Paula Z. Segal, Executive Director & Legal Director of NYC Community Land Access Program, 596 Acres, 646.276.3865, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sanjay Kharod, Executive Director, New Orleans Food & Farm Network, 504.483.6967, email@example.com
NEW ORLEANS, La. – 596 Acres, in partnership with the New Orleans Food and Farm Network (NOFFN), will begin the development of an innovative web-based mapping and organizing tool – Living Lots NOLA – to provide easy access to information relevant to community reclamation of vacant lots. The tool will connect sites of opportunity with resources available to individuals interested in starting land-based projects. Living Lots NOLA, in concert with NOFFN’s training, resource support, and organizing, will provide a comprehensive platform for people to organize around creating and preserving essential community institutions and reinvesting in neighborhoods.
The project is supported by a Prototype Grant awarded to 596 Acres by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for the development of Living Lots, an online tool neighbors can use to clear hurdles to community land access that can be installed to support local advocacy in any city. Living Lots will turn city data into information about particular pieces of land and connect people to one another through simple social networking functions. 596 Acres is partnering with NOFFN as user testers of this technology-in-progress.
Living Lots will be built on the expertise that the 596 Acres team has developed in New York City, with an online proof-of-concept that has, in concert with on-the-ground advocacy, led to fifteen official new community-controlled open space projects and 100 other groups engaging with local land resources to start organizing.
On Saturday, September 21, NOFFN and 596 Acres invite members of the community to join them for a discussion of shared challenges to and resources for the reclamation of New Orleans lots:
Join 596 Acres and New Orleans Food and Farmers Network for a community gathering to discuss the lots in our lives. Bring your ideas for local transformations through the reclamation of NOLA lots. What do you see for the future of your neighborhood? What do you need to make it happen?
Date: Saturday, September 21, 2013
Location: 1838 Feliciana Street, New Orleans, LA
Dinner will be served.
More info: livinglotsnola.org
“NOFFN is about getting more people to successfully grow food in the City and the region,” says Sanjay Kharod, Executive Director of the New Orleans Food & Farm Network. “We believe that growing food closer to home is a strategy for a sustainable future. By providing job opportunities, access to healthy food, and neighborhood improvement. We are also committed to supporting the creation of a just social environment. In other words, our support of food and farm projects will not take precedent over the needs of the City’s marginalized communities. Healthy food and access to land to grow the food must be a widely accessible right for all people and not a privileged commodity for a wealthy few.”
Living Lots NOLA will consolidate information about vacant land from multiple sources, connect people to the land around them, and identify routes to legal access. It will allow users to understand the status of a vacant lot in terms of ownership, zoning, and liabilities, among other characteristics. The map will also be designed to connect online users to each other and local residents so neighbors can work with neighbors on specific parcels. And, for groups with already established gardens, Living Lots NOLA will provide resources on how those spaces might be made more permanent.
Paula Z. Segal, Director and Lead Facilitator of 596 Acres, has seen firsthand how this type of organizing can help individuals respond to urban blight. “People and organizations that are the most affected by vacant land in their neighborhoods are the ones situated closest to that land,” says Segal. “Living Lots NOLA will provide information and pathways to those individuals and is crucial to making space for communities to create vibrancy in their own neighborhoods. Since our launch of a similar mapping tool in Brooklyn two years ago we have seen local residents come together to get official permission to manage 15 new spaces that were once mysteriously hidden behind fences and we have created opportunities for approximately 100 other groups to engage with land opportunities locally.”
New Orleans is home to more than 35,000 vacant parcels, many of them tax delinquent, unproductive, unsafe, and damaging to neighborhoods. Residents have watched for years as empty homes on their blocks crumble and neighborhoods suffer extended disinvestment. Many of these under-utilized lots are in neighborhoods deemed “food deserts” – 7th Ward, Ward, 9th Ward, Algiers, St. Roch, New Orleans East, Hollygrove, and Central City. The often-cited problem in transforming these lots to farms is the lack of monies to purchase soil, fencing, or irrigation to begin farming. Liability insurance and learning how to grow for market are other issues. New farmers cannot afford the expense of starting a project while landowners like the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) cannot see transferring the land to an individual or group who may not have the adequate resources to transform empty lots from city problems to community assets. Thus neighborhood residents – despite their innovative ideas and highly engaged participation in neighborhood improvement – are at a disadvantage to better-funded and often from the outside developers. The tactics of the New Orleans Food and Farm Network work to address these barriers through education and coordinated, cooperative development across the city.
Living Lots NOLA, along with NOFFN’s training, resource support, and organizing will provide a unique, proactive response to the City’s catastrophic vacant land problem. Individuals in New Orleans can get involved by joining theLiving Lots NOLA mailing list.
The New Orleans Food and Farm Network (NOFFN) is a New Orleans-based food justice organization that supports the transformation of where, what, and how food is grown, produced, transported, accessed, and eaten to ensure equal access to safe, nutritious, enjoyable food for everyone and to build the local food economy.
596 Acres, Inc. is a non-profit founded in Brooklyn, NY, that builds online organizing platforms for land access advocates and facilitators. 596 Acres, Inc. is a project of the Fund for the City of New York. 596 Acres has partnered with the Garden Justice Legal Initiative at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia to launch Grounded in Philly (http://groundedinphilly.org) in June 2012. In May 2013, 596 Acres will partner with Community Health Councils in Los Angeles to test the Prototype developed in New Orleans in a new municipal context (http://laopenacres.org). http://596acres.org
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The Prototype Fund helps journalists, developers and tinkerers take media innovations from idea to demo. http://www.knightfoundation.org