Welcome to Intern Insights, a series of blog posts from 596 Acres’ 2017 summer interns!
Hi, I’m Tim, an intern with 596 Acres this summer. I’m also a graduate student at The New School studying Theories of Urban Practice, and an active member (and compost turner!) of a community garden in Brooklyn to which 596 Acres has provided invaluable organizing and legal support.
My time this summer is being spent continuing the work 596 Acres has begun; identifying places and spaces within the city that could be made available for community-controlled public infrastructure. Founding Director Paula Z. Segal does a great job of explaining it here (https://theleapblog.org/this-land-is-your-land-re-imagining-local-public-space-from-parks-to-post-offices/); by utilizing public records, the open-source mapping technology of Oasis and Google Maps, and on-the-ground experience, we are creating not only a map, but a network that anyone can join, to both defend existing spaces from becoming luxury housing and creating a more socially and ecologically just city.
While I was working last week at an outside day job, completely unrelated to my work with land reclamation or community gardens, I overheard two coworkers have a conversation about wanting to join a community garden. I came over to listen, and they had already pulled up the Living Lots NYC page, where neighbors of theirs in Rockaway, Queens, were organizing a garden. While still a small triangle of soil, there was contact information with folks my coworkers had never met. My coworker said that she walks her dog past this lot every day, thinking about what she could plant, but the time and energy involved were too intimidating to accomplish on her own. Suddenly, with allies the task became feasible, and new relationships with our neighbors have been formed.
In a city and society where individualism and self-made entrepreneurship are celebrated and elevated to almost mythical status, we might forget the power everyone possess. Activism and community-making are not done solely by tireless individuals – although I can assure you, 596 Acres and the organizations they collaborate with seem entirely composed of tireless individuals – but also by the contributions of the many, by uniting neighbors, coworkers, and residents. In the chaotic and diverse collage of New York City, our shared humanity must work together to fight against corruption, navigate legal and bureaucratic complexity, and secure our right to safe, livable, equal, and healthy communities.
If you’re interested in the step-by-step instructions of how to join us in mapping vacant public buildings in parks throughout the five boroughs, anyone with a computer can follow these steps (http://596acres.org/help-find-unused-parks-buildings/#instructions). Stay tuned for more updates from myself and other interns.
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Tim is a designer and aspiring urbanist from Oakland, California. He is passionate about making equitable and resilient communities. He also creates interactive sculpture, builds scenery for theatre and film, and writes. He is a graduate student in Theories of Urban Practice at Parsons, The New School.