Sometimes to clear the barriers between the potential of a vacant lot and the dreams of a community, we need to add professional services. 596 Acres is led by an attorney and a computer programmer. For specific sites, we need to add the power of an architect to make it possible for neighbors to shape our city together.
Here’s the story of the specific site that we need help with at this moment:
For the last year, 596 Acres has been working with Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services Inc. (BACDYS), a young 501(c)(3) organization (http://bacdys.org/about-us/) to turn a formerly dangerous, fenced-in vacant lot in City Line, East New York, into a space that the community can use. Before being fenced off about 20 years ago, the lot was little park maintained by the MTA in partnership with the neighbors at that time, when the area was mostly Italian.
The President of the BACDYS board remembers the pocket park as filled with tomatoes and grandmas when he came to Brooklyn as a child. A few years later, the grandmas thinned out and disappeared completely, and the fence arrived.
Together in the last year, we have cleared the space and eliminated a blight on the neighborhood and a dangerous blind corner. Some members of the mosque next door have set up an informal food production site and everyone is excited to see the lot developed into a usable park space.
New York Restoration Project (NYRP) Gardens for the City Program selected the site to put some resources into through Gardens for the City but will not be able to proceed unless BACDYS can show that they have formal written permission from the site owner.
The site is owned by MTA and we need your help to meet the formal requirements the MTA has established for the site: stamped and sealed drawings from an architect or engineer.
MTA staff have visited the site and there is no conflict with the community-powered clean up or community use, but without a seal, the MTA cannot formally consent to use; with no formal consent, NYRP cannot bring any resources to the site and other funders are wary of supporting development of the pocket park in the space. NYRP does not have access to licensed architecture services.
Simultaneous with the NYRP application, we have been working with a young architect on designing, with the participation of the community, a scheme for the lot that can be implemented with available materials and donations through NYRP. There is a lot of momentum and great design ideas. The architect that we are working with does not have her own professional insurance policy, either, and we seem to be a bit stuck.
596 Acres, BACDYS and the architect we have been working with are all flexible about the level of engagement of a pro bono partner — we can discuss whether your firm can simply review drawings we produce and stamp them or if you’d like to be more involved in the design phase. Either way, you’ll be making it possible to transform a site of agency neglect into a proud and beautiful place for the community.