596 Acres, named after the amount of land owned by the public in Brooklyn, is made up of unpaid NYC volunteers who help residents communicate with the city’s Greenthumb office to turn lots into beautiful gardens. 596acres.org also supplies an interactive mapping tool so that residents in any given neighborhood can begin organizing online around certain reclaiming initiatives.
Earlier this August, the group finished collecting the data and creating online maps for Manhattan and Queens – and this past week they laboriously labeled lots in the Rockaways with their informational graphics. The Rockaways have a unique history as a vacation spot for the rich and famous, but now, after decades of urban renewal that led to urban blight, this slender island under Brooklyn is home to most of the vacant land in Queens.
In their one year of organizing, 596 has already helped to jumpstart 6 new garden spaces in Brooklyn and many others are currently being organized by residents who have connected through the 596 Acres website. They hope that their efforts in the Rockaways will spur the same community activism and land beautification. The 596 Acres facebook page lists a bunch of labeling and speaker events that the public is invited to participate in.