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Tool updates

Reach Us By Phone!

27 August 2013


Announcing, our new phone number: 718-316-6092!

Please share widely. 

Teach. Imagine. Grow.

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.

How Our Map Supports Your Organizing

26 July 2012
tags: tool updates


Here's what our map does to support your work, beneath the skin! If you want a quick tutorial about how to use it, check out this slideshow

The map facilitates the creation of a community mailing list for each lot based on people's interests in engaging with others to start a project there. There are two ways a person can join such a mailing list: 

- ONE: People can engage with lots by watching them. Those watching receive email notifications when other people start watching or organizing on this lot, or leave a note.

- TWO: People can engage by organizing. Organizers also receive email notifications when other people start watching or organizing on this lot, or leave a note. In addition, contact information for organizers is publicly available on the site. 

The map also facilitates coordinated efforts to communicate with and lobby officials who have the power to grant access to vacant sites, in two distinct ways:

- ONE: For every lot, there is a place where anyone can leave notes that everyone can see about the lot, its history and their efforts to organize around it. These get sent to all the watchers and organizers. 

- TWO: All watchers and organizers get regular emails reminding them who the decision-makers are, what their contact information is and sharing some tips for a phone call to them. 

The map also serves to create a citywide network of organizers who are working to reclaim vacant land and can support one another. An administrator who is logged in can send a message to everyone in the network who is an organizer, regardless of where they are organizing. 


How to use our site

12 July 2012
tags: tool updates

This is a slideshow about using our site. If you put your mouse over the right side of a slide, a button will appear that will let you go to the next slide. You can do the same on the left to go to the previous slide.

view on scribd

One Kin Farm and the Potential of Private Vacant Land

10 May 2012

We're exploring our potential role as a facilitator of relationships between private owners of vacant lots and the communities who live near those lots. We are starting with a single relationship: One Kin Farm in Bed Stuy which starts building next week and has the space to do so through the generosity of a private landowner who shares our vision of a network of decentralized community spaces operated by engaged citizens. One Kin Farm can use your financial support on IOBY: they are going to get bunnies! If you know of other landowners who are looking to activate their properties with community participation for interim use, please contact us. We would love to add them to our network!

In Our FAQ Now: Privately-Owned Vacant Lots!

02 May 2012

There's this privately owned vacant-lot that people could use. How do I get started?


This is  a great opportunity for your neighborhood and the wider 596 Acres community. Two ways you could start:

1. If you'd like to be involved in the project yourself, put a sign on the fence to the lot telling your neighbors that you have permission to use it and how to reach you to start scheming for how to do so this spring.

2. If you're looking for other people to spearhead the effort (and take care of things like insurance and fundraising), we can add your lot to our interactive map to draw people to your budding project that way. Let us know the address of the lot and if you'd like to do that. We have been talking about adding a layer for private lots that people WANT community uses on and this would be a great way for us to start building that layer. Click the contact button to get in touch with us.


Photogenic Acres

03 April 2012

Photographer Meg Wachter has been out there photographing sites in various stages for the last few days. Check out her gorgeous images:

48 Warsoff Street

348 Bergen Street

462 Halsey Street

In Our FAQ Now: I'm about to call a city agency -- what do I say?

02 April 2012

You'll need the identifying information about the lot you are interested in handy - the Block and Lot number is crucial; the address, if the lot has one, is also nice.

This site gives you contact information for the person for each piece of vacant public land who we think has the ability to tell you it's status and give you permission to use it. Sometimes our sluething is off -- or sometimes people change jobs. When you call, start by asking if they are the person you should speak to about a vacant property in North/South Brooklyn. If they're not, ask who is (and remember to tell 596 Acres!).

If they are, tell them you are calling from a neighborhood organization. Describe the lot, how long it's been empty. Give the Block and Lot number and maybe the address. 
Say your group is interested in getting permission to do a temporary project/garden/playground/movie theater/farm/free school/etc. on that site. Emphasize that you realize the agency has plans for the site that will eventually be impletemented -- your group just wants to use it this year/ this season/ until the plans are solidified. 
Ask if such an interim use plan would be compatible with the agency's timeline for the "real" plan. Say you would like to sign a license agreement that would be revokable at any time -- offer to send a sample.

Make sure you get the email of the person who you are talking to. Follow up with a note and copy We can help you negotiate the licence. 

We would also love to get a note from you describing what you learned on the phone -- add your Note to the page for the lot you are calling about so that we can all learn from your experience. 




02 April 2012
tags: tool updates

Since our goal is to help people organize, we didn't think it was helpful to show lots that you can't get to or that are to small to stand in on this map.

BUT: These lots are interesting. And they are everywhere.

They represent anomalies in surveying, zoning and public-works projects—the technical term is "gutterspace." In the 1970s, an artist named Gordon Matta-Clark bought fifteen of these lots in Queens and Staten Island for $25-75 each and called them his "Fake Estates." You can see a map of the ones he bought here:

We would love to hear your ideas for these inaccessible lots. Send them to

There are 257 acres of gutterspaces in NYC.


More Better Data!

22 March 2012
tags: tool updates


Have you been confused by lots on our map in your neighborhood that you can't find in real life? There are lots in the middle of blocks that are very difficult to get to and are impossible to see from the street. These types of lots are called "gutterspace;" you can read more about them on our About page.

Using part of the funding we received through FEAST, we hired an OASIS expert who had experience with another NYC vacant property project, Picture the Homeless's Banking on Vacancy. She spent about 20 hours clicking through each vacant lot in our database and looking it up in OASIS -- we now have much more accurate information for you to use.

The first result of this update is that we have removed gutterspace from the map to make it less confusing (you can still turn that layer on using the map legend if you're curious). There will be more exciting updates from that process that we will unveil soon.

Unrelated to the data cleanup above, we have recently added a category of lots - those that groups have gained access to while working with 596 Acres! (Interestingly, they form a very nice triangle over much of the northern part of Brooklyn, too.) If you're looking for a project to get involved with and one of these is near you, get in touch with them through the lot's page.


Take the Acres With You!

31 January 2012

Take the Acres with you

We've been working on making our map work better on smart phones. Now iPhone users can pinch the map to zoom in or out, and the map generally looks better. You can also add an app-like bookmark by going to on your phone, clicking on the icon at the bottom of the screen in the middle (on older iPhones this is a +, newer ones have a box with an arrow shooting out of it), then selecting "Add to Home Screen." Now 596 Acres will look and act more like an app on your phone.

Groundtruthing just got way, way, way easier. Take a walk in your neighborhood. Tell us about the vacant public lots in your life.

December News (You Can't Hold Back Spring)

14 December 2011
tags: tool updates

Hello from the Acres!

We know it's been a while, and a lot has happened. So here's the news in brief:

-- 462 Halsey Community Garden is open - bring your compost!
-- FEEDback Farms is approved to use 3 lots in Carroll Gardens! So cool -- they are "A Small Green Patch" on facebook.
-- NYC Department of Environmental Protection is moving towards community access at Myrtle Village Green - they have leveled the ground and put in a fence. Myrtle Village Green will be having its next general meeting on Sunday, January 15 in Wallabout Village/North Bed Stuy/East Clinton Hill.
-- The Java Street Garden Collaborative is well on its way -- Community Board hearing in January! Plan to come to the meeting in support when it's announced!

-- THIS COMING SUNDAY, a Vacant Public Land Visioning Session at the Occupy Wall Street Holiday Bazaar, 4pm, 175 Frost Street, Brooklyn. Come!
-- LAST WEEK, 596 Acres labeled vacant land in East New York owned by Housing Preservation and Development in tandem with OccupyHomes. It was fun & really wonderful to add a little texture to what was already a fantastic action.

-- Join a community organizing in your neighborhood!
-- Request a Visioning Session for your community! We'll talk about possibilities and see what land is empty near your 'hood.
-- Give 596 Acres a few of your dollars, tax-free, finally - and before 2011 is over! 596 Acres is set up to accept your donations. Your dollars will be used to fund ink for more beautiful handmade signs, stickers, neighborhood-specific maps, more broadsheets, improvements to online tools and materials for future Vacant Public Land Visioning Sessions. The project tiny so your smallest contributions make the largest difference (tax-deductable, thanks to IOBY!).
-- Follow the Policies for a Shareable City series -- we're in there! There's been some other very nice press this fall, too.
-- Follow us on facebook - we're still there.

Together -- let's envision a commons.

In hope, love, seasonal bliss,


.... you can't hold back spring ...

JULY news

20 July 2011
tags: tool updates

Hello land-lovers!

There is still an abundance of vacant public land in Brooklyn -- and in the other boroughs.

596 Acres has put up signs on some of it, telling neighbors that the lots are owned by the city agencies and giving out contact information. The signs really work -- people get in touch with us, with each other, and even with their city government! How cool. Here's some good news:

-- 596 Acres is now on facebook! "Like" us here: You might get to meet your neighbors this way, too!

-- As a direct consequence of a 596 Acres map & placard posted at 59 Java Street in Greenpoint, there is a new Java Street Community Garden Coalition. Green Thumb and the Community Board are in the process of approving them for a license to start gardening this fall! Contact Stella Goodall <> to join your neighbors in this great project.

-- The Myrtle Village Green got a promise from DEP to open up at least one-third of the 2-acre site this fall for a community garden and to support an inclusive planning process for the entire site for determining long term use. Lots of information is here: or on facebook: MVG made the papers, too -- -- a great example of the power of organized neighbors. The next MVG meeting is coming up on July 28. Info here: You're invited!

-- 596 Acres will be having a two-part visioning session to to think about next steps and how 596 Acres can best work to sustain itself (and me!) and support the awesome work that you are all doing towards an equitable, democratic, beautiful, food sovereign New York. I know that lots of you are visionaries on this list -- let me know if you can make it by RSVPing to!
THURSDAYS, AUGUST 11 & SEPTEMBER 8 7-9PM, Gowanus Studio Space, 166 7th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215
We will hopefully get some donated dinner.  And I will have archival quality posters printed as gift for you.

-- Neighbors are organizing around the following lots as a result of 596 Acres' signage:
*****3 lots in a row on Myrtle Avenue between Marcy and Nostrand!
*****4th Avenue and Sackett
*****Bedford and Division
Reply to this email if you want to get involved and I'll introduce you!

-- An interactive online map of Brooklyn's vacant public land & community gardens is coming! Mapping vacant public land will help people identify resources, connect with each other, build neighborhood coalitions and reach the government owners most efficiently. Mapping the gardens -- which now appear as "vacant" land on official land use maps -- will let us see where we are succeeding and bring us a step closer to accurate use-coding of urban agriculture land and a new zoning classification. We are nearly done and would love some feedback if you have time to test it out. Let me know if you do and I'll send you the link to the super-secret site.

-- 596 Acres was visited by the film crew of and was included in the show Detroit: A Brooklyn Case Study. What honors!

-- and coming up this fall -- nature tours!