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Announcements

We're Hiring a Community Land Access Program Organizer!

20 May 2015

Since 2011 596 Acres' Community Land Access Program has helped 32 groups transform vacant, City-owned pieces of land into community resources. Our online mapping tools makes information about public property available and easy to understand. We also engage neighbors by hanging up signs up on the fences and work with them to help realize community control over spaces.  As the organizer, you'll play a key role in helping neighborhood groups navigate the process of accessing land. Here's what you’ll do:


Program Management

  • Coordinate, collaborate, and strategize in tandem with Executive Director

  • Work closely with 596 Acres advisory committee, both as a staff support and strategic partners

  • Manage volunteers

  • Support development of organization’s programmatic work plan

  • Work with the Executive Director, governance board, staff and members to develop and evaluate organizing strategies

  • Generate new program ideas and work with staff and board to implement and carry out programming related to the organization’s priorities

  • Write the weekly News From the Acres

  • Develop print and web materials as needed

  • Foster a team-oriented, supportive, accountable work environment at 596 Acres

 

Outreach

  • 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, local politicians, and community-based organizations

  • Represent the organization with local and state government officials, in the media, and with private organizations

  • Use social media as outreach and organizing tool

  • Help complete a summer outreach project to visit 7 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

 

Land Access Advocacy Organizing

  • 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 intake within 48 hours

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

  • Stay current on process 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

  • Help complete a summer outreach project to visit 7 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

  • Facilitate monthly general meetings

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

  • Extreme comfort with email and filing

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

  • 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

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

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

This is part time (21 hours per week) position with benefits. Pay is $24,000 per year (negotiable if you do not want to take advantage of the benefits package). Our office is in Gowanus, Brooklyn; regular office hours are required.


To apply, submit a cover letter and resume to organizers@596acres.org by Wednesday, May 27th at 12 pm.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Brooklyn Gardeners Protecting Their Plots, In Court

03 May 2015


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Supporters of Maple Street Garden hold up a sign at Maple Street Garden: “Gardens are worth Saving!” Photo via 596 Acres.


A large solidarity group is supporting Maple Street Community Garden in its fight against eviction. At the last hearing in Housing Court on April 1st, 2015, a group of approximately two dozen supporters stood in solidarity with the gardeners from Maple Street, who are currently preparing for their next appearance in court on May 4th, 2015.


Maple Street Garden at 237 Maple Street in Prospect Lefferts Gardens is threatened with demolition by the current owner of the property, Housing Urban Development LLC (HUD LLC). The private developer has a name that sounds like a federal agency, apparently chosen to cause confusion, and a history of subprime lending and irregular title transfers. The principals behind the LLC are brothers Michael and Joseph Makhani. Both have been previously convicted of forging notary signatures and of a foreclosure scam in Queens. On April 6th, 2011, HUD LLC acquired the property from Brooklyn LLC (BK LLC), another LLC they set up. Since the Makhani brothers first acquired the property in 2003 under the name BK LLC, it has been sitting vacant and filling with garbage. The home that used to be on the lot burned down in 1999, a few years after its elderly owner who had lived there since 1968 passed away, apparently leaving no will and no heirs. After the fire, the house had to be demolished by NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development at public expense.  


In 2012 residents, led by the Maple 3 Block Association, organized and transformed the once trash-strewn vacant lot into a multipurpose garden and community space.


“The gardeners converted an abandoned, trash-filled empty lot into an attractive green space that is open 24/7 for anyone who wants to come in and enjoy it,” says Tom LaFarge, an active Maple Street gardner. “The city needs more places where its diverse population can meet for collaborative work and relaxed conversation.”

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Maple Street Community Gardeners, and joined by supporters to hear their story during an Endangered Gardens Bike Ride organized by 596 Acres and Public Space Party on April 18th, 2015.

Photo via 596 Acres.


On September 23rd, 2014 representatives of HUD LLC tried to put a sudden end to this successful community project.

“A crew of workers came in with a truck and began to dismantle the garden, getting as far as wrecking one raised bed. An alert neighbor called the cops, who came at once and stopped the destruction,” recalls Mr. LaFarge.


The Makhani brothers arrived on-site and the police demanded to see proof of ownership, but the papers they produced were inadequate, according to the police officers. The Makhanis and workmen left.


On October 18th, 2014, the gardeners found a notice in the garden, signed by an unidentified HUD LLC signatory, and entitled “TEN DAYS NOTICE TO LICENSEE TO VACATE." That notice was the beginning of a battle that is now playing out in two different Kings County Courts. The gardeners are standing their ground against the attempts by the Makhani Brothers to illegally evict them.


On Monday, May 4, the Gardeners will appear in Housing Court to continue to resist eviction. HUD LLC is kept from interfering with the property until the case is resolved.  Simultaneously, the gardeners and Paula Z. Segal, Maple Street gardener’s attorney and founder of 596 Acres, are working with elected officials to initiate a potential condemnation.


Simultaneously, they are filing a motion to intervene in an action in Kings County Supreme Court in which HUD LLC is seeking an order declaring them the proper owners of the property.


“Even though HUD LLC is aware of the gardeners presence, some their names, how to locate them to summon them to court, and that they will be impacted by the outcome of the suit, they failed to include them in the Supreme Court quiet title action,” says Paula Z. Segal, the gardeners attorney. “They are moving ahead against only the deceased former owners and heirs that they have never been able to locate. This is sneaky and we are now asking for the court’s permission to enter the case as well since its outcome will clearly affect the gardeners rights in relation to the lot that the garden is on.”


Cheryl Everett and Beverly Lewin, two homeowners in East New York who are also currently involved in a lawsuit against the Makhani brothers, came to Maple Street Garden’s Housing Court case on April 1 in support of the gardeners. Under the name H.P.D. LLC - incorporated with the same initials as the City agency “Housing Preservation and Development” - the Makhani brothers sold the properties and worked directly with a lender who provided subprime mortgages to homeowners in East New York. The houses were built with various defects, including, but not limited to, cracks in the foundation, inadequate insulation, leaky roofs, inadequate sized sewage pipes, warped flooring, undersized heating pipes to boilers and risers, and ceilings separating from walls due to moisture from leaky roofs. Facing foreclosure, 15 of them filed a lawsuit against H.P.D. LLC in 2008; the case is still in litigation in Kings County Supreme Court.


“The Makhani brothers made that purchase sound like a good deal, they tricked me into signing. The mortgage turned out as a balloon mortgage that I can’t afford, they should have never offered it to me in the first place,” says Cheryl Everett. “After the agreement was signed and problems became obvious, it was impossible to get hold of the Makhani brothers, they just took off.”


There are currently several gardens under threat. Among the supporters at Maple Street Garden’s last Housing Court appearance were organizers from Bushwick’s Eldert Street Garden, Jason Fischman and Kim Anderson, who currently are in a similarly precarious situation.


“For those of us without a private garden, community gardens are all we have,” Kim says.  “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. And we do it together.”


Eldert Street Garden has been active since 2009 on a vacant lot that was donated to a non-profit daycare for the use of a children’s garden. Five years after having transformed the once derelict lot into a flourishing garden, mysterious workers showed up to clear the property. The garden property has been transferred to a private developer without the consent of the New York State Attorney General's office.


“The question is whether the sale was legal at all,” says Kim. The law states that any time a non-profit transfers its assets, the Charities Bureau of the Attorney General's office needs to approve the transfer for consistency with the nonprofit's mission and purpose.


Roger That Garden in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is also fighting against its eviction as a result of a recent sale of the property to a private developer, TYC Real Estate. The successful garden and thriving community space opened in 2009 on a lot that sat vacant for several years after a derelict building was torn down in 2006. Last year, TYC Real Estate purchased the deed for $10 from the man who used to own and operate a hardware store on this lot before abandoning the buildings.   


Eldert Street and Roger That have already survived their own attempts at illegal eviction through lock-outs meant to stop the gardeners from gardening. Even though the illegal locks have since been removed, they still remain threatened.

What connects these gardeners is their struggle to retain to access to land that they have worked so hard to restore to useful life on behalf of their communities.


The Maple Street Community Garden case is on Monday, May 4th at 10:30am, 141 Livingston Street, Room 603, Brooklyn.


Contact: Paula Z. Segal, Esq. (646) 276-3865

More pictures available upon request.


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Photo via 596 Acres.

 

596 Acres-Inspired Project Launches in Montreal!

28 April 2015

Lande unveils its collaborative map of Montreal's vacant land

Created in September for Je vois Montréal, Lande (previously named Urburb), launched this week their first tool to facilitate the repossession of vacant land by Montrealers: the collaborative platform http://www.landemtl.com, allows residents to track down vacant land in their neighbourhood and demonstrate their interest in participating in the transformation process.

Vacant land: a vast potential for residents

According to the City's data, in 2010 there was 25 square kilometers of vacant land in Montreal. This is equal to the surface of 32 Botanical Gardens. These spaces have the potential of becoming collective gardens, parks, or recreational areas in order to enhance the quality of life in Montreal's central neighbourhoods.

The objective: form groups of neighbors and help them with their project

Thanks to the new collaborative platform, Lande connects neighbors that want to contribute to the process of transforming public or private vacant land. Lande can then help the group transforming the space with their questions regarding the regulation related to the land, negotiation with the owner, and communication. The objective of the non-profit organization is to reduce all obstacles that stand in the group's way in their project of transforming their vacant land into a collective garden, park, or recreational area.

A Land Access Advocacy Network

Lande is part of an active network of land access facilitators. Lande has benefited from the consultation of 596 Acres, the pioneer organization in land access advocacy. In the past, 596 Acres has help bring to life similar initiatives in Philadelphia (Grounded in Philly), Los Angeles (LA Open Acres) and New Orleans (Living Lots NOLA).

A long-waited and winning initiative

At Je vois Montréal, bringing together leaders from various backgrounds and aiming to breathe new life into the city, Lande is committed to facilitate the transformation of 5 vacant lots by 2017. The creation of the collaborative platform is the first step towards the realisation of this commitment.

At écoHackMTL 2014, Lande was awarded with the Food System Prize for it's potential to create durable food systems, as well as the People's Choice Prize.

About Lande

Lande facilitates the repossession of vacant lands in Montreal by residents for permanent or temporary usage. The organization helps reveal the potential of these spaces in order to enhance the quality of life in Montreal's central neighbourhoods.

 

Information:

Andréanne Maltais: 514 887-0078

info@landemtl.com 

Photo bank:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/131366549@N07/


 

We're Hiring an NYC Community Land Access Program Organizer!

27 April 2015

Since 2011 596 Acres' Community Land Access Program has helped 32 groups transform vacant, City-owned pieces of land into community resources. Our online mapping tools makes information about public property available and easy to understand. We also engage neighbors by hanging up signs up on the fences and work with them to help realize community control over spaces.  As the organizer, you'll play a key role in helping neighborhood groups navigate the process of accessing land. Here's what you’ll do:


Program Management

  • Coordinate, collaborate, and strategize in tandem with Executive Director

  • Work closely with 596 Acres advisory committee, both as a staff support and strategic partners

  • Manage volunteers

  • Support development of organization’s programmatic work plan

  • Work with the Executive Director, governance board, staff and members to develop and evaluate organizing strategies

  • Generate new program ideas and work with staff and board to implement and carry out programming related to the organization’s priorities

  • Write the weekly News From the Acres

  • Develop print and web materials as needed

  • Foster a team-oriented, supportive, accountable work environment at 596 Acres

 

Outreach

  • 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, local politicians, and community-based organizations

  • Represent the organization with local and state government officials, in the media, and with private organizations

  • Use social media as outreach and organizing tool

  • Help complete a summer outreach project to visit 7 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

 

Land Access Advocacy Organizing

  • 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 intake within 48 hours

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

  • Stay current on process 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

  • Help complete a summer outreach project to visit 7 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

  • Facilitate monthly general meetings

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

  • Extreme comfort with email and filing

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

  • 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

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

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

This is part time (21 hours per week) position with benefits. Pay is $24,000 per year (negotiable if you do not want to take advantage of the benefits package). Our office is in Gowanus, Brooklyn; regular office hours are required.


To apply, submit a cover letter and resume to organizers@596acres.org by Wednesday, May 27th at 12 pm.

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.   

2:15-2:30pm

Maple Street Community Garden

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

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

Web: maplestreetgarden.org

 

2:45-3:30pm

Roger That

98 Rogers Avenue at Park Place, Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Contact: David Vigil, (646) 643-9623

Web: rogerthatgarden.org

 

4-4:30pm  

Eldert Street Garden

315 Elder Street between Knickerbocker and Irving, Bushwick, Brooklyn

Contact: Kim Anderson, (917) 623-6408

Web: eldertstreetgarden.blogspot.com

 

5-5:20pm

Siempre Verde Garden

189 Stanton Street, Lower East Side, New York

Contact: John Donahue, jdonahue00@hotmail.com

Web: svgarden.org

 

5:20-5:35pm

Children’s Magical Garden

129 Stanton St, Lower East Side, New York

 

5:40-6pm

Elizabeth Street Garden

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

Contact: Jeannine Kiely, (917) 297-4475

Web: elizabethstreetgarden.org

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.”

http://livinglotsnyc.org/lot/3042060001/
http://596acres.org
http://bacdys.org
http://www.nyrp.org
http://www.greenlabstudio.net
http://graincollective.com

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 organizers@596acres.org 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.

Sincerely,

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, meg.fellerath@gmail.com, (718) 963-7020
Paula Z. Segal, 596 Acres/1100 Bergen Street Community Garden, paula@596acres.org (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.

Sincerely,

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: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/developers/request-for-qualifications/nihop-ncp-rfq.page (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: 

Manhattan

  • Harlem Valley

  • Jackie Robinson Community Garden

  • Harlem Grown - Greenhouse

  • Electric Ladybug Community Garden

  • Pleasant Village Community Garden

Queens

  • McKinley's Children's Garden

Brooklyn

  • 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.