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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: New Yorks Ride Bikes to Connect Gardens Under Threat

13 April 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015, 2-6pm (detailed schedule below) 

Join Public Space Party, the New York City Community Garden Coalition and 596 Acres to ride to small gardens and community parks that add essential depth to New York City’s open space network and are in danger of losing their land to private development: Maple Street, Roger That, Eldert Street, Children's Magical, Siempre Verde, and Elizabeth Street. These gardens need community support in asking the city to move their land from the private market into the public inventory where they belong. They are small, community spaces that serve as multi-purpose community living rooms year round.

The ride begins under the arch at Grand Army plaza at 2pm. The first stop is at Maple Street Community Garden in Prospect-Lefferts. Maple Street garden was formed in 2012 by the Maple 3 Block Association and community members who transformed a trash-strewn vacant lot into a multipurpose garden and community space. The lot had been vacant and collecting trash for over a decade since its most recent resident and owner passed away and her home burned down. 

As Ali Jacobs, 31, an active member who lives on Sterling Street stated, “Our neighborhood is beautiful, but very short on public land.  Our garden has no gate nor lock, it is accessible by the entire neighborhood, and is used heavily by children and adults as a common outdoor space.”

The Maple Street Community Garden is being threatened with demolition by Housing Urban Development LLC, a private development corporation with a history of subprime lending and irregular title transfers. Gardeners are resisting eviction by appearing in Housing Court and urging the City to condemn the property and transfer it to the Parks Department (next court appearance is May 4, 2015 at 10:30am at 141 Livingston Street, Brooklyn in room 603).

The next stop is Roger That garden, a community space in Crown Heights, Brooklyn that stewards native plants, grows edibles, and maintains community compost. Roger That garden is currently under threat of development by a real estate developer who purchased the deed to the land, subject to hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax debt liens, for $10 from the man who used to own and operate a hardware store on this lot before abandoning the buildings. The developers have attempted to illegally evict the garden through a lock-out.

Roger That can be saved if the City invokes eminent domain and buys the property to preserve it as a Parks Department garden. Eminent domain has been used to create New York’s parks and open spaces dating at least back to 1807. Prospect Park, Central Park, the Ocean Parkway Greenway and Astor place are just a few of the over 350 condemnations for the creation or preservation of parks and open spaces that have been recorded in New York’s county courts. 

The ride will then move on to Eldert Street Garden in Bushwick, a space that was established on vacant lot in 2009. Elder Street offers vegetable plots, educational programming for kids and adults, composting, and a welcoming public space where folks can relax and connect with the natural world.

Kim Anderson, one Eldert Street garden steward, says, “For those of us without a private garden to grow in, or a forest to walk in, community gardens are all we have. When we work in our community gardens, we take back our fundamental right to work the land, and call a piece of earth our own, no matter how small. And we do it together.” 

The lot that the garden was on was donated to a local charity organization for use as a children’s garden; its recent transfer to a private for-profit corporation is under investigation by the New York State Office of the Attorney General. The gardeners are asserting their rights as tenants under New York City law and continuing to grow in the face of bullying by the developer. They are asking that the City halt all construction permits to the property and acquire it for transfer to the Parks Department.

From Bushwick riders venture into Manhattan to visit Siempre Verde garden, 2 small parcels of public land on Attorney and Stanton Streets that were reinvigorated by neighbors in 2012 who responded to signs posted by 596 Acres. The garden parcels are divided by an 18-foot parcel owned by a private developer who has put forward a proposal to purchase the City-owned properties and use all three as primarily luxury housing. The gardeners are asking that the City transfer the existing garden lots to the Parks Department for preservation and acquire the private parcel to make the garden whole. 

"We are essentially animals so having access to nature provides creature comforts, soothes the savage soul and regenerates the weary spirit,” says Ann Lee, of Siempre Verde Community Garden. “Gardens are a place to pause and respite from the grind of concrete cities. Gardens are the future for urban people."

The fifth stop on the ride will be Children’s Magical garden, founded in 1982 by community activists with the mission to create a safe space for the neighborhood’s children to play in and learn about nature. They have been tirelessly serving their community for 30 years, and have been fighting development since May 2013, when a portion of their garden was destroyed by a developer who claims to own the land despite doing nothing with the property for decades.

Finally, riders visit Elizabeth Street Garden, located on city-owned land on Little Italy’s Elizabeth Street. The Garden, open to the public by local volunteers, provides a sanctuary for residents in an otherwise dense and tightly packed neighborhood. The site has a long history as a public school, gathering place, and playground, before it was transformed into a garden by Elizabeth Street Gallery in 1991. In June 2013, neighbors started a campaign to  permanently preserve the Garden as a New York City park but the City has not yet transferred the land or indicated that preservation is a priority. The garden continues to operate with a revocable lease and has been suggested by elected officials as a site for private housing development.

“As cities become more dense and our economy shifts toward sharing, gardens serve as 21st century community centers where neighbors get to know each other the old-fashioned way while enjoying shared backyards,” says Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden President Jeannine Kiely. “Neighborhood green spaces have great value and make cities livable.”

“The social rate of return for community gardens takes place in countless forms,” noted Benjamin Shepard, of Public Space Party.  “We call for the city to support open space, recognizing the multiple benefits of green space in world facing increasing temperatures and climate chaos.”

 “The City needs to take a more active interest in the fates of these properties and affirmatively act to preserve the institutions that New Yorkers love,” says Paula Z. Segal, director of 596 Acres and attorney for the Maple Street, Roger That and Eldert Street gardens. “This isn't about housing versus gardens. This is about living in a City that places the needs of people who live in neighborhoods above the potential for others to make money off those neighborhoods.”


Ride Schedule

Riders will meet under the arch at Grand Army Plaza at 2, leaving at 2:10 PM sharp.   


Maple Street Community Garden

237 Maple Street between Rogers and Nostrand, Prospect-Lefferts, Brooklyn

Contact: Tom La Forge, (917) 400-2187




Roger That

98 Rogers Avenue at Park Place, Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Contact: David Vigil, (646) 643-9623




Eldert Street Garden

315 Elder Street between Knickerbocker and Irving, Bushwick, Brooklyn

Contact: Kim Anderson, (917) 623-6408




Siempre Verde Garden

189 Stanton Street, Lower East Side, New York

Contact: John Donahue,




Children’s Magical Garden

129 Stanton St, Lower East Side, New York



Elizabeth Street Garden

204-208 Elizabeth Street, Little Italy/Soho, New York

Contact: Jeannine Kiely, (917) 297-4475


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: City Line East New York Gets a New Garden thanks to Organizing by BACDYS and 596 Acres

09 April 2015

East New York, Brooklyn

The Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS) Corporation of East New York is celebrating the creation of a new community garden at the corner of Forbell Street and Glenmore Avenue, East New York, Brooklyn. After signing a lease with the MTA to utilize the space in March, BACDYS teamed up with New York Restoration Project (NYRP), whose Gardens for the City program will bring materials and manpower to transform the space into a community garden from April 14-16, 2015. Volunteers will join to complete the initial construction on Thursday, April 16 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

This space is familiar to anyone who has ever taken the A train to Rockaway - it is the roof of the train tunnel just as the train comes out and was originally designed as parklet. Fenced over 20 years ago, it was an eyesore created a dangerous blind corner for many years.

"The corner was full of garbage and rubble. It smelled. It was really ugly looking and people were afraid to come close," says Misba Abdin, President of the BACDYS board, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1982.

For over two years, 596 Acres helped BACDYS organize, connect with resources, and negotiate a lease with the MTA. MTA hosts other gardens on its property throughout the boroughs; 596 Acres recently supported the creation of Smiling Hogshead Ranch in Long Island City, Queens, and Q Gardens in Ditmas, Brooklyn. These three MTA-owned sites are just a few of the 32 community spaces that 596 Acres has helped neighbors create since their program began in early 2012.

"We could have never done this without 596 Acres," says Mr. Abdin. "They helped us figure out who we needed to talk to and bring all these great organizations together to make this garden real."

"It's amazing to be able to really feel the multiplier effect of our success across the city, to take what we learn in one neighborhood and transform it into success elsewhere," says Paula Z. Segal, attorney and director of 596 Acres. "Each campaign we work on is unique and we're pleased to have launched so many independent land stewards in such a short time!"

"As a long term resident of this community I am extremely overjoyed with the reality of the project rising from paper to a life form," says Darma Diaz, BACDYS co-founder. "This garden will be heaven sent for both seniors and youth who have no place within the community to enjoy a green environment."

The garden is designed by pro bono architect Wendy Andringa of GreenLab Studio in collaboration with Grain Collective. Materials for the garden construction are being donated by Build It Green and New York Restoration Project.

“This has been a great team effort - 596 acres has worked tirelessly to keep the transformation moving forward,” says Ms. Andringa. “I'm glad I could participate in the process - to see the Forbell green space finished will be so rewarding!”

"What we find fascinating is this grassroots movement by community to adapt and transform many of these unused urban open spaces," says architect Runit Chhay, Grain Collective. "As a professional, this is a great opportunity for us to support the community who have taken on this herculean task and we are grateful to be part of this."

“We’re thrilled to bring NYRP’s Gardens for the City resources, including staff, tools and materials, to help in this effort,” said Rebecca Fitle, NYRP Regional Engagement Manager. “This collaboration is a reminder of the importance of mobilizing. Together, we can empower the community, and each other, to transform green spaces into beautiful, accessible oases for the public to use for years to come.”

"I am proud to support and celebrate the creation of this new garden," says City Council Member Rafael L. Espinal, Jr., who represents the 37th District. "Community gardens are vital to building a healthy and vibrant community, as they eventually become pillars in the community bringing residents from various backgrounds together. I would like to thank the Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services Corporation of East New York, 596 Acres, and everyone that came together to make this garden a reality.”

Sanitation Commissioner Responds to Council Member Reynoso on Disposition of HPD Land Developed as Gardens and Compost Sites

26 March 2015

On January 26, 2015, Council Member Antonio Reynoso sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Sanitation, asking to have El Garden and the other seventeen active community gardens on the Housing Preservation and Development Request for Qualifications list inviting developers to propose to build housing on these same sites removed from the list.

You can see the original letter here and a map we made of the impacted sites here. Yesterday, Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia responded: 

"It is my understanding that the lots identified in the RFQ are not deemed final sites approved for development. At this stage NYC HPD is in an exploratory phase of screening... but none of these sites are being offered for sale." 

You can read her letter here



Intern With Us: Spring 2015

25 February 2015


596 Acres is seeking an intern who can work with us 10 hours per week for 10 weeks, March 31 - June 4, 2015. 

Your tasks will include putting up signs on vacant lots, helping us transition our online tools and generally helping us improve the work that we do with focus on the New York City Community Land Access program. Here's an unsolicited review from a former intern (now our NYC Organizer). 

This Spring we will be updating our Spanish-language materials; we are looking for an intern who is biligual and proficient at written translation.

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 (that intern's reflection is here). 

You will be working out of our office at Spaceworks (540 President Street) in Gowanus, Brooklyn on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can make your own hours and there will be opportunities for field work or research on the weekends and in the evenings.

Comfort with navigation in parts of NYC you have never visited (even if you've been nearly everywhere) is key. Willingness to talk to strangers and learn how to do tasks on the computer are equally important. 

Please send a resume and a letter of interest. Include a picture of a place your neighborhood where participation by people who live or work close by could help make it better. 

Application due by 5:59p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2014, to with the subject 'Spring 2015 Intern Application.'

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams Asks Mayor to Save Gardens

23 February 2015

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams wrote a letter on February 23 to Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been asking for active community gardens operating under "interim use agreements" to be removed from the lists sites offered to developers for $1 at this time. His letter is here

Eleven Brooklyn gardens have been included in a Request for Qualifications addressed to the development community. The lots that the gardens are on are being offered for free to become development sites.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer Asks Mayor to Save Gardens, Preserve Land for Community Land Trust

12 February 2015

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wrote a letter on February 10 to the Mayor and Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been.

She supports gardens staying where they are and the use of precious public land to for community needs: specifically, to transfer to the New York Community Land Initiative's partner community land trust in Manhattan, the El Barrio Community Land Trust. The original letter is here

Six Manhattan gardens have been included in a Request for Qualifications addressed to the development community. The lots that the gardens are on are being offered for free to become development sites.


Council Member Robert Cornegy Asks Mayor to Save Gardens

10 February 2015

Council Member Robert Cornegy read the below statement on the City Hall steps this morning. Council Member Cornegy has five gardens in his district that have been included in a Request for Qualifications addressed to the development community. The lots that the gardens are on are being offered for free to become development sites. 

"Good Morning, all. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak today. This is actually the first public statement I have made about HPD’s inclusion of community gardens on the list of development sites, so you’ve shown a lot of faith by giving me the mic. I’m pleased that we have the mutual trust that makes that possible.

There was a reason I didn’t speak out immediately following HPD’s publication of the list of development properties in January, even though there were more gardens listed in my district then any other. I wanted to take the time to try and understand HPD’s decision making. There’s no doubt that the 36th district needs more truly affordable housing. And it’s a good thing that HPD is acting on it commitment to construct a small number of units for affordable home ownership. I was open to an explanation that demonstrated the absolute necessity of using the garden sites. I asked for a full explanation, but that’s not what I’ve received.

Specifically, I asked that HPD share the objective criteria used to determine which vacant lots were appropriate for inclusion in this RFP. Shockingly, they have shared NO criteria. And I asked that HPD provide me with a map of list of all the city-owned properties in the district of every size, to show that these much loved garden sites were somehow uniquely appropriate. Again, HPD chose to share nothing.

Yesterday, HPD informed me that it is “evaluating” the decision to include the 16 gardens in the RFP but they STILL would not share any information on the factors in this reported re-evaluation or the original selection. Is it fair for all of these deliberations to be happening only among HPD’s staff? NO!

This refusal to be transparent and engage in anything resembling a collaborative decision-making process is extremely problematic. Frankly, I don’t think there’s any excuse for it. HPD’s secrecy is putting both the gardens’ members and elected officials in an unnecessary position and today, I’m speaking out to reject their false dichotomy.

We live together in community. We garden together in community. And our communities deserve gardens and high, quality truly affordable housing. Our communities deserve a process that respects their deep level of engagement with our city government and with one another.  We refuse to be excluded in a way that pits these two goals against one another.

Unless HPD demonstrates that these garden sites are uniquely appropriate for development, I will stand with you against their destruction. And if I am convinced that the loss of the gardens cannot be avoided, I will share all the information I have to explain that decision, support gardening and greening in other ways and fight to ensure that the sacrifice is worth it, because the housing produced is high quality and accessible to average families in the district.

I thank you for your dedication to the gardens, to one another and for your advocacy."

Council Member Mark Levine Asks Mayor to Save Gardens

09 February 2015

Parks Committee Chair Council Member Mark Levine sent Vicki Been, Commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development, the letter below on February 4. He is urging HPD not to build on existing gardens and to create a process for site selection for future housing development that includes gardeners. You can see the original letter here and a map we made of the impacted sites here.

February 4, 2015

Vicki Been, Commissioner NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development
100 Gold Street
New York, NY 10038

Dear Commissioner Been:

I write to address two issues that are of great concern to my constituents and all New Yorkers — the development of affordable housing and the preservation of our treasured community green spaces. I believe that whenever possible we must ensure that one does not come at the expense of the other.

As chair of the City Council’s Parks Committee, I consider New York City’s community gardens to be an essential part of our parks system. Decades of hard work and loving care by volunteer gardeners have turned hundreds of abandoned and vacant plots into drivers of healthy eating, environmental education, public safety, community building, and more. These community green spaces have become a vital component of neighborhood life in our city. They also serve as the primary open spaces for many New Yorkers who don’t have a park nearby. Protecting these gardens is beneficial to our health, stability, beauty, and quality of life. 

For these reasons I was concerned to learn that HPD’s recently published list of city-owned sites available for infill housing development includes several lots that currently house community gardens. Why were these currently occupied sites chosen rather than the hundreds of other city-owned vacant lots that now sit empty? Was the presence of a community garden at any of these locations factored into the selection process? Were volunteers at the affected gardens involved in any way in the selection process?

I recognize that in some neighborhoods there are few options for locating much-needed affordable housing. In hopes that we can avoid advancing one critical public policy priority at the expense of another one, I am requesting a meeting to develop a strategy for evaluating existing community gardens on the list of potential HPD infill sites that will include robust community process prior to final decision.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.


Mark Levine

Council Member, 7th District

CC: Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation
Nancy Kohn, Executive Director, GreenThumbNYC

Garden Oasis: 1100 Bergen Street Block Community Garden Now Protected In Perpetuity

03 February 2015


Today, a garden that has been an oasis in the Crown Heights neighborhood for over 34 years has found a permanent institutional home. The 1100 Bergen Community Garden, located on Bergen Street between Nostrand and New York Avenues, is officially the 34th garden to be placed into the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust (BQLT). 

The garden was founded in 1980, on leased property. During the 1980’s the lots comprising the garden were purchased by the Trust for Public Land from the City and a private owner, and then transferred to the 1100 Bergen Street Block Association in 1989.  The gardeners have independently owned the garden since then. By transferring the land to the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust now in 2015, they are insuring that it will have a long term and stable steward, as well as protecting it from potential future exposure to tax liens or other foreclosures. 

"We were thrilled to help secure this land in the 1980s for the block association," says Andy Stone, Director, NYC Program, The Trust for Public Land,  "And we're just as pleased in 2015 that the lot is preserved in an even more secure way through the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust." 

"This is such a relief. I can sleep now. Before I was worrying and worrying that we would mess up the paperwork and lose the garden," says Hazel Hurley, 1100 Bergen Street Community Garden Vice President, who has been a garden member since 1979 and lives across the street. "Going forward from here, I'll be more light and I'll be able to do more things. This year, we applied for a grant from Citizen's Committee to teach children about gardening. We plan to trim the trees and fixing the fence and continuing our compost program." 

"Protecting the 1100 Bergen Community Garden under the ownership of Brooklyn Queens Land Trust is a true win-win for all parties involved," says Meg Fellerath, BQLT Board President and community gardener. "It's been so satisfying to work collaboratively with everyone over the past year to make this happen, and we couldn't be happier to welcome this garden into the BQLT family! We are especially appreciative of the pro bono legal counsel provided to BQLT by the attorneys at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, including Frederic C. Rich, Theodore D. Holt and Jeffrey S. Arbeit, and the skill with which this team negotiated and facilitated the deed transfer."

"A permanent green space in an urban community is very close to my heart and I am terribly excited that we are able to contribute these lots to that effort. I hope to teach young people how to appreciate our garden for the future," says Walton Wilson, who lived on the block in 1980 when the garden got started and is the President of the 1100 Bergen Street Community Garden today. 

"Getting long-term community gardens safely into stable land trusts like the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust is such a relief! I'm so glad to be able to represent the 1100 Bergen Street gardeners in this transaction and to further a larger strategy for community control of the resources that make our neighborhoods thrive," says Paula Z. Segal, the 1100 Bergen Street gardeners' attorney and director of 596 Acres, an organization with the mission of advocating for community access to land. 

“Gardens provide opportunities for neighbors to enrich community connections while focusing on health and intergenerational learning. I join community members in celebrating the 1100 Bergen Street Community Garden’s transition into the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust, an affiliation that will preserve this precious resource for generations to come,” says District 36 Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr.

"This is one of the most exciting days in the history of Brooklyn Queens Land Trust since the initial conveyance of 32 gardens from the Trust for Public Land back in 2011," says Demetrice Mills, former BQLT Board President  and current chair of the BQLT Operations Committee. "We are very excited to play a part in preserving gardens from developers for development, and preserving garden in perpetuity. This is big deal for all involved and the community at large."

Press contacts: 
Meg Fellerath, Brooklyn Queens Land Trust,, (718) 963-7020
Paula Z. Segal, 596 Acres/1100 Bergen Street Community Garden, (718) 316-6092 x2



Photo caption (L-R): Demetrice Mills (seated, BQLT), Irene Van Slyke (standing, BQLT), Meg Fellerath (seated, BQLT), Paula Z. Segal (standing, 596 Acres/1100 Bergen Street), Hazel Hurley (seated, 1100 Bergen), Walton Wilson (seated, 1100 Bergen)

Council Member Antonio Reynoso Asks Mayor to Save Gardens

26 January 2015

Council Member Antonio Reynoso just sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Sanitation, asking to have El Garden and the other seventeen active community gardens on the Housing Preservation and Development Request for Qualifications list inviting developers to propose to build housing on these same sites removed from the list.

You can see the original letter here and a map we made of the impacted sites here. That's some of the BK ROT crew above. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Commissioner Kathryn Garcia
NYC Department of Sanitation
59 Maiden Lane, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10038

Dear Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Garcia,

I am writing to express my concern over a number of the sites listed in the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s most recent RFQ for the New Infill Home Ownership Opportunities Program (NIHOP) and Neighborhood Construction Program (NCP). A number of these sites are active public gardens, which provide significant benefits to surrounding communities and city-wide organics collection efforts. I am a strong proponent for the construction of affordable housing, as my district has experienced some of the most severe impacts from the City’s housing crisis; however, I am also an advocate for comprehensive planning. Additionally, as Chair of the Sanitation Committee, I am concerned about the impact that development of these sites may have on active composting operations, depleting the City’s already limited capacity to process organic waste.

As we continue to strive toward improved diversion rates, we must protect and support facilities that provide processing capacity for organic waste, particularly at the local level. This is especially important as we near the July, 2015 implementation date for Intro 1162, which would require commercial businesses to begin source separating organics. This law will only go into effect if the Commissioner determines that there is sufficient capacity to process this waste in facilities located within 100 miles of the city. Currently, the capacity for processing organic waste is insufficient for this bill to be meaningfully implemented. However, this does not mean that we should cease our search for creative ways to increase this capacity and process waste at the local level.

The lot at 120 Jefferson Street in Bushwick in my district, listed on HPD’s RFQ list, is currently operating under the name “El Garden” and is home to BK Rot’s composting initiative. BK Rot is a local organization that has been processing local organic waste in Bushwick since the summer of 2013, employing local youth and diverting waste from landfills. Additionally, this garden provides essential open space in a community that has long suffered from a lack of quality green areas. Losing a site such as El Garden would eliminate open space and jobs, while decreasing the local capacity for processing organic waste.

I urge you to direct HPD to remove this site, as well all other active community gardens, from its most recent list of developable sites. HPD has hundreds of potential sites on which it can develop affordable housing. I am asking that sites that are truly lying fallow be prioritized over those with active uses. I believe this action is in the best interest of DSNY and the Mayor’s Office, as it will protect capacity for local composting and ensure stability of open space. I will be happy to speak with you further about how we can work together to preserve these community resources.


Antonio Reynoso
NYC Council Member 34
th District
Chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management 

Gardens on Housing Preservation and Development's (HPD) List of Sites Available for Housing Development

21 January 2015

** updated February 5, 2015 **

Last week, NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) published a list of 181 City-owned properties included in a Request for Qualifications for developers to build rental and ownership housing within the limits set by the program and in exchange get the land for free. The program is described here: (link updated February 5, 2015; HPD moved the RFQ to a different place on its website). 

Seventeen of the sites selected are currently active community gardens. Over 750 sites in HPD's inventory were not included. 

These are the impacted gardens: 


  • Harlem Valley

  • Jackie Robinson Community Garden

  • Harlem Grown - Greenhouse

  • Electric Ladybug Community Garden

  • Pleasant Village Community Garden


  • McKinley's Children's Garden


  • Isabahliah Ladies of Elegance

  • La Casita Verde

  • Halsey, Ralph & Howard Community Garden

  • EL Garden

  • Patchen Community Square

  • 462 Halsey Community Garden

  • Tranquility Farm

  • Brownsville Student Farm

  • Imani Garden

  • New Harvest Community Garden

  • Green Valley Communtiy Garden and Farmers Market

The map below shows which properties were included in the list, which properties in HPD's inventory were not included and where the gardens included in the list are located. Click the image for a larger version. 

596 Acres presents the Urban Reviewer on the Queens Museum Panorama

23 December 2014

596 Acres presents

Reviewing Renewal

on the Queens Museum Panorama

January 11 to February 8, 2015

596 Acres will present all 155+ urban renewal plans that the City has ever adopted in an intervention directly on the Panorama of the City of New York, realizing the online Urban Reviewer map on a 1:1200 scale of the 9,335 square foot Panorama.  

New York City began to adopt “urban renewal plans” in 1949 to get federal funding to acquire land, relocate the people living there, demolish the structures and make way for new public and private development. The legacy of these neighborhood master plans remains active across the city, from sites like Lincoln Center to the many vacant lots cleared in East New York and Bushwick for projects that were never completed. Even after federal funding for the program was cut in 1974, New York City continued to adopt renewal plans for neighborhoods - 82 plan areas, where the city has eminent domain power to take private property for the public purpose of eliminating blight and economic “under-performance,” came into being between 1975 and the present.  

Urban renewal transforms the city, and changes the lives of many New Yorkers, for better or worse. Over 60 plan for areas of the city remain active today. Some communities are taking advantage of active plan areas to make community aspirations into official plans.

What can we learn from the continuing story of urban renewal in NYC?


Curator: Paula Z. Segal, Esq., 596 Acres, Inc.  

Exhibition Design: Mary Bereschka, Greg Mihalko, Stephen von Muehlen

Design: Partner & Partners

Event Production: Amy Fitzgerald, Oksana Mironova

Exhibition made possible thanks to the support of Mapzen and the Queens Museum.

All events are free. Some RSVPs required.


Sunday, January 11, 2015


12:30pm - 2pm, meet in the Queens Museum lobby

A Willet’s Point Walk

A walking tour of the Willets Point Urban Renewal Area with Dr. Jack Eichenbaum, Queens Borough Historian, will start from, and return to, the Queens Museum. East of Citifield (the New York Mets baseball stadium) is a sewerless hardscrabble area of auto junkyards and related businesses that has twice beaten back attempts at redevelopment. But as it is located between the new stadium and a booming Chinatown in Flushing, public and private interests are again trying to transform “Willets Point.” We’ll confront ecological issues and learn why “Willets Point”  is a misnomer.

RSVP required; participation is limited.

Dr. Jack Eichenbaum holds the title of Queens Borough Historian, and a Ph.D. in urban geography (University of Michigan, 1972), where his dissertation was titled Magic, Mobility and Minorities in the Urban Drama. On the empirical level, it involved a study of the urban renewal of a multi-ethnic neighborhood in Detroit. He is a lifelong observer of NYC and other large cities around the world. Eichenbaum’s expertise lies particularly in quantitative methods, historical urban geography, migration, ethnicity, and technological change. More information can be found at:

2pm - 3:30pm, 2nd floor theater

Film Presentation: The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, 2011, Chad Freidrichs, 83 min

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth explores the social, economic and legislative issues that led to the decline of conventional public housing in America, and the city centers in which they resided, while tracing the personal and poignant narratives of several of the residents of the notorious Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex in St. Louis. More info here:

RSVP on Facebook.

3:30 - 4pm, panorama

"Who Makes A Neighborhood?"

A reading by author DW Gibson and a film: Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden, 2011, Harvey Wang & Amy Brost, 6 min.

DW Gibson is the author of Not Working: People Talk About Losing a Job and Finding Their Way in Today’s Changing Economy. His work has appeared in such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post,The Daily Beast, The Village Voice, and The Caravan. He has been a contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered and is the director of the documentary, Not Working. His next book, The Edge Becomes the Center: An Oral History of 21st Century Gentrification, will be published in April 2015. For more information:

Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden, 2011, Harvey Wang & Amy Brost, 6 min

In 1975, on the crime-ridden Lower East Side, Adam Purple started a garden behind his tenement home. By 1986, The Garden of Eden was world famous and had grown to 15,000 square feet. For Adam – a social activist, philosopher, artist, and revolutionary – the Garden was the medium of his political and artistic expression. It was razed by the city in 1986 after a protracted court battle. This film documents the creation of this artwork and its ultimate destruction.  Winner of the "Neighborhood Award" at the Lower East Side Film Festival.

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4pm - 6pm, panorama & 2nd floor theater

Opening Reception with public presentations in the panorama by the 596 Acres Urban Reviewer Team & Mapzen.

RSVP required.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


12:15pm - 1:45pm, 2nd floor theater


A discussion of the law of eminent domain with Michael Rikon, Esq. & Paula Z. Segal, Esq. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits for free to attorneys who attend provided by the CUNY Community Legal Resource Network. All welcome.


RSVP required here for attorneys to recieve credits.

Michael Rikon is a shareholder in Goldstein, Rikon, Rikon & Houghton, P.C., which has concentrated its practice in eminent domain cases since 1925. From 1973 to 1980, Mr. Rikon served as a Law Clerk to the Honorable Albert A. Blinder of the New York State Court of Claims. He began his legal career as an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of  New York, a position he held from 1969 to 1973, where he was a senior trial attorney in the Condemnation Division. From 1973 to 1975, Mr. Rikon was a consultant to the New York State Commission on Eminent Domain, which drafted the EDPL. He earned his B.S. at the New York Institute of Technology; his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School, and a Masters of Law from New York University School of Law. Michael Rikon is a frequent lecturer on the Law of Eminent Domain. He is rated “A.V.” by Martindale-Hubbell, “Best Lawyer” and “Super Lawyer.” He is listed in Who’s Who in America Law.

Paula Z. Segal, Esq. is the founding director of 596 Acres, New York City's land access advocacy organization. She is a graduate of CUNY School of Law at Queens College, where she was a Haywood Burns Fellow in Human and Civil Rights.  


CLE Credits provided by Community Legal Resource Network at CUNY School of Law  - CLE credit will be offered only to those attorneys completing entire sessions; attorneys attending only part of a session are not eligible for partial credit.  Attorneys arriving late are welcome to attend the program but will not be eligible for credit.  Attorneys wishing to receive CLE credit must sign in the program's attendance register prior to and following the CLE program; once a speaker begins the program, the sign-in sheets will be removed.  Similarly, attorneys leaving the session early are also ineligible for CLE credit.

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2pm - 4pm, 2nd floor workshop

Reviewing Mitchell Lama: The Past, Present and Future of Affordable Housing in NYC

Planners Network NYC hosts a discussion on the past, present and future of the Mitchell Lama program, one of New York's most important and embattled affordable housing initiatives. With Charles Chawalko on the history of the program and the experience at Southbridge Towers; Jackie Peters, of the Putnam Coalition, on organizing against predatory equity in a Harlem Mitchell Lama rental; and Alexis Smallwood on the experience of tenants at Ocean Village in the Rockaway. Moderated by Katie Goldstein, Executive Director of Tenants & Neighbors.

Planners Network is an association of professionals, activists, academics, and students involved in physical, social, economic, and environmental planning in urban and rural areas, who promote fundamental change in our political and economic systems.

Charles Chawalko performed digital cartography and data corrections on the Urban Reviewer map ( His interest in the project came from his own thesis work and struggle concerning the potential privatization of his Mitchell-Lama cooperative (South Bridge Towers) that was born out of the Brooklyn Bridge Southwest Urban Renewal Plan.

Jackie Peters has long been a tenant organizer and a leader in the Putnam Coalition, a group of residents fighting to keep their homes affordable.

Alexis Smallwood is the Community Outreach Coordinator at Rockaway Wildfire and a resident of Ocean Village/Arverne View, a Mitchell Lama development recently transitioned to a private owner.

Katie Goldstein is the Executive Director of Tenants & Neighbors, a grassroots organization that helps tenants build and effectively wield their power to preserve at-risk affordable housing and strengthen tenants' rights in New York.


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4pm - 6pm, 2nd floor theater

Film Presentation: It Took 50 Years: Frances Goldin and the Struggle for Cooper Square


A preview of It Took 50 Years, followed by a discussion about lessons for organizers about the urban renewal process from members of the Cooper Square Committee.

It Took 50 Years: Frances Goldin and the Struggle for Cooper Square, 2014, Kathryn Barnier, Ryan Joseph & David Powell, 15 min clip

Robert Moses was New York City’s “Master Builder”, a force of nature that transformed the built environment and the lives of millions of New Yorkers. When Moses came to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1959, he intended to level the area known as “Cooper Square” in the name of urban renewal. Little did Moses know that he would meet his match in the Cooper Square Committee (CSC) and in Frances Goldin, the committee’s tenacious co-founder. More info here:


In addition the filmmakers, Val Orselli of the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association, Harriet Putterman of the Cooper Square Community Land Trust, and a representative from Picture the Homeless will lead the discussion.


Dave Powell was raised and still lives in Brooklyn, NY. He has worked as an organizer for the Metropolitan Council on Housing, the New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition and the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance. He is currently the Director of Organizing and Advocacy at the Fifth Avenue Committee in Brooklyn. Dave has been quoted on housing issues by the New York Times, The New York Daily News, Crain’s New York Business, The Village Voice, City Limits and other media. The Village Voice recognized his activism on behalf of New York City tenants in its “Best Of 2003” issue. Dave is a former member of the National Writers Union (UAW local 1981) and has been a collective member of ABC No Rio on the Lower East Side for over 20 years. He holds a BA in film production from and a Masters in Urban Planning, both from Hunter College.

Ryan Joseph was born in Trinidad, West Indies and now resides in Jersey City, NJ.  As a freelance documentary photographer and filmmaker his work focuses on documenting and bringing to light marginalized communities and subcultures. Ryan has displayed at Aljira Center for Contemporary Art in Newark, New Jersey and The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore, Maryland, among other venues. He has been published in The New York Times, Jet Magazine, En Foco Photography Magazine, Urban Ink Magazine and has worked as a still photographer for Asante film production, The Black Candle. His cinematography credits include The Rink which he co-produced.

Kathryn Barner, editor of It Took 50 Years, has over 20 years of documentary post-production experience. Her credits include My Brooklyn (2012), Banished: How Whites Drove Blacks Out of Town in America (2006) and The Gun Deadlock (2001.

Cooper Square Committee’s mission is to work with area residents to contribute to the preservation and development of affordable, environmentally healthy housing and community/ cultural spaces so that the Cooper Square area remains racially, economically and culturally diverse. The Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association and Cooper Square Community Land Trust were created in furtherance of that mission.


Picture the Homeless is a lead organization in the New York City Community Land Initiative (, which is working to expand the opportunities for putting NYC land in community trust.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

12pm - 1pm, panorama

The Manhattan Projects Tour

“Around the city” tour of four completed NYC urban renewal projects (United Nations, Stuyvesant Town, Lincoln Square/Center, East Harlem) on the panorama with Samuel Zipp, author of Manhattan Projects: the Rise and Fall of Urban Renewal in Cold War New York.

Samuel Zipp is an Associate Professor of American Studies and Urban Studies at Brown University and the author of Manhattan Projects: The Rise and Fall of Urban Renewal in Cold War New York. He has written articles and reviews for a number of publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Baffler, Metropolis, Cabinet, and In These Times.

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1pm - 2:30pm, 2nd floor theater

Before Lincoln Center

Organized by Oksana Mironova

Screenings of films Rompierdo Puertas (Break and Enter) (1971) & The Case against Lincoln Center (1968), both from Third World Newsreel, framed and followed a discussion with Jennifer Hock and Mariana Mogilevich on the city-facilitated transformation of the Upper West Side.

Rompierdo Puertas (Break and Enter), 1971, Third World Films, 42 min

Rompierdo Puertas details the takeover of buildings by Latino families in New York City slated for urban renewal. The film highlights the community’s struggle against displacement and their determination to obtain equality and decent housing.

The Case against Lincoln Center, 1968, Third World Films, 12 min

The Case against Lincoln Center depicts the building of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, that displaced 20,000 Latino families. Juxtaposing the atmosphere of Lincoln Center with the vibrant street culture of a displaced neighborhood, the film correctly predicts the process by which the West Side was to be turned into a high-rent area for the upper middle class.

Mariana Mogilevich is an urban and architectural historian and native New Yorker. She writes about the design and politics of the built environment in general and on public space and open space in New York in particular, and has taught urban studies and architectural history at Harvard and New York University.

Jennifer Hock is an architectural and urban historian with an interest in the impact of social movements on design and planning practice and the creation of urban space. She received her PhD from Harvard University in 2012. She has lectured and published on Jane Jacobs, mid-century American architecture, and urban renewal, and is working on a book on architecture, planning, and the civil rights movement in Boston. She currently teaches at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Oksana Mironova is a researcher and writer focused on housing policy, urban development, and alternative economies. She was born in the former Soviet Union and grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Urban Omnibus, BKLYNR, Progressive Planning, and Shelterforce.

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2:30pm - 4pm, 2nd floor workshop space

Williamsburg’s South Side with Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna, Shekar Krishnan, Anusha Venkataraman and The Broadway Triangle Community Coalition.

Diana Reyna is the Deputy Brooklyn Borough President and has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to communities across Brooklyn through government service and advocacy since 2001.  As a New York City Council Member representing the 34th District (that includes the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick in Brooklyn as well as Ridgewood, Queens) she garnered citywide attention for her efforts in championing affordable housing, economic development, improving equity in education, park space and waste as well as expanding youth and senior services.  As the first woman of Dominican descent elected to office in New York State she focuses on ways she can advocate for the over 2.6 million residents of New York City’s most diverse borough. Reyna supports innovation and high-tech job creation, investing in women or minority owned small businesses, as well as business incubators that facilitate the critical work of entrepreneurs in creating start-up companies.  Reyna was born and raised in Williamsburg’s ‘Southside,’ and now lives in Bushwick with her husband, a sergeant in the New York City Police Department, and two boys. She attended the

Transfiguration School in Williamsburg and Pace University in Pleasantville, New York.

The Broadway Triangle Community Coalition (BTCC) represents the authentic voices of community residents from Williamsburg and northern Bedford-Stuyvesant calling for an inclusive public planning process and integrated affordable housing in response to the city’s efforts to rezone the Broadway Triangle in Brooklyn. This coalition includes over 40 church, civic, educational and community-based organizations that represent the area’s largely Latino, African-American, and Hasidic communities.  The coalition formed six years ago to advocate for fair housing and a transparent, participatory rezoning process for this Urban Renewal Area—the largest plot of vacant land in the borough for affordable housing.  The BTCC advocates for a comprehensive plan for the Broadway Triangle, one that ends longstanding residential segregation in this area of Brooklyn, maximizes the affordable housing that can be built given the great need in this area, and provides sustainable resources for the surrounding low-income communities.

Shekar Krishnan is the Director of the Preserving Affordable Housing Program at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A (“Brooklyn A”).  He leads its fair housing and community-based advocacy on behalf of tenant and neighborhood groups in North Brooklyn.  He is one of the lead lawyers on Brooklyn A’s Broadway Triangle fair housing case against the City of New York, which the organization started five years ago.  Shekar was also an associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, serving as pro bono counsel to Brooklyn A and as a member of its board.  He clerked for Senior United States District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein in the Eastern District of New York.  Shekar received his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School, where he was a Clarence Darrow Scholar and contributing editor of the Michigan Law Review, and his undergraduate degree from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.  He is a member of the board of directors of Citizens Union and El Puente.  Shekar’s publications include “Advocacy for Tenant and Community Empowerment” (CUNY Law Review), “Lock Up Crooked Landlords” (N.Y. Daily News Op-ed), and “Without an Attorney, the Scales of Justice Are Weighted Against the Poor” (New York State Bar Association Pro Bono News).

Anusha Venkataraman is a hybrid urban planner, writer, artist, and activist, whose work focuses on empowering communities to lead change rather than respond to it. She is currently Director of the Green Light District initiative at El Puente, a community human rights institution in Brooklyn, NY. The Green Light District is a grassroots ten-year campaign for sustainability, equity, community wellness, and Latino cultural expression in the Southside or "Los Sures" neighborhood. Anusha edited the books Intractable Democracy: Fifty Years of Community-Based Planning (2010) and Beyond Zuccotti Park: Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space (2012, with colleagues), and is a contributing editor and writer for Outpost Journal, an annual publication that features art and activism in small and medium-sized U.S. cities. Anusha completed her masters degree in City and Regional Planning at the Pratt Institute, with a focus on arts and community development, and a bachelors degree in International Relations at Brown University.

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4pm - 6pm, walk through the panorama and conversation in 2nd floor workshop space



with Queens Borough Historian Dr. Jack Eichenbaum, Kalin Callaghan of the United Peninsula Working to Achieve Responsible Development (UPWARD) coalition in Rockaway and others to be announced.

Dr. Jack Eichenbaum holds the title of Queens Borough Historian, and a Ph.D. in urban geography (University of Michigan, 1972), where his dissertation was titled Magic, Mobility and Minorities in the Urban Drama. On the empirical level, it involved a study of the urban renewal of a multi-ethnic neighborhood in Detroit. He is a lifelong observer of NYC and other large cities around the world. Eichenbaum’s expertise lies particularly in quantitative methods, historical urban geography, migration, ethnicity, and technological change. More information can be found at: /

Kalin Callaghan, an organizer with Rockaway Wildfire, grew up amongst artists and activists in Rockaway Beach. She studied fine art and children’s  studies at Brooklyn College, and has worked as an artistic instructor for the Rockaway Artists Alliance for 10+ years. Peripherally involved in political activism since her teen years, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy thrust her into purposeful community  organizing on a larger scale. The destruction of her hometown, and rebuilding and redevelopment efforts to follow, compelled Kalin to  work to ensure that her community would both lead and benefit from the recovery process. She has coordinated a campaign to develop a Community Benefits Agreement for Arverne East. She is raising two boys in the Rockaways.

The United Peninsula Working to Achieve Responsible Development (UPWARD) coalition is based in Rockaway, Queens. The grassroots coalition is focused on equitable development in the 81-acre portion of the Arverne Urban Renewal Plan Area that has been empty for over 40 years.

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

12pm  - 1pm, 2nd floor theater

Film Presentation: The Rink
with filmmaker Q & A 

The Rink, 2014, Sarah Friedland & Ryan Joseph, 55 min

Branch Brook Park Roller Rink, located in Newark, NJ, is one of the few remaining urban rinks of its kind. This concrete structure is nestled in a public park bordered by public housing and a highway. Upon first glance, the exterior resembles a fallout shelter; however, the streamers and lights of the interior are reminiscent of 1970s roller discos. This documentary depicts a space cherished by skaters and a city struggling to move beyond its past and forge a new narrative amidst contemporary social issues. More info here:


Sarah Friedland's documentary films and installations are concerned with personal stories that reveal larger histories and intricacies about place and society. Friedland’s works with Esy Casey have screened widely in the US and abroad and have been supported by grants from the Jerome Foundation, the Paul Newman Foundation, the William H. Prusoff Foundation, The Princess Grace Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Center for Asian American Media. In 2009, after the debut of her feature documentary Thing With No Name, she was named one of the “Top 10 Independent Filmmakers to Watch” by the Independent Magazine. She is a recipient of the 2014 Paul Robeson award from the Newark Museum for her feature documentary The Rink. Her recent documentary Jeepney (directed by Esy Casey produced by Esy Casey and Sarah Friedland) will be broadcast on PBS in 2015. She is a 2014 LABA House of Study fellow and is currently working on two projects: Memorials (with Esy Casey), a feature documentary about the way America memorializes its dead; and 5 x Lydda, a documentary video installation. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Film and Film Studies at Wagner College.


Ryan Joseph was born in Trinidad, West Indies and now resides in Jersey City, NJ.  As a freelance documentary photographer and filmmaker his work focuses on documenting and bringing to light marginalized communities and subcultures. Ryan has displayed at Aljira Center for Contemporary Art in Newark, New Jersey and The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore, Maryland, among other venues. He has been published in The New York Times, Jet Magazine, En Foco Photography Magazine, Urban Ink Magazine and has worked as a still photographer for Asante film production, The Black Candle.


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1pm - 3pm, 2nd floor workshop space

What happens to a neighborhood “renewed?”

Strategies, tactics and tools of community participation in response to urban renewal. Attorney Amy Laura Cahn and historian Marci Reaven will talk about the disempowering force of “blight” declarations and role of community planning boards and people’s plans, looking at New York City and Eastwick, Philadelphia--the largest urban renewal site in the USA. Activists from the contested Seward Park Urban Renewal Area on Manhattan’s Lower East Side will join the conversation, and Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani and the Layered SPURA / City Studio project from the New School & Buscada will host a pop-up exhibition and lead an interactive workshop in which participants will be invited to take on roles in a community struggle over its future.

Marci Reaven is the Vice President of History Exhibits at the New York Historical Society, and a former director of the Place Matters project (

Amy Laura Cahn, Esq. is a lawyer at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and Director of the Garden Justice Legal Initiative. Amy Laura provides legal and advocacy support to community gardens and farms in historically disinvested communities, and works on environmental justice issues. In 2014, her article “On Retiring Blight as Policy and Making Eastwick Whole” was published in Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.

Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani is a photographer, urbanist and curator, and is the creator of the Layered SPURA project, a six-year public art, activist and teaching project in conjunction with her City Studio class at the New School. Gabrielle is co-founder of Buscada (, an interdisciplinary practice on place and dialogue, and is Assoc. Director of Civic Engagement Initiatives and professor of Urban Studies at the New School. She holds a PhD in Environmental Psychology from the Graduate Center, CUNY and her creative research addresses the experience & politics of everyday place in London, Buenos Aires, Oakland, CA and New York.

The Layered SPURA / City Studio project, created by Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani, explores the complexity of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) on the Lower East Side. Over 40 years ago, the City of New York cleared 14 square blocks on the south side of Delancey Street, yet most of the planned housing on the site was never built. Still primarily used as parking lots, but now the subject of large-scale development, the site has long been contested by a divided neighborhood. The Layered SPURA/City Studio project has built long-term collaborations between community organizations and New School students to create exhibitions, art and research to foster new spaces for conversations about SPURA's  future.

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3pm - 4pm, panorama

Urban Renewal is Scapegoated to Justify Current Conditions of Spatial Domination, an Artist Walk & Talk with Damon Rich

Damon Rich is a designer, planner, and visual artist. He will present work about and around urban renewal, including exhibitions The City Without a Ghetto (2003), Abuse of Power: The SPURA Story (2006), Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center (2007–9) and Mix and Match (Nevarca–>New Ark) (2010). At the Queens Museum in 2009, Rich's Cities Destroyed for Cash used 1431 plastic markers to map every block in New York City with three or more foreclosure filings on 1-3 family homes onto the Panorama of New York City. Damon will also discuss applications of planning exhibitions for practice in his work as founder of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) and Planning Director for the City of Newark, New Jersey.


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4pm – 6pm, 2nd floor workshop space

From Redlining to Gentrification

Program by the University of Orange with Dr. Mindy Fullilove, Molly Rose Kaufman, Rod Wallace, Havanna Fisher, Aubrey Murdock and the film Urban Renewal is People Removal (2005).

Mindy Thompson Fullilove, M.D. is the President of the University of Orange.  She is also a board-certified psychiatrist who is interested in the links between the environment and mental health. Under the rubric of the psychology of place, Dr. Fullilove began to examine the mental health effects of such environmental processes as violence, rebuilding, segregation, urban renewal, and mismanaged toxins. She has published numerous articles and six books including Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America's Sorted-Out Cities, Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It, and House of Joshua: Meditations on Family and Place.

Rodrick Wallace received an undergraduate degree in mathematics, and a PhD in physics, from Columbia University. He worked in the property insurance industry, and then as technical director of a public interest group, examining the impacts of policy and socioeconomic structure on public health, safety, and order. These efforts involved adaptation of analytic methods from ecosystem theory to the study of administrative data sets. After postdoctoral studies in the epidemiology of mental disorders, he received an Investigator Award in Health Policy Research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. His peer reviewed publications have been largely in the social sciences and public health, with more recent books and papers focused on evolutionary process and cognition, at and across various modes, scales, and levels of organization. He is presently a Research Scientist in the Division of Epidemiology at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, associated with the Columbia University Medical Center.

Havanna Fisher is a budding artist from Harlem, New York. She is a high school of  Fashion Industries graduate and a recent graduate of the New School. She received a Bachelors’ of Fine Arts for fashion design from at Parson’s School of Design as well as a Bachelor’s of Liberal Arts for dance from Eugene Lang. Havanna has long been interested in using the skills and techniques that she has acquired to combine the arts with education to bring about political awareness and thus probable change within the American landscape of ideological identity.

Molly Rose Kaufman is the Provost of University of Orange.

Aubrey Murdock is the Academic Dean of University of Orange.

Urban Renewal is People Removal, 2005, Sara Booth, 23 min

Urban Renewal is People Removal brings uprooted residents together to weave a people's history of Newark starting in the forties and continuing up until today. Urban renewal is not a thing of the past. Many large housing projects, whose construction displaced thousands, are now being torn down under the same banners that brought them into being less than 50 years ago. Written by Mindy Fullilove.

The University of Orange is a free people’s university based in Orange, NJ, that builds collective capacity for people to create equitable cities.  For more information visit

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Sunday, February 8, 2015 

3pm - 4pm, panorama


Curator Walk & Talk: Paula Z. Segal

Paula Z. Segal is the Director of 596 Acres, New York City’s community land access advocacy organization. In addition to supporting 30 successful neighborhood campaigns for official community access to vacant publicly owned lots and transform them into gardens and pocket parks, the organization looks for opportunities for residents to be in the charge of what happens to their neighborhoods. She is the curator for Reviewing Renewal.

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4pm – 6pm, 2nd floor theater

Reception, Discussion & Film Presentation: The Tragedy of Urban Renewal: The destruction and survival of a New York City neighborhood

The Tragedy of Urban Renewal: The destruction and survival of a New York City neighborhood, 2011, Reason TV, 6 min


The Tragedy of Urban Renewal: The destruction and survival of a New York City neighborhood depicts New York City's Manhattantown (1951) - one of the first projects authorized under urban renewal. The Manhattantown project destroyed six blocks on New York City's Upper West Side, including an African-American community that dated to the turn of the century. The city sold the land for a token sum to build a middle-class housing development. Then came the often repeated bulldoze-and-abandon phenomenon: with little financial skin in the game, the developers let the demolished land sit vacant for years.

596 Acres in 2014!

16 December 2014

Read about our most recent wonderful year by opening our annual report: 

Please support communities taking control of their city by giving a tax-exempt donation:

Ten New Community Controlled Spaces Take the Places of Vacant Lots in 2014 Alone

29 September 2014

Through our staff’s facilitation and the efforts of neighbors across the City, since January 1, 2014, ten new official community spaces have been created:

1278 Myrtle Avenue (Bushwick, Brooklyn, licensed & transferred to the Parks Department);
Glenmore Grows
(East NY, Brooklyn, with the Cypress Hills Development Corporation); 
Ashford Variety Garden (East NY, Brooklyn, with the Cypress Hills Development Corporation);
Ashford Teaching Garden (East NY, Brooklyn, with the Cypress Hills Development Corporation);
Chestnut Street Community Garden (East NY, Brooklyn, with the Cypress Hills Development Corporation);
Harlem Valley Garden (in East Harlem);
Electric Ladybug Harlem Serenity Garden
(in East Harlem);
Mandela Park (in East Harlem);
Green Space on 4th (Gowanus, Brooklyn); and
Smiling Hogshead Ranch (lease signed with MTA, Long Island City, Queens).



In addition, we have secured the MTA’s approval of our architect’s plans for a pocket park in East New York on the roof of the A train tunnel; the park will be run by the Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Service. A lease is imminent. Dozens of other spaces have made progress on their campaigns with our guidance and will be official in the coming months.  In December, we helped save a neighborhood space in Queens and facilitate its transfer to the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust. The Merrick Marsden Neighbors Association (MMNA). MMNA had maintained the space since 1967; 596 Acres connected them with attorneys Mohen & Segal LLP to represent them for free in court so that they did not lose the land last year to a tax foreclosure and in the transfer to the Trust.

We have also analyzed and made vacant municipal land data available online for Staten Island, mapped the history of Urban Renewal Planning in NYC (1949-present,, a Planetizen Top Ten Website of 2014) and published a new print New York City Advocate's Guide to Community Land AccessWe have been recognized as land access experts in the press, including in How You Can Turn New York City's Vacant Lots into Community Gardens ( and Housing Plan Targets Vacant Lots; Some Neighbors Leery (CityLimits). 

Help us keep making this immense impact in all of NYC's neighborhoods by coming to our party this week: Thursday, October 2 at 7pm at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO, Brooklyn. More details here

A Reflection from Our East NY Farms! Extern

27 August 2014

We've been lucky to have Faith Titilawo with us this summer, an extern from East NY Farms! Below are her thoughts and reflections from ten weeks with us. Thank you for everything, Faith!

Photo by Murray Cox. 

As the summer comes to an end, so does my time interning for 596 Acres. I think it is only appropriate that I write a reflection on my time at 596 Acres and how it affected and influenced me.

When I first started interning for 596 I had certain expectations, but like most things in life, my expectations were nothing close to reality. In fact reality was way better. I admit at first I was overwhelmed by the amount of information that was being thrown at me about land access and services that 596 Acres provided for communities. On my second day here I went to a meeting out in the Rockaways with people from the neighborhood who wanted to turn an empty lot in their community to a garden. It was inspiring to sit amongst people from 596 acres, Rockaway Wildfire, and community members as they discussed what they would like to see in their neighborhood. I could feel the excitement and determination humming through the group as they strategized on the next steps. I believe this is when it hit me, when I was finally able to understand the work that 596 Acres is doing and how important it is. Because of this I was able to absorb information better and understand the intricate details of accessing land in New York City.

Most of the programs and internships that I have been privileged to participate in were mostly structured. However, while interning at 596 I was given more freedom and therefore more responsibility with the work I was expected to complete. Paula gave me a general idea on how she wanted me to complete the project but gave me free reign with the project. I believe the best part of my internship was the diversity of projects I was responsible for. I was allowed to take initiatives on the projects I was assigned to.

Throughout the internship I felt very included.  I loved that I was privy to the inner workings of a non-profit organization. From budget meetings, to gala planning and lot labeling I experienced all that 596 acres had to offer. I learned many critical skills that I believe will take me far in life. I learned a lot about city agencies and the big players that control land in NYC.

Although my internship was fun, I did face some challenges. During my second week I was giving the task to write a How-to guide on starting a farmer’s market. It was the first time I have ever attempted to do something like this. While writing the article I became very frustrated with research and dealing with city agencies to get the information I needed to write the article. Fortunately, I had people like Paula and Mary that gave me feedback on my article and were very positive and encouraging. They took an active interest in my learning and I felt comfortable coming to them when I had a question.      

Going to Governors Island every Friday and Saturday to introduce the new Urban Reviewer website was one of my favorite memories during this internship. The island was beautiful and I got to meet so many people from here in New York City and from around the world. I remember meeting and connecting with folks from New York City, France, Brazil, Australia, etc. Through this experience I began to feel more comfortable talking to people and learning to read my audience in order to tweak my speeches to cater to their interest.

All in all, I really enjoyed my time at 596 Acres. I learned more than I expected to learn and met some incredible people. This journey taught me to be more independent, responsible, open-minded, patient, and organized. My time at 596 Acres sparked in me,  an interest in policy making and its effect in people’s lives. As I move on to my next step in life, college, I hope to major in Public Policy and build on the things I learned from this internship.  I highly recommend this internship to anyone who wants to learn about their city, connect with people, and gain some experience and knowledge on public policy. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at 596 Acres, it is an internship I will always remember.