Making Use of Vacant Lots in Brooklyn

According to Department of City Planning data, there are 596 acres of unused public land in Brooklyn. There is greater utility in community gardens, composting sites, and compost sites, than empty lots. This is the premise of 596 Acres, a community education project that helps connect Brooklyn residents to vacant public land resources.

596 Acres has created a website and a mobile app, presenting raw city data in a comprehensive and accessible way.  By providing access to data about public vacancies, and resources to guide community groups in the negotiation process with the city, 596 Acres encourages people to organize and re-envision their neighborhoods.

The Java Street Garden Collaborative in Greenpoint is a garden project that has gotten support from 596 Acres. The lot – 59 Have Street –has been vacant for 10 years, and is owned by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. While the group was able to get approval for the garden from Community Board 1, the garden is likely to be temporary.  In the long term, the lot will become a site for an affordable housing development, once funding is secured by the developer, the North Brooklyn Development Corporation. The collaborative has decided to address the temporary nature of the garden by creating a “roving garden group”. The group will create a productive space on the empty lot for a short amount of time, and then easily move to a next lot when the time comes. The group is focusing on container gardening for the Java Street lot.

Other garden projects affiliated with 596 Acres include 462 Halsey Community Garden, A Small Green Patch, and Myrtle Village Green. Currently, 596 Acres is fundraising to expand to the other four boroughs. Check out their project on Ioby.

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