Signs on Mandela Garden fence

The Tax Lien Sale Continues, Along with Our Work to Safeguard Community Property and Give Communities Leverage Over Neglected Lots and Buildings
For years, 596 Acres has been advocating for the removal of vacant lots, unoccupied buildings and properties owned by Not for Profit Organizations from the City’s program of selling the right to collect unpaid tax bills on these properties to a private for-profit bank. Last week, we testified before the City Council Committee on Finance about the role that this tax lien sale has in perpetuating cycles of neglect and undermining community stability. Although the Council voted yesterday to extend the tax lien sale program with these key properties in it, we are heartened by Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland commitment to continue working with us:

“…as we heard last week from advocates, there is still a lot of work to be done [..]. We must provide not-for-profit (NFP) organizations with better information about what they must do to get a property tax exemption, so they do not find themselves assessed taxes that they are statutorily not required to pay. The Department of Finance has clarified that if an organization is working with the agency to resolve their tax exemption status, the property will be pulled from the lien sale in almost all cases. Nonetheless, DOF must continue to engage in a robust, comprehensive and continuous outreach so that NFPs do not even get to that point. […] So while we recognize that reauthorization of the program is necessary to avoid significant loss of critical funds, we expect that the Administration will continue to work closely with us on addressing these issues. Enactment of this bill does not represent the end of the conversation.”

We will continue to advocate for legislation and policy that puts power over our neighborhoods in the hands of communities and their elected advocates instead of investors. Read about the impact on Not for Profits in our investigation, published by Urban Omnibus in November. Please donate to support our continued efforts.

Great news from NYC Housing Preservation and Development!
The City is listening to us! The Department of Housing Preservation and Development is welcoming expressions of interest from community-based organizations creating or expanding Community Land Trusts for preserving permanently affordable housing. Details here. Join 596 Acres and the New York City Community Land Initiative for a collaboration and information session on Thursday, February 2 at 6pm in downtown Manhattan. RSVP for address:

Got code?
596 Acres is looking for a Python and Django full-stack developer to help create a new website based on our Living Lots framework. You will work with our lead developer to map vacant land and provide organizing tools (similar to Living Lots NYC) in a new and exciting location. Details here. Apply by February 28.

Harlem, Manhattan – Mandela Community Garden organizers in Harlem, Manhattan are fighting to preserve the North American Wildflower meadow they created to replace a neglected lot that had been vacant for 30 years. The city announced this week that this land will be developed by a private developer who promises to build 29 units of “affordable” housing (Affordable for whom? Click here to see an example of what the City is allowed to call “affordable.) Sign the petition to save Mandela Community Garden here and sign up for updates here

Highbridge, Bronx – Neighbors continue to organize for access and improvements to Corporal Irwin A. Fischer Park located between West 169th between Nelson and Shakespeare Avenues. They will be holding a visioning meeting in February; Council Member Vanessa Gibson will join the group. Email or call Sabeena at (914) 263-2454, or Dian at (929) 575-3438, to get the date, and sign up to Organize here:

Weeksville, Brooklyn – Join organizers to finalize a design for An E.D.E.N. Garden at 45 Somers Street: the youth creating the project would like this garden to specialize in growing herbs and spices and could use the help of a designer to bring this kid-centered vision to life! Contact C. Aaron –, (347) 589-7583 for updates and sign up to Organize here:

Flatbush, Brooklyn – Neighbors are planning a community garden for youth and seniors at 2286 Church Avenue, a giant vacant lot where a neglected school building was recently demolished. Contact Malik at or Alexis at to join the effort and sign up to Organize here:

Bushwick, Brooklyn – Save the date: on March 15 at 9:30am organizers and advocates will return to court to fight for Eldert Street Garden. The New York State Attorney General’s Office has finally intervened in the case as result of 596 Acres’ advocacy. On March 15, we need to show them the community is standing with the gardeners. Contact founding garden member Kim at and sign up to Organize here:

Edgemere, Queens – Organizers are hard at work on their design for a community-run park and garden at this giant Bayside lot on Beach 43rd Street. The group held their first design meeting last week and is dedicated to include a play space for kids, gardens that will engage the five senses, and an area for eating food and socializing. To join the next meeting and give your input, contact Alexis at or (347) 608-3556, and sign up to Organize here:

Far Rockaway, Queens – Neighbors are working on a proposal to create a garden and compost site at the vacant public lot at Nameoke Street and Augustina Avenue. Join them! In the coming weeks, the group will present the plan before their Community Board and request its support. You can use this template to help collect letters of support from local organizations and businesses who support this community space. Letters of support will show the Board they are serious. Plug in with Allison: (718) 749-8830 or or by signing up to Organize here:

Greenpoint, Brooklyn – Friends of WYNC Transmitter Park are fighting to keep a developer from turning WNYC Transmitter Park into the “front yard” of a luxury building. Read more about their efforts to preserve the spirit of accessibility and openness of this public park here and here.

Downtown Manhattan – On Saturday, January 21 from 11am to 1pm, GreenThumb is hosting part two of their three part organizing workshop: “Organizing for Garden Success: By-Laws”. RSVP here. Part three of this workshop series, “Organizing for Garden Success: Panel and Q & A”, will be held on Saturday February 4 from 11am to 1pm. RSVP here for Feb. 4. Both workshops will be held at 100 Gold Street, Suite 3100.

Save the Date for the GreenThumb GrowTogether Conference: Sustaining Garden Legacies! Saturday, March 25, 2017. Check out their winter program guide here. If you are interested in hosting a table at the conference, sign up here by February 17.

Riverkeeper is hiring a NYC Water Quality Project Coordinator! Read the job description and find out how to apply here:

Billion Oyster Project is hiring a Restoration Manager and a Director of Development. Find out more about the positions and how to apply here:

Applications are now being accepted for the Grow More Vegetables Certificate Series hosted by Bronx Green-Up of The New York Botanical Garden. This is a free edible gardening course which runs from February 15 to March 22. Find out more information and apply by January 30 here:

The 2017 GreenThumb Youth Leadership Council application is now open! Youth (14-21 years old) interested in botany, agriculture, composting, and gardening should apply. More information about program requirements and application here:

Citizens Committee awards Neighborhood Grants up to $3,000 to resident-led groups working on community and school projects throughout the city. Grants are for volunteer led projects addressing issues which communities deem important to them. Applications are due January 23. Information session are underway now; more information here.

Don’t forget that the Partnerships for Parks Capacity Fund Grant deadline is approaching! You can apply for a grant of up to $5,000 to strengthen the outreach, membership, and program-planning capacity of community groups who care for their neighborhood parks, gardens and green spaces in all five boroughs of New York City. Project work must be on NYC Parks Department property. Deadlines are February 1, June 1 and October 1.

The Borough Presidents have public funds to support your projects! It is one way to fund new fences or water access for your community spaces:
Manhattan: deadline to apply is February 14 and more information can be found at
Brooklyn deadline to apply is February 5 and more information can be found at
Queens: deadline to apply is February 14 and more information can be found at

The NYCEF Newtown Creek Fund is offering grants to organizations involved in environmental education, public access, and stewardship projects benefitting communities along Newtown Creek in Brooklyn or Queens. Grants will be between $5,000 and $25,000 and the deadline to apply is February 17. More information can be found here:

Check out our list of micro grants and resources that can help you make your project a reality AFTER you have access to your lot.

Auradis testifies at a city property disposition hearing explaining why the city should stop giving away land to developers who build housing that is unaffordable to neighborhood residents

Last week, Auradis testified at a city property disposition hearing explaining why the city should stop giving away land to developers who build housing that is unaffordable to neighborhood residents. Auradis has been organizing to preserve these lots in East New York that the city plans to give to a developer for $1 to build housing for people with incomes two to three times more than the average family in East New York. As she said, we can do better.

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