596 Acres is expanding to Queens and Manhattan. 596 Acres creates tools to connect New Yorkers to vacant public land.
With 596 Acres’ expansion into Queen and Manhattan, nearly four million more New Yorkers will have access to the tools they need to expand community space in their neighborhoods. Hundreds of acres of vacant public land exist in New York City, hidden in plain sight behind chain-link fences in neighborhoods where green space and other public amenities are scarce. We are building the tools for communities to get the keys legally and unlock all these rusty gates—and the opportunities within them.
On June 15, the 596 Acres’ interactive online map at 596acres.org will newly bring information about vacant public land in Manhattan and Queens. We will also begin distribution of print maps and signs for labeling lots for Queens and Manhattan.
596 Acres has connected communities in Brooklyn with vacant public land resources through a combination of tactics:
(1) making municipal information available through an online interactive map, 596acres.org;
(2) placing signs on vacant public land that explain each lot’s status and steps that the community can take in order to be able to use this land,
(3) visioning sessions for education about public land holdings by invitation from community groups,
(4) engaging the community when an interested potential leader reaches out, and
(5) direct advocacy with New York City agencies.
Our fully volunteer-led, 12-month pilot project in Brooklyn has created countless opportunities for neighbors in to come together and take control of their landscape, to learn which government agencies make decisions for their neighborhoods and to talk to residents new and old. Five of these spaces are, at this moment, in varying stages of development toward becoming usable, functional community spaces:
462 Halsey Community Gardens, Bedford-Stuyvesant;
Java Street Garden Collaborative, Greenpoint;
A Small Green Patch, Gowanus; and
Myrtle Village Green, Northwest Bedford-Stuyvesant/Wallabout Village.
Each is being transformed—by volunteer neighbors—into open spaces for the community to gather, to grow food, and to play. “I’m really excited to see how our tools are being used by New Yorkers to really transform their own neighborhoods,” says Paula Z. Segal, the project’s founder and lead facilitator.
With support from the Citizens’ Committee for New York City, the Awesome Foundation and individual donations through IOBY.org, we have created tools that we hope will jumpstart as many projects in Queens and Manhattan in the coming year.
“596 Acres has really excelled at making the intentions of vacant lots transparent to people that live and work in the community,” says Helen Ho, a supporter of the project from the start and founder of Queens Green Drinks and the Tour de Queens. “Their experience and success in catalyzing the start of five community garden spaces in Brooklyn is going to be a great resource for Queens. We need to take ownership of empty spaces in our neighborhood whether that is creating food, a bike path, more jobs, or a safe space for youth.” Helen is currently the Development Director for Recycle-A-Bicycle.
We will have events in Manhattan and Queens do envision how communities can best use this information and share what we have learned in Brooklyn as follows and to distribute free print maps of the host boroughs:
Saturday, June 16, 4-6pm, 155 Avenue C, Manhattan!
Hosted by See Squat and the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space.
Wednesday, June 20, 7-9pm, 39-31 29th Street, Long Island City, Queens!
Hosted by Flux Factory’s Series “The Future of Your Neighborhood: Who Decides?”
Thursday, August 23, 8:30-10pm, Marina 59, Rockaway, Queens!
Hosted by the Marina 59 Boatel as part of it’s summer lecture series.
We invite press and any other interested individuals to attend these events. We are continuing to schedule workshops and visioning sessions in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan throughout the summer.
In August, we will focus our efforts on the Rockaways in Queens, a neighborhood with a high density of vacant public land. We are already working on our network there.
“I am excited to have 596 Acres expand into Queens and the Rockaways,” says David Selig, owner of Rockaway Taco and one of the forces behind the transformation of the Boardwalk food vending stalls into a venue for local businesses. “Properties that are currently held dormant by NYC will suddenly become properties of the community through publicizing ownership and its contact information. This will spark local interest and discussion which will in effect create a ‘land value’ that the community will choose.”
Paula Z. Segal, Founder & Lead Facilitator, 596 Acres
c: 917 861 5846