Reckowacky Park and Community Garden meeting

Welcome to a new year for creating and protecting places where neighborhood networks and community resilience can flourish! We prepared for it by holding space for residents to dream and scheme for access to vacant spaces (photos of our year-end workshop here) and by continuing to support local campaigns for community land access across the city, like the future Reckowacky Park and Community Garden, pictured above. Read about 11 of our successes in 2017 here. If you’re moved to support our work, please donate here.

Announcing Our New Leadership Team
596 Acres is excited to officially introduce its new leadership team! Mara Dawn Kravitz and Stephanie Alvarado are Directors of Advocacy and Partnerships, and Rachel Dobkin is Director of Development. The project’s founder, Paula Z. Segal, has joined the Equitable Neighborhoodspractice at the Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center as Senior Staff Attorney. Read more here.

596 Acres in Global Conversations 
Right now, we’re part of the 11th São Paulo Architectural Biennial (on display until January 28) and in an academic journal about collaboratively mapping alternative economies. Community land access is a strategy to engage the most impacted people in making the most just and resilient cities everywhere!

Far Rockaway, Queens – The local advocates who stopped the city from selling the long vacant city-owned lot at Nameoke and Augustina Aves so it can be community parkland instead have shared their plans for this future greens space with NYC Parks! See the design for Reckowacky Park and Community Garden, named after organizers’ Native American ancestors, as well as the letters and photos we sent NYC Parks here. (Cover photo of this email is from the community design charette at the library!) We requested that organizers’ vision guide the design of the future green space. To join the campaign, call Allison at (646) 653-9813 or email Check the campaign history and plug in by clicking Organize here:

Edgemere, Queens – After more than four years of organizing together, neighbors are very ready to grow Edgemere Coalition Garden on a vacant city-owned lot on Beach 43rd on the bay side. We heard confirmation early last month that the transfer of the largest lot to NYC Parks was moving forward so that neighbors can steward it via GreenThumb. After mixed instructions from GreenThumb about redoing the design, their GreenThumb outreach coordinator is now requesting the group get a letter of support from the community board from 2017 or after, even though the board issued a letter at the end of December 2016 that they wrote the wrong date on! This public land was planned as public open space in the 1997 Edgemere Urban Renewal Area plan, was even written as a garden into last year’s NYC Housing Preservation and Development’s Resilient Edgemere Community Plan, and yet has sat locked behind a fence for over 20 years. How many more? The bureaucratic maze that the most impacted people need to navigate to unlock it continues. Join this determined group: contact Alexis at or (347) 608-3556, and/or sign up to Organize for access here:

Bedstuy, Brooklyn – Neighbors are continuing the campaign to transform the 20-foot-wide vacant public lot between stores on Malcolm X and Chauncey into a community open space! The lot has been offered to developers for $1 as part of the the New Infill Home Ownership Program (NIHOP); other lots in this Community District have already been sold for $1 and are now being marketed to home buyers that make over twice as much as the median household income for the neighborhood. Organizer Shadel found out last month from NYC Housing Preservation and Development, the city agency with jurisdiction, that it will possibly be developed by the end of next year. Since that’s a long time away and vague, the group is strengthening their alternate plans in which the community turns the land into a cultural space that is accessible to all. Last plan included flowers named after Brooklyn-born poets. Plug into the planning; sign up to Organize at

Arrochar, Staten Island – Want to be a steward of a garden that will replace a vacant public lot at Sand Land and Piave Ave (near Humbert Street)? A local prolific elderly grower, Harry, has been organizing for access to this land for four years, facing challenges like lost paperwork and publicly neglected sidewalk, which we’ve overcome together (see notes here). Now GreenThumb is requiring an up-to-date list of neighbors who will steward the land (at least ten!). Please let them know you’re interested: contact outreach coordinator Anthony at (212) 602-5324 or Let us know too: (718) 316-6092 or Connect with Harry at (347) 422-3658. Get more information and click Organize for updates here:

Bedstuy, Brooklyn – Help Myrtle Village Green (on Myrtle and Kent) in the off-season by simply reviewing them on Google Maps! As they talk to the community and leadership about the future of this community space, it helps to have a positive online reputation. Reviews in your native languages are encouraged. Write yours hereLike the garden’s facebook page here.

Bushwick, Brooklyn – While awaiting the Brooklyn Supreme Court judge’s decision about the illegal sale of the nonprofit land where Eldert Street Community Gardeners grow (between Knickerbocker and Irving), the developers who bought the dubious deed sneakily filed a separate suit in landlord-tenant Civil Court, despite the pending Supreme Court case questioning their right to call themselves landlords! Without showing up, this could lead to eviction by default, so we had to go to court again last month (photos and a courtroom sketch here). Still no big answer, but small procedural wins happened: the judge granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) to protect from eviction, joined the two cases to be determined in Supreme Court together, and a few days later, decided the case can be determined by summary judgement, meaning that the laws on the matter are clear enough to determine whether the sale was legal, rather than needing to go to trial (we agree!). Back to waiting for an answer. Sign up to Organize here for the latest. Connect with Eldert Street Garden community by joining their facebook group here.

Policy Win: Housing Not Warehousing! In the last 2017 law passing session, Intros 1036 and 1039 of the Housing Not Warehousing Act passed in City Council, with veto-proof majority! Read about it here. Big congrats and gratitude to homeless-led Picture the Homeless for leading us in championing this legislation. We look forward to supporting NYers as more and more vacants become visible opportunities for people to make the vital places we need and crave.

Flatbush, Brooklyn! Next Thursday, January 11 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at BKLYN Commons (495 Flatbush Avenue) join your neighbors and Design for Agency for the second collaborative problem solving workshop, focusing on developing ideas for improving the problem of neglected and littered tree pits in Flatbush. More information and RSVP here.

Save the date! GreenThumb’s 34th Annual GrowTogether Conference is on Saturday, March 31 from 8:30am to 4pm at a new location: Borough of Manhattan Community College, 119 Chambers Street. The theme is “Honoring Our Roots!” Event information and tickets here.

Build skills and connect! All upcoming GreenThumb events & workshops listed here. 

Attention Ingersoll NYCHA Houses residents! The Intergenerational Community Arts Council (ICAC) is seeking an artist in residence with connection to the community to work with residents to create a public, arts-based experience or project for Summer 2018, based at Ingersoll’s community center in Fort Greene/Downtown Brooklyn. Deadline to apply is Monday, January 15. More information and how to apply here.

Jobs are available at NYC Housing Preservation and Development’s Office of Neighborhood Strategies: a Director of Neighborhood Planning and a Neighborhood Planner. POC and other under-represented planners are strongly encouraged to apply. Postings are live until February 12.

The NYC Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation awards grants of $25,000 to community-based organizations for planning the development of vacant or underutilized sites! The grant can cover any pre-development costs including creating a concept plan, preliminary design, a market analysis, a zoning analysis, or a pro-forma financial analysis as well as producing area and property studies, including a study of existing conditions, a vacancy analysis, or a community reuse plan. More eligibility information here and here is a list of past projects funded. To get an application and apply, contact Mark McIntyre at (212) 788-3015 or

Information sessions about Citizens Committee of NYC’s Neighborhood Grants are next Tuesday, January 9 through Thursday, January 11 at locations in all five boroughs, plus a Spanish webinar online! Find out about the one near you here. This grant provides up to $3,000 for resident-led groups working on community and school projects. Deadline to apply is Monday, January 22More information and application instructions here.

Citizens Committee has an Equipment Loan Library for neighborhood improvement projects! It has stuff like digital cameras, video projectors, projection screens, tents, amplifiers and more, which you can sign out for up to seven days. More information and reserve your equipment loan 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.

Holistic Health and Wellness Garden organizers

In the midst of a local campaign to transform this decades vacant parkland at W 169th between Nelson and Shakespeare Aves in Highbridge, South Bronx into Holistic Health and Wellness Garden, the land was “alienated” so that the city could more forward in selling it to a senior housing developer, against organizers’ wishes. In light of this, neighbors are now organizing to have the space included in the park that is finally coming to W 170th Street. It’s working: NYC Parks will host a community visioning process before they design anything! See the letter we sent City Planning and NYC Parks last month making this request, and get the full story, complete with garden proposal and more pictures, here. For the dates of those future design meetings as they are announced, sign up to Organize here:

2018 is for fruition!
and for planting more seeds, too

596 Acres

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