596 Acres

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= "building online tools neighbors can use to clear hurdles to community land access. The tools turn city data into information about particular pieces of land and connect people to one another through simple social networking functions".


URL = http://596acres.org/


Description

"We're creating a practice of building online tools neighbors can use to clear hurdles to community land access. The tools turn city data into information about particular pieces of land and connect people to one another through simple social networking functions.

We're really proud of these partnerships:

Grounded In Philly, with the Garden Justice Legal Initiative at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia; Growing Cities, The Movie: Grow Where You Are; LA Open Acres with Community Health Councils (Los Angeles, California) and C-Lab (NYC); & Living Lots, a prototype supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to meet the needs of the New Orleans Food and Farm Network's Farm This Now! Campaign.

We support groups creating community land access tools in their own cities through open source code and hands-on mentorships. We are also the convener of an international Community Land Access Advocacy network that will have its first in-person meeting this spring: save the date for Turning Our Vacant Acres into Community Resouces on April 22 & 23, 2014, at the New School in New York City.

In New York City we are community land access advocates and use one of our tools." (http://596acres.org/en/about/about-596-acres/)


Discussion

Problem:

"Located primarily in areas of the city where low-income communities of color live today, more than a thousand vacant public lots languish behind fences, collecting garbage. One such lot was in Paula Segal’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. In 2010, she began talking to her neighbors about this lot. She gathered as much information as she could find about it and called a community meeting. That meeting led to more meetings, which led to Myrtle Village Green: an active, nearly 2-acre community space with garden beds, an outdoor movie screening area, a pumpkin patch, and an educational production and research farm. From then on, she thought, “How many more such lots are there in New York City?” She got access to city data and learned that, in 2001, 596 acres of public were waiting for communities to transform them, and soon after, 596 Acres was born.


Solution:

The 596 Acres team starts by translating the data available about vacant municipal land into information that can be useful in context, using customized mapping tools. With that knowledge in hand, they put signs on the fences of vacant city-owned lots that say, “This land is your land,” in English and Spanish, and explain which agency has control over the property. The signs also say that neighbors, together, may be able to get permission to transform the lot into a garden, park, or farm. They list the city’s parcel identifier, and information about the individual property manager handling the parcel for the agency, including a phone number.

The signs also connect neighbors to an online map and organizing web-tool called LivingLotsNYC.org and to 596 Acres’ staff, who steer and support residents through a bureaucratic maze in order to gain access to the space.

596 Acres takes on a supportive and advocacy role during each campaign – but residents remain the leaders. Each space, ultimately, is managed autonomously, transformed and maintained by volunteers and local community partners to gather, grow food, and play." (https://www.shareable.net/sites/default/files/SharingCities_FullBooktoPDF_v2(1).pdf)

Status

"Results:

• Since 2011, neighbors have begun campaigns to transform over 200 sites. 90

• 596 Acres has steered groups through the process of creating new community organizations and helped these organizations get formal access to vacant lots to create 39 new community-managed spaces.

• Nearly all of them have become so valuable to their local and citywide communities that they have been permanently preserved as community spaces by the New York City municipal government. This strategy for activating the potential of vacant public land has been emulated in over a dozen cities around the globe, including Philadelphia and Melbourne."

(https://www.shareable.net/sites/default/files/SharingCities_FullBooktoPDF_v2(1).pdf)


More Information

  • Open-source version of the digital tool used by 596 Acres:

https://github.com/596acres/django-livinglots