steering Committee member can focus on doing their work and someone can make it their business to find out what’s going on and put it in a newsletter. The Java Street garden releases its newsletter on the 15th of each month, and includes links to the Minutes/ Agenda, Monitoring Hours Sign Up Form and Project List / Updates.

Final Thoughts

Accept some pain: Decentralizing will likely mean your garden is not as artistically streamlined as you really want. It will likely mean that it takes weeks of campaigning and infighting to make relatively simple decisions. It could mean some food rots on the vine because no one knew they were supposed to eat it. That sucks. But your disappointments will be shared by your community in a way that centralized gardens usually aren’t. And when hard fought battles are through, you will have better parties. I recently heard Sir David Attenborough on record saying that primates are the best communicators of all living organisms. (Of course we would think so!)


I am not sure I agree, but clearly, we throw the best parties.

Gabriel Park has been part of the Java Street Community Garden since the group formed in 2012. He lives in Greenpoint with his wife, two daughters and two cats.

596 Acres has organizing support material in the form of Community Governance Cards, which provide guidance and activities to facilitate healthy group dynamics. You can purchase them for $10 through the 596 website using Paypal or through Etsy.


News from the Acres - June 16, 2016

16 June 2016

Plant ‘til you’re planted!



Whether you're a community land steward, stuck in the middle of a land access campaign or just curious about how to get started, come get the scoop this Saturday, June 18 from 2:30pm to 4pm. Meet in front of the new Hooper Street Park, at Hooper Street and South 5th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn! 596 Acres Advisory Committee members will lead a teach-in on urban soil and there will be ample opportunity for fellow land advocates to learn from each other's campaigns. Event details here. Facebook event here

Last weekend, Hooper Street Park gardeners had their first official meeting! This lot was designated as Open Space in the Southside Urban Renewal Plan in 1992, and has been waiting ever since. The land was vacant for decades before that as well but in 1940 it was a synagogue. We are glad to be reactivating this corner of the neighborhood as a gathering place in partnership with the El Puente Green Light District, NYC Parks GreenThumb and GrowNYC's Open Space Greening program. Get involved by emailing, connecting on facebook, or signing up as an Organizer here:

Bed Stuy-Bushwick, Brooklyn - Neighbors have a vision for a Hip Hop Garden in the area. Join them and 596 Acres staff this Friday, June 14 at 4pm in front of the vacant lot on the corner of Howard Avenue and Madison Street to explore options. This vacant public lot in inventory of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services may become the target of organizing. We will also visit the nearby Madison Community Garden, an NYC Parks Department Green Thumb garden which is open for new members. Get in touch with Lya of Beats, Mind ‘n Alive at or (929) 428-4287, or sign up as an organizer here to plug in:

Staten Island - This Saturday, June 18 at 9am, Harry and fellow gardeners are meeting NYC Park's Department's GreenThumb staff in front of a vacant lot on Sand Land near Humbert Street to finalize plans for the garden here! The Community Board is in support and neighbors have been waiting patiently since 2014 to make their garden dreams come true; this is the final step before Parks accepts jurisdiction! Come meet your neighbors and join them in making their plan for a garden here real. Sign up as an organizer here:

Bed Stuy, Brooklyn - For the last several years, 596 Acres has been supporting neighbors advocating for the transfer of two long-vacant lots on Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn from NYC Housing Preservation and Development to NYC Parks to create a community garden. With no accessible public review or notice to the local community, the city is now poised to give these lots to a private developer for the construction of housing that most residents of the neighborhood will not be able to afford. Necessary hearings have not been completed and the contract has not been signed, yet work has already started on the site. Join organizers on Wednesday, June 22 at 10am at 1 Center Street in Manhattan on the Mezzanine to testify against the land give-away. 596 Acres' Paula Segal's article about the situation and the de Balsio administration's response are in City Limits this week; read themhere. A guide to testifying is here. It's easy! In the words of a neighbor and organizer, “This kind of informative response is what makes a difference in a community that has been some what uninformed and seemingly at times in the dark.”

Rockaway, Queens - A community garden is coming to Beach 84th Street on the Bay Side! Last week, Paula helped Wanda start writing a proposal for the transfer of a decades-vacant lot to NYC Parks where it can become a community space. Wanda will be getting letters of support and having a meeting for future gardeners in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for the meeting announcement, or get in touch now to help: 518-693-9349 or; or sign up as an Organizer here:

Melrose, Bronx - The design for Hill Street Garden, which will replace a sloping vacant lot on E 159th St between St Ann's & Eagle Ave in the South Bronx, is almost done! On Sunday, June 5, neighbors reviewed the plans that their design team drew up after envisioning together last month. The plan includes community event space, places for neighbors to relax, and an outdoor classroom for children. Check out the progress, look at the plan, see photos, and get in touch with neighbors here: If you have ties with organizations in the South Bronx, we are looking for letters of support to add to our deck. Contact Victor Maldonado at so much to our pro bono design team for all your work so far! 
Harlem, Manhattan - This Saturday, June 18 from 3pm to 6pmSaint Nicholas Miracle Gardenon 125th St and St. Nicholas Avenue is having a big day of garden music! Featuring performances from Shu Nakamura & the Ninjas, Anand GanSuzanne Davenport & the Violin Femmes, the Ninja Academy of Music, with many other special guests. Come join us for a day of MUSIC. COMMUNITY. EDUCATION. FUN. More information here.

Bedstuy, Brooklyn - This Saturday, June 18 from 12pm to 3pm,  Artfully Unforgotten: Color Your Story is coming to 462 Halsey Community GardenDoes the color yellow remind you of a special time you baked a birthday cake with your mom? Choose a color and use different materials from that color to create a picture of a memorable moment that the color reminds you of! More information at Family friendly!

Long Island City, Queens - This Sunday, June 19 from 10am to 5pm, join Smiling Hogshead Ranchers for a composting bike tour of queens! We will start at 10am at the Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main St (use the Parking Garden entrance on Blossom Avenue). We will visit 5 sites before ending with an evening cooldown and picnic at Smiling Hogshead Ranch, 25-30 Skillman Ave, at approximately 3:30pm. Please RSVP to More event information here.

Rockaway, Queens: Free yoga at Edgemere Farm at Beach 45th Street Community Farm withmigenteyoga every Wednesday at 9am! Photo here. All levels and abilities welcome! ✨✨

Bedstuy-Bushwick, Brooklyn - This Saturday, June 18 at 6pm, gather for another free summer concert at The People's Garden! This time it’s ROCKERS' UNDERGROUND, featuring Top Shotta Band, The Far East, Radio Daze, Crazy Baldhead, with local homemade food. All events are all ages, free and community friendly! This is part of a monthly concert series, a collaboration between The People's Garden and Consumata Sonidera, to bring together the community of Bedstuy, Bushwick and NYC through the love of music! Event information here. Promo videohere.

Harlem, Manhattan - This Sunday, June 19 from 10am to 1pm at Park Ave and 118th, join gardeners of Lydia’s Magic Garden in a bit of cleanup, weeding, and reviewing proposed garden design!

Lower East Side, Manhattan - Next Friday, June 24 from 4pm to 7pm, join FABNYC for Clinton Street Fest! Celebrate the vibrant culture and commerce of Clinton Street with an afternoon stroll through local businesses and one-of-a-kind artist interventions. Experience the energy of this diverse business corridor through music, poetry, storytelling, performances, and pop up shops! Open to the public of all ages. The event will feature discounts and tastings at select Clinton Street businesses, with drink specials at Donnybrook NYC. Check out the full program here.

Lower East Side, Manhattan - Children’s Magical Garden at 129 Stanton St on the corner of Norfolk St is offering a free 5 week summer camp for kids ages 7 to 12 from July 11 to August 12, Monday to Friday! Free to all! Super fun outdoor environmental education activities will include growing fresh and healthy food and herbs in the garden and and team-building through nature games. More information here. To get an application, contact Feng Chen or (646) 732-9462.

Harlem, Manhattan - The Harlem Rose Garden, on E 129th St between 5th Ave and Madison, is welcoming new members! Get involved by emailing

Check out our list of micro grants and resources that can help you make your project a reality AFTER you have access to your lot.

Girl Scouts in the Maple Street Community Garden last week. El jardín está abierto!

In solidarity,
596 Acres

News from the Acres - June 2, 2016

01 June 2016

Don’t go through life, GROW through life!


Melrose, Bronx - On Sunday, June 5 at 10:30 am, future Hill Street Gardeners will be meeting in the Community Room at 820 St. Ann’s Ave, right next to the hill, to see plans produced by 596 Acres' pro bono design team based on the visioning session we hosted last month. Join them! Contact Victor (, 718-665-4281) to get involved or connect with neighbors here:

Bedstuy, Brooklyn - Join neighbors (pictured above) organizing to transform the vacant lot at Malcolm X and Chauncey Street on Monday, June 6 at 7pm at Brooklyn Community Board 3's general meeting at Restoration Plaza, 1360 Fulton Street. Contact Shadel at and sign up to become an organizer here:  

Bedstuy, Brooklyn - In 1968, the City planned the vacant lots that reach from Rochester Avenue to Suydam Place between Herkimer Street and Atlantic Avenue as a future Park & Playground in the Central Brooklyn Urban Renewal Plan, but neighbors are still waiting. Let’s make it real! One said to us last week, “I believe that they would make a spectacular Park for the entire block and community to enjoy.” Let's make it so! Contact Chopp (, 904-405-6291), Denise (, 917-601-4877) or one of the other organizers who shared their contact information on the lot’s page – – you too can sign up to organize!

Staten Island - On Saturday, June 18 at 9am, Harry and fellow gardeners are meeting NYC Park's Department's GreenThumb staff in front of a vacant lot on Sand Land near Humbert Street to finalize plans for the garden here. The Community Board is in support and neighbors have been waiting patiently since 2014 to make their garden dreams come true; this is the final step before Parks accepts jurisdiction! Come meet your neighbors and join them in making their plan for a garden here real. Sign up as an organizer here:

Join 596 Acres, the Urban Justice Center Community Development Project, Common Cause/NY and the Let's Rebuild Cromwell Community Coalition on Wednesday, June 8 from 7pm to 9pmat Brighton Heights Reformed Church, 320 St. Marks Place. 

We are hosting this workshop to educate neighbors about the pending Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) application by the Department of City Planning to approve the disposition of public health center on Stuyvesant Place, this parking lot on Central Avenue, and the Jersey Street Garage, all currently public real estate assets, to private developers; also in DCP's application is the Bay St Corridor Rezoning, which includes the potential transfer a stretch of City-owned water front, a potential park on Front Street, to a developer for building housing towers. Find out more information and sign up as an Organizer on any of the pages linked above or connect with Let's Rebuild Cromwell Community Coalition on facebook or by

The City's Scoping Hearing, at which key decisions about these proposed actions will be made, will be on Wednesday, June 15 at 6pm at 309 Saint Pauls Ave., Staten Island. Save the date to come out and be heard by the City officials who work for us! 

Bedstuy, Brooklyn - This Saturday, June 4 at 11am, help Myrtle Village Green gardeners build tables, turn compost, move dirt and plant flowers! The garden is located on Myrtle between Franklin and Kent. Stay connected on the MVG facebook, here.

Brownsville, Brooklyn - Also Saturday, June 4 from 1pm to 4pm, high school youth from the Nature Conservancy and East New York Farms! internship programs will be having a community work day to reactivate the newly revived Warwick Greenery Glow Garden, on Warwick Street between Blake and Dumont. They would love and welcome local residents from the neighborhood and Warwick Street to help and get plugged into the long-term stewardship of the space! Come by on Saturday at 1pm if you're interested! Contact Milton (718-564-3013) or Miguel (347-500-9945).

Bedstuy, Brooklyn - The Fresh Food Box returns to 462 Halsey Community Garden on Saturday, June 4 where you can get a $12 deal for an assortment of fruits and vegetables each week. Fresh Food Box is an initiative offering weekly bags of locally-grown fruits and vegetables in collaboration with GrowNYC. More information here.

Bedstuy, Brooklyn - Also starting this Saturday, June 4 at 10amPatchen Community Square, on the corner of Patchen and Putnam, is starting a Fitness and Gardening Workout class every other Saturday. Join them! More information here.

Greenpoint, Brooklyn - Java Street Garden's annual Spring into Summer party is next Saturday, June 11! Stop by Java Street between Franklin and West for a bite, to take a chance on a raffle prize or to listen to some music. The garden is looking lovelier each day, we hope to see you out there! More information here.

Jamaica, Queens - Join the Rochdale Village Library Learning Garden Project to help plan a new mini-botanical garden on the library grounds and learn about garden design! They will meet on Saturday, June 11, 1-2:30pm, 169-09 137th Avenue, Jamaica, Queens. 

Check out our list of micro grants and resources that can help you make your project a reality AFTER you have access to your lot.

On May 23, Merrick Marsden Community Garden in Jamaica, Queens finally reopened as protected open space! It has been serving the community since 1967, but was recently threatened with extinction by the Tax Lien Sale – though tax debt should have never been owed on this not-for-profit owned property in the first place. The property was saved by a local fundraising frenzy and because of 596 Acres, which referred the local organization to Mohen & Segal LLP to defend a foreclosure action brought by the Tax Lien Trust, and then in a transfer of the property to the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust in January 2014. 

596 Acres' Paula Segal explains in a CityLimits editorial how the lien sale puts community land at risk. Sign the petition asking the Mayor to keep community property and vacant land out of the tax lien sale here

It's working!
596 Acres

News from the Acres - May 20, 2016

20 May 2016

Community gardens are not only places to grow fresh food and enjoy the great outdoors with your neighbors. They are also prime locations for pop-up libraries, shows, art-making, meal-sharing, and all kinds of educational and cultural programming that make communities vibrant and strong. Take 462 Halsey Community Garden, pictured above - a Bedstuy community space, formed by neighbors with help from 596 Acres, that hosted The Free Black Women’s Library on Mother's Day! (Photo by Murray Cox; more photos here.)

Jamaica, Queens - Merrick Marsden Neighbors Association Garden II is having a grand re-opening tomorrow, Saturday May 21 from 10am to 3pm! In 2013, 596 Acres helped the Merrick Marsden Neighbors Association (MMNA) secure this property in the face of havoc wrought by the City's dastardly tax lien sale. The property is now owned by the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust where it will be preserved as open space in perpetuity and stewarded by MMNA. More info here. Please RSVP to Samuel Belton at 347.579.7564

Williamsburg, Brooklyn - After a years-long campaign, decades of vacancy will be transformed into vibrancy in the Southside as Hooper St. Park Garden! This lot was planned as Open Space through Urban Renewal in a plan adopted by City Council in 1992 - which we have finally brought into being through facilitating relentless local organizing. The lot was just transferred to the NYC Parks Department and can now become a community garden! Contact Robert at to get in on the garden-making fun.

Bushwick, Brooklyn - 9 Moffat Street has arrived at greener pastures! Last year, this lot would have been auctioned off by the City to a private developer if not for our intervention. It was just transferred to NYC Parks and can now become the garden neighbors have been dreaming up! Add your dreams: contact Celeste of Council Member Espinal's Office at 718-642-8664 or

This brings us to 36 vacant lots transformed by neighbors with support from 596 Acres!Help us support community land access advocacy where it is most needed by donating.

JOIN US THIS SUNDAY #eminentdomain4good 
This Sunday, May 22 from 3pm to 7pm, 596 Acres will be at El Jardin del Paraiso’s Mudball Ball on E 5th St between Aves C & D in Manhattan. Come listen to the audio documentary we made last year in collaboration with El Jardin’s founding members in the garden itself while marveling at old photographs from a founding gardener’s collection. The documentary highlights the use of eminent domain to preserve the emerging garden in the 1990s. Today, communities are asking for the use of eminent domain to protect their vital spaces. You can support current campaigns to protect and preserve beloved garden paraisos; Imani Community Garden in Weeksville, Maple Street Community Garden in Prospect-Lefferts, and Roger That! community garden in Crown Heights, Brooklyn will be featured. Event information here and details here. Get a head start by signing this petition supporting Maple Street Community Garden.

Bushwick, Brooklyn - Your neighbor Wesley is developing a plan to transform a vacant public lot on Dekalb Avenue between Evergreen and Myrtle into a community garden! This weekend, he is gathering neighbors and taking next steps: collecting signatures to show the City that residents want this lot transformed, and creating a proposal for a garden on this lot. This is a great opportunity! Contact him at or 317-698-5224; or, sign up as an organizer here:

Bushwick, Brooklyn - Neighbors contacted us about a vacant lot in their neighborhood - on Stockholm Street near Evergreen Avenue. While the lot has been selected as a potential site of housing development, so far nothing has moved forward and it may be possible to make it into a community space. The next step: create a campaign that will convince the Parks Department that your community group will be successful stewards. Get involved by signing up as an as an organizer here:

Bedstuy, Brooklyn - In response to our signs, a neighbor called us interested in what options there are for the vacant lot in her life and what the next steps would be. We told her to begin witha petition that neighbors can sign to let the City know they want this lot transformed. Next steps? Put together a proposal for this lot and win the support of the local community board. For a successful proposal, about ten neighbors need to sign up as future volunteers. Become one of them by signing up to organize here:

Bedstuy, Brooklyn - It might be time to revive efforts to create a garden on a big vacant lot on Lafayette near Tompkins Avenue. Previous plans have been foiled by the Community Board's desire to see affordable housing developed there, but that is not so straightforward. We just got a note from another interested neighbor. Our sense of the political climate at this time is that a temporary garden is not possible - HPD has stopped allowing temporary agreements - but a permanent one might be. Several neighbors have posted their email addresses and phone numbers here so you can get in touch to make it happen: 

Bedstuy/Crown Heights, Brooklyn - Your neighbor Shadel is putting together a proposal for transforming a vacant lot at Malcolm X Blvd and Chauncey Street into a community garden! Meet in front of the vacant lot next Saturday, May 28 at 11am, email Shadel at, and/or sign up to become an organizer here:

Harlem, Manhattan - Your neighbor Kimbley just joined other neighbors in a campaign to create a garden on a vacant lot on W 137th Street between Adam Clayton Powell and Malcolm X Boulevard! They are gathering signatures to tell the City that residents want this lot transformed into a public space. Next steps: putting together a proposal for a garden! Contact Kimbley at or 646-662-6503, Seth at and Leora at or 917-337-0147. Join them in signing up as an organizer and track progress here:

Lower East Side, Manhattan - Next Wednesday, May 25 from 5pm to 7pm, Siempre Verde Garden is hosting a Lower East Side History Month Event: Come Protest the Great Meat Boycott! The Great Meat Boycott took place in May 1902 in the Lower East Side and was the first consumer boycott in America; 20,000 women took to the streets to protest the sudden increase in meat prices of meat monopolies, succeeding in getting the monopolies to lower their prices. “We’ll be remembering these ladies fondly and loudly.” More info here.

Harlem, Manhattan - Starting on Wednesday, June 1St. Nicholas Miracle Garden at 127th St and Malcolm X will be a new NYC Compost Project food scrap drop-off site hosted by Harlem Green and the Lower East Side Ecology Center! Wednesdays from 8am to 11am. More information here. The garden is also looking for more performers for its garden music series! More information here.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn - Keap Fourth Community Garden at Keap and South 4th Street is hosting free live music for kids (ages 0-4) every Tuesday at 10am, all season long!

Ozone Park, Queens - Pitkin Community Garden on Pitkin and 87th Street is having a garden planning meeting next Wednesday, May 25, 7:30 to 9pm at the Nativity Church, 101-41 91st Street, Corner of Rockaway Blvd. More information on Living Lots NYC, here.

Little Italy, Manhattan - This Saturday, May 21 at 1:30pmElizabeth Street Garden is hosting the NYC Kids Project Puppet Show! At Elizabeth Street between Prince and Spring Streets. Grab a picnic lunch and join for a free outdoor puppet show on disability awareness, anti-bullying and character development. Run time is 45 to 55 minutes; best for grades 2 to 6. More information here.

Bedstuy-Bushwick, Brooklyn - Monthly free summer concerts at The People's Garden start nextFriday, May 27 at 6pm! Come hear CUMBIA DEL BARRIO VOL. IV, R-Tronika, Consumata and DJ Kill DJ and enjoy food from Traze. This is the first in a monthly series, a collaboration between The People's Garden and Consumata Sonidera, to bring together the community of Bedstuy, Bushwick and NYC through the love of music! Event information here. Promo videohere.

The Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project (HKFP) is seeking a Summer Youth Farm Educator for a pilot youth internship program on their rooftop farm in Hell’s Kitchen! Applications are due next Friday, May 27, interviews will be in early-mid June, and the are looking to hire immediately. This is an exciting opportunity to design and implement a dynamic curriculum and special programming for local high school students focusing on urban agriculture, food and social justice. Full information here. HKFP is also looking for youth residing or attending high school in the Chelsea/Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen community interested in participating in this paid internship program! Applications are due by May 30. Full information here.

Check out our list of micro grants and resources that can help you make your project a reality AFTER you have access to your lot.

Neighbors signed up to support a community garden that will replace a vacant lot on Malcolm X Blvd and Chauncey Street last weekend at the Community Mediation Fair in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. More photos here. Join in the campaign by meeting in front of the lot next Saturday, May 28 at 11am, by emailing Shadel at, and/or by signing up to become an organizer here: 

With gratitude,
596 Acres

Release: Communities Propose Eminent Domain to Save Gardens Threatened by Private Development

19 May 2016

NEW YORK, NY -  It’s time we ask ourselves: “How can we have eminent domain for the Barclays Center and not have eminent domain for the constituents of the community?” 

This Sunday, March 22 from 3 to 7pm, 596 Acres will present a pop-up exhibition on #eminentdomain4good at El Jardin del Paraiso, a sprawling Parks Department community garden in the Lower East Side at 5th Street between Ave. C & D in Manhattan.

Photographs from the garden’s founding and an audio documentary made last year by 596 Acres for What Do We Do With Our Land? for the New Museum's IDEAS CITY Festival, in collaboration with founding gardeners, will be on display. Stories from other gardens in New York City that are perfectly suited to become new Parks, including Imani I Community Garden in Weeksville, Maple Street Community Garden in Prospect Lefferts and Roger That! Garden in Crown Heights, will also be shared, along with opportunities to support gardeners’ campaigns to preserve them through #eminentdomain4good.

Since at least 1807, eminent domain has been used to create New York’s parks and open spaces. El Jardin del Paraiso is among Prospect Park, Central Park, Astor Place and over 350 other condemnations for the creation or preservation of parks and open spaces that have been recorded in New York’s county courts. As El Jardin del Paraiso’s story shows, eminent domain can facilitate the preservation of value that residents create by transforming vacant lots into community spaces.

kids at paraiso.jpgchildren.JPG

L: Making Paraiso, roughly 1981. Courtesy of Howard Brandstein. R: An excerpt from Lower East Side Gardeners’ proposal to preserve open space, presented to Community Board 3 in 1982. Lower East Side Gardeners served a constituency of over 200 people from different Lower East Side gardens. Courtesy of Howard Brandstein.

El Jardin del Paraiso, a meadow-like green space in the dense Loisaida (Alphabet City), was created by local residents in 1981 out of series of empty lots, some owned by the City and some owned by private entities. Homesteaders, gardeners, artists, religious leaders, the Junior League, and the principal of P.S. 15, worked together to advocate for the expansion and preservation of the garden as a permanent park. The group convinced the City that El Jardin was perfectly situated to become a new park for the Lower East Side in a part of the neighborhood badly served by the existing green spaces. During the 1990s, the City condemned three lots that it did not then own that divided the space using eminent domain, making the park whole. 

Imani I Community Garden in Weeksville, Brooklyn has similar beginnings: neighbors got together to provide themselves with the services they needed – in this case, with open green space and fresh food – in a neighborhood full of holes. Now, over 40 years since its founding, eminent domain may be the only way to save this garden from being permanently ravaged by the City’s illegal sale of tax debt, that should have never been owed in the first place, to private speculators. It's a tough one to explain to the generations of gardeners who have been caring for the space for decades since it was created by Parishioners of Our Lady of Charity, the first black Catholic congregation in the diocese, in 1974. To keep the garden whole, the City or State government can buy the property from the private owner and turn it over to the NYC Parks Department GreenThumb program for continued management by volunteers. 

MAPLE STREET.pngsave maple street pic.jpg

Maple Street Community Gardeners organize in Fall 2015. Photos by Paula Z. Segal (R) and courtesy CUNY Law School/Public Square Magazine (L).

Maple Street Community Garden, in Brooklyn’s Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, has recently become a poster-child for the kind of trickery and fraud that accompanies real estate booms. The story of its creation is familiar: neighbors got fed up with the vacant lot on their block and, with no accountable owner in site, they began to clear out the impressive garbage that had collected in the summer of 2013. They built raised beds and planted flowers and vegetables. In 2015, State Senator Jesse Hamilton and Assembly Member Diana Richardson introduced bills in the NYS Senate and in the Assembly to preserve the Maple Street Community Garden through eminent domain. The exhibition will provide an opportunity for attendees to support the bills and to petition the Mayor, City Council and NYC Parks directly.

Roger That garden, Summer 2015. Photo courtesy Roger That! Garden.

Roger That! Garden in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is another garden in jeopardy that can be preserved through #eminentdomain4good. Assembly Member Richardson and Senator Velmanette Montgomery have also introduced bills aimed at protecting the Roger That! Garden as parkland.

At the event this Sunday, visitors will listen to the histories, see the photos, send letters, and find out more about 596 Acres’ community land access advocacy program. This exhibition is part of El Jardin del Paraiso’s Mudball Ball.  If we can use eminent domain for El Jardin del Paraiso under Mayor Rudy Giuliani, we can certainly continue to use it for the little bits of green paradise that neighbors have created in their neighborhoods in Brooklyn today. 

Further Reading & Listening


El Jardin del Paraiso from the audio documentary What Do We Do With Our Land? -- annotating community land stewardship on the Lower East Side for the New Museum IDEAS CITY Festival:


On 596 Acres’ organizing map, Living Lots NYC:

“How a Gentrification Scam Threatens New York’s Community Gardens” by DW Gibson, The Nation, Oct. 20, 2015:

“Pol Proposes State Seizure Of Disputed Brooklyn Community Garden” by Nathan Tempey. Gothamist, Oct. 25, 2015: 

“There Goes the Neighborhood, Episode 6: Trickery Fraud and Deception” by The Nation, WNYC Studios, and Kai Wright. The Nation, April 13, 2016:

Petition for New York City Council Member Mathieu Eugene: Get New York City to preserve Maple Street Community Garden 

New York State Assembly Bill A8569 (2015-2016 Legislative Session): 

New York State Senate Bill S6073 (2015-2016 Legislative Session):   


On 596 Acres’ organizing map, Living Lots NYC: 

“3 Beloved Brooklyn Community Gardens Win Important Victories” by Nathan Tempey. Gothamist, Nov. 18, 2016: 

New York State Assembly Bill A8583 (2015-2016 Legislative Session): 

New York State Senate Bill S6093 (2015-2016 Legislative Session): 


On 596 Acres’ organizing map, Living Lots NYC: 

“CityViews: Stop the Tax-Lien Sales That Will Destroy Community Gardens” by Paula Segal. CityLimits, May 10, 2016: 

Press Contact

Mara Kravitz, Executive Assistant,, 718-316-6092 ext. 3

Take Community Property and Vacant Land Out of the NYC Tax Lien Sale

07 May 2016

The City of New York is poised to sell liens on community property and vacant lots in our neighborhoods to private speculative trusts next week. This is how the City gives up its leverage over properties where taxes have not been paid and allows community property to disappear. We have written about this before. We have struggled and saved gardens owned by New York City's community-based organizations poised to enter the sale, and in foreclosure after itSometimes we have lost; we watch decades-old gardens disappear.

Now it is time to act. 

Let's make this the first year in 20 when gardens, churches, day care centers and vacant lots in our neighborhoods are removed from the sale. Read and sign our petition to Mayor Bill de Blasio here. Then call 311 on Monday and ask the operator to let the Mayor's staff know that you want all charity institution properties and vacant lots to be removed from Thursday's sale. 

The petition text is below. Please sign it


On May 12, 2016, the City of New York is poised to give private speculative investors leverage over hundreds of properties in all five boroughs via the Department of Finance Tax Lien Sale.

By selling the right to collect unpaid taxes on community gardens, churches, day care centers and other key places owned by community-based charity organizations, the City puts all these places at risk of foreclosure by the private debt collectors and the transformation of these key institutions into private residential development.

By selling that right for vacant lots in the same transaction, the City gives up its power over the future of our neighborhoods and transforms unpaid property taxes into a “private” debt to be enforced by private debt collectors.

We, the undersigned, urge you to take all properties owned by Not-for-Profit Corporations and other charitable institutions entitled to be free from paying property tax under the New York State Constitution out of next week's tax lien sale. We urge you to remove all properties, including those that appear on the May 2, 2016 Final Not-For-Profit Non-Responders List and uncountable others around the City that are poised to enter the sale but do not appear on the posted list, like the Garden of Youth in the Bronx.

In addition, we, the undersigned, urge you to remove all vacant lots from next week's tax lien sale. Allowing private debt to compound the pains of neighborhoods that have been abandoned by absentee property owners will not lead to responsible development of gardens, community centers and housing. The City's retaining leverage over these properties is key for NYC communities.

Finally, we urge that, once removed from the 2016 Tax Lien Sale, all properties that are determined to be not needed by City agencies to fulfill public purposes be directed to the Third Party Transfer program and reserved for transfer to stable Not-For-Profit organizations and/or community land trusts.

Thank you for your attention to this pressing matter,


Please sign.

News from the Acres - May 7, 2016

07 May 2016
slow as turtles (and just as persistent) 

The battle for the preservation of Bushwick's Eldert Street Garden continues. This week we challenged the illegal sale of the land in court. Full details in DNAinfo. For over two years, 596 Acres coordinated defensive and affirmative legal actions, recruited and managed pro bono help and continues to support permanent preservation - all while the garden continues to thrive! Donate to support continued community land access advocacy where it is most needed. And join us at Eldert Street Garden (315 Eldert Street) tomorrow, May 8, for a Mother’s Day Spring Celebration, 2pm until sunset! There will be a BBQ, live music, crafts for kids, planting, painting and a flower sale! 

The City of New York is poised to sell liens on community property and vacant lots in our neighborhoods to private speculative trusts next week. This is how the City gives up its leverage over properties where taxes have not been paid and allows community property to disappear.We have written about this beforeNow it is time to act. Let's make this the first year in 20 when gardens, churches, day care centers and vacant lots in our neighborhoods are removed from the sale. Read and sign our petition to Mayor Bill de Blasio here. Then call 311 on Monday and ask the operator to let the Mayor's staff know that you want all charity institution properties and vacant lots to be removed from Thursday's sale

Bedstuy, Brooklyn - Neighbors who saw our signs are organizing to transform the vacant lot on Malcolm X and Chauncey Street. Shadel is planning to gather signatures in support of transforming the space this week. Join her! Connect by email at We made you a petition you can use. Become an organizer here:

Melrose, Bronx - There is a wonderful opportunity to transform a vacant lot at E 161st Street and Melrose Avenue into something better - and neighbors are just beginning to mobilize (click for detailed directions). We created a petition you can use to show the City that the residents of the South Bronx want to transform this space; get it here and hit the streets to gather signatures. Contact Freddy, or 3472462690 to coordinate; or sign up to become an organizer here:

Rockaway, Queens - A prototype Community Labyrinth arrived at Beach 78th Street and the boardwalk this week! Organizer Nancy's years of perseverance is bringing a meditative and healing space to a neighborhood that really needs it. Contact Nancy to help transform the temporary installation into a permanent fixture in the coming years: NYC Parks Department has embraced the vision but will need our help to find the support it needs to create a permanent installation. Check out the photos and sign up to organize here:

Long Island City, Queens - The Cutoff Coalition's vision for the newly abandoned rail line next toSmiling Hogshead Ranch is now online. Check out and share our vision for the future: a self-powered urban farm and resiliency lab, featuring innovative green infrastructure, landscaped common spaces, and economic development opportunities to form a thriving ecology that brings together nature, community, and industry:

Flushing, Queens - Organizers of a future Corona community garden made the news! Check them out In the New York Post here then become a future garden member by contacting Alishia, or (718) 600-0121; you can also sign up to Organize here:

Harlem, Manhattan - Margrichantie Memorial Garden on W 133rd near Adam Clayton Powell is already in the Parks Department inventory and intended as a permanent community space, but it needs new stewards to help it thrive. NYC Parks plans to hold a meeting for interested community members next Saturday, May 14, from 11am to 1pm at the garden. Join them in person or sign up as an organizer here:

Bedstuy, Brooklyn - Free Black Women’s Library, Mother’s Day Edition tomorrow, Sunday, May 8 from 12pm to 5pm at 462 Halsey Community Garden! (Last week’s event was postponed.) More information about the pop-up library is here. Check out 462 Halsey's new website here.

Long Island City, Queens - On Tuesday, May 10 from 5pm to 9pm at Smiling Hogshead Ranch's Terrific Tuesday & documentary film shoot. Join in tackling some chores, enjoying a potluck style family meal and shooting footage for a documentary at the Ranch. More information here

Community gardener Helen Avery has been working with the Parks Department to create print maps of Lower East Side Community gardens. Pick one up at Siempre Verde Garden on weekends!

The New York City Real Estate Investment Cooperative, which 596 Acres helped to incubate, is refining a rating system or evaluating whether a project is one we want to finance. See a preliminary draft here. Members and future members are invited to a public forum to discuss how to make this better on Tuesday, May 10 at 7pm at the Sunview Luncheonette, 221 Nassau Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY 11222. G to Nassau, then about a 10 minute walk.

Check out our list of micro grants and resources that can help you make your project a reality AFTER you have access to your lot.

Does your community garden need help with a specific project? Habitat for Humanity NYC’sBrush with Kindness program may be able to offer volunteers and materials for painting, planting, or light “fix-up” work (i.e. building raised beds or other simple structures, minor landscaping) in your garden or community space. They supervise volunteers and provide materials to complete specific multi-day projects ranging from one day to four weeks (the typical project is two weeks). Contact Anna Darling at describing the specific scope of work. You will work together to determine if the project is a good fit for their program.

The City Park Foundation's Partnerships for Parks’ Capacity Fund Grant is due on June 1! Up to $5,000 available to community garden, park, and street tree groups stewarding NYC Parks Department property. Questions? Reach out to or 212-602-5348, schedule an individual consultation or join a webinar.

A prototype of the Rockway Labyrinth Project is coming into being! This week, the NYC Parks Department and the City Parks Foundation's Partnership for Parks organized volunteers to help make this vision a reality. More here:

596 Acres