How One Nonprofit Scales the Fences of Hundreds of Acres of Publicly Owned Vacant Land

We could use vacant public  urban land differently if we were able to adopt processes like this from New York City to locally in our cities and if we had the support of authorities who need to find ways to reduce the dependence on “service delivery” over citizen involvement, in the same way San Francisco encourages users to create urban pocket parks Pavement to Parks: Plazas & Public Space, by  on GOOD+you.


If you’ve ever walked around New York City—whether through Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens or Staten Island—at some point you probably noticed that in between the restaurants, boutiques, and countless Duane Reades there are a surprising number of scattered vacant lots sitting empty, collecting weeds and garbage. You may have also noticed that these spaces are usually concentrated in lower income neighborhoods, the kind of areas where safe, beneficial land is most needed. If you’ve ever wondered why these lots were empty or why someone hasn’t just rolled up their sleeves and started planting some tomatoes, you may want to contact Brooklyn-based non-profit 596 Acres—but be ready to start digging. The organization has helped neighborhood organizers transform eight public sites so far, and with four more pre-approved, they’re not slowing down anytime soon.

596 Acres catalogues the city’s empty, unused land (check out the interactive map on their website to find a vacant lot near you), and then provides local communities with the resources—including online organizing platforms and advocacy help—to transform the spots into productive spaces. With simple tactics like posting signs on the city’s open lots and connecting locals to each other and the right government agencies, 596 Acres helps communities convince the city to give them the right to claim the spaces and put them to use.

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