The most impacted people are in the best position to lead and sustain the development of our neighborhoods! In this session facilitated by Stephanie and Mara of 596 Acres, hear from these local community land access advocates turning vacant lots across NYC into community spaces, or supporting that work with accurate data:
- Alexis Smallwood, Edgemere Coalition Community Garden in Edgemere, the Rockaways, Queens: Alexis has been leading the campaign to transform a vacant city-owned lot on Beach 43rd Street on the bay side into Edgemere Coalition Community Garden, a garden for everyone in the neighborhood designed with the senses in mind. This lot was part of the 1997 Edgemere Urban Renewal Area Plan (still active!) and has been vacant since. They are organizing to have the lot transferred from NYC Housing Development and Preservation to the inventory of NYC Parks, where the community can steward it through the GreenThumb program. Their campaign is nearly over: the transfer is currently in process! The planning and advocacy of her group led to this garden being included in NYCEDC’s Resilient Edgemere Community Plan. Lot page: https://livinglotsnyc.org/lot/59126/.
- Janice Purvis, Prospect Place Community Garden in Crown Heights, Brooklyn:
Janice and her neighbors are organizing to gain access to an abandoned public playground on Prospect Place and Albany in Crown Heights. They have put together a proposal based on community visioning, gathered hundreds of signatures, connected different neighborhood groups including parks stewards and the block association, and gained support from their community board. After completing the GreenThumb registration process and turning in their complete application, they are continuing to advocate for the land, in the inventory of the Administration of Children’s Services, to NYC Parks so they can steward it through GreenThumb. Lot page: livinglotsnyc.org/lot/59081/
- Allison Jeffrey, Far Rock Garden in Downtown Far Rockaway, Queens: Allison has been leading of the campaign to transform a vacant city-owned lot in the inventory of the Department of Sanitation at Nameoke and Augustina into a community farm in Downtown Far Rockaway. In the midst of this campaign, the City revealed its Downtown Far Rockaway Plan, which included them selling this lot to a developer to build suburban-style housing. Allison advocated to keep it public so the community can grow: she testified at each step of the ULURP, the public review that is supposed to happen whenever NYC sells our land. As a result, the disposition of this lot was removed from the plan! Now, Allison and neighbors will lead the planning process for its future, with support from the city’s administration who also now agree that an open space is needed here. Lot page: livinglotsnyc.org/lot/4155340070/
- Tiera Mack, Planner, former 596 Acres data intern:
As a summer intern in 2016, Tiera analyzed the city’s data to track the vacant city-owned lots that the city has sold for $1 since the current Mayor deBlasio assumed office in January 2014, as well as pending dispositions that can be prevented. The analysis revealed back in November 2016 that since January 1, 2014, we have given away 121 public vacant lots for a nominal fee, many for as low as $1. Of these, 102 of them went to non-profit community based developers, but in 65 of them, for-profit developers were a partner or beneficial owner poised to make money for its investors from the land subsidy. The other 19 were simply transfers to for-profit entities. This work is supporting residents of NYC who are currently organizing to keep vacant city-owned lots from being sold to outside developers in their neighborhoods so that they can become community-stewarded resources instead.
596 Acres is NYC’s community land access advocacy organization, championing resident stewardship of land to build more just and equitable cities. We have helped over 40 groups of neighbors gain access to vacant lots to transform them into currently thriving, multipurpose, inclusive neighborhood hubs via accurate data, legal advice and technical support.
This panel is part of the Hindsight Conference, hosted by the American Planning Association’s New York Metro Chapter Diversity Committee. The day-long event will focus on diversity and social equity not solely as a topic at a conference, but as a lens through which all planning and community development should be implemented.