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Learning About NYC's Vacancies

A land access advocacy curriculum and educational tool by 596 Acres. 596 Acres is a public education project aimed at making communities aware of the land resources around them. With the twin goals of food sovereign cites and community self-determination, 596 Acres is helping neighbors form connections to the vacant lots in their lives. New York City has a paucity of green space per person and the constant refrain is that there is not enough space here for all the awesome ideas that people have for how to green their neighborhoods and get to know their neighbors. It turns out the space is all around us—especially concentrated in neighborhoods that need it most. 596 Acres is working to connect communities to the information they need to gain control of their environments.

Teaching about Vacancies: Help others find the lot in their life! Do you want to help young people imagine the future of their community? Want to grow something new on a vacant lot? This tool is for you! The activities presented in the following pages are matched to NY State Learning Standards designed for students ages 6 and up, but the basics of each activity can be used with students of all ages and in any learning environment. The curriculum presents three important ways to organize around land: brainstorming vacant lots, identifying strengths among friends/community, and making fliers. Feel free to use or adapt this curriculum anywhere for anyone—in the classroom, in the garden, as part of after school programs, community-based education, or anywhere else!

Tell us how YOU teach about vacancies. We’d love to know how you teach about vacancies and what ideas you have for adapting our activities so we can share your amazing teaching and curriculum ideas with our 596 Acres community. Did you teach the activities in this curriculum as part of a lesson plan? Do you have sample student work from these activities that you would like to share with others? Do you already teach youth to get involved in their communities by transforming their environment? Share your stories and ideas with us:

Thanks for exploring our curriculum materials! Be sure to visit us at where you can view our map of vacant land in NYC, watch a lot, start organizing, find helpful resources, or connect with neighbors and organizations already working to get land access.

You might also be interested in the following resources for learning about NYC's vacancies: 

- The Urban Design Lab's report The Potential for Urban Agriculture in New York City, which contains a series of interesting maps regarding vacant lots public and private in all five boroughs.

New Yorkers for Parks, formerly The Park Association of NYC, published a booklet in 1969 geniusly titled A Little About Lots. With their permission, we're making it available here as a PDF. It's a nice primer on making things happen in public and private land in any city. There are some parts that we wouldn't recommend following to the letter (for one, growing vegetables in the soil!), but we appreciate that the first chapter, "Getting People Together to Help", focuses on organizing communities.

- Filling New York's 'Vacancies' by Jeremy Miller (07 Jan 2008)(pdf).

- The Center for Urban Pedagogy made a wonderful film with students in Brooklyn about the lots in their lives: 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

The Good, The Bad & The Empty from the Center for Urban Pedagogy on Vimeo.