Filling Already Filled Lots in East New York

Mayor de Blasio’s new housing plan revitalizes East New York’s businesses, remodels local mass transit stations and offers affordable housing to local residents, but it draws concern in what the local government considers vacant land.

According to NYC Open Data’s 2012 report, there are over 300 vacant lots in Councilwoman Inez Barron’s, then her husband’s Charles Barron, 42nd district, which covers most of East New York. Out of these lots, there are roughly 120 parks, urban farms or gardens that's considered “vacant” or “miscellaneous” by the City.

The City often gives these lots, or public land, to local residents and non-profits through the Parks and Recreation Department. City Planning says the City does not own much land in the area with the exception of the Dinsmore-Chestnut site.

So then local non-profits and residents houses urban farms and gardens on these vacant lands located throughout the neighborhood.

East New York Farms and their parent non-profit, United Community Centers, own 17 farms or gardens in the community. Local residents privately own 11 farms in East New York as well.

“There were vacant lands that the City did not want decades ago, so the local residents worked hard to beautify the land,” said East New York Farms’ Project Director David Vigil. “And now they are enraged because the City and developers want the land back for this new housing plan.”

According to City Planning, their database classifies these farms as vacant because there is no development on the lots, but it is protected as an open space. And the City has no plans for these properties and development would also be extremely unlikely.

"We believe it’s most likely that development will occur on private sites that are underutilized," said New York City's Department of City Planning Press Officer Joe Marvilli. "We will work with developers on private development with affordable housing components, through proposals like Mandatory Inclusionary Housing."

But the City offered 17 sites for sale to developers last winter. Vigil claims the Mayor’s Office also did not release any other specific information to the public or local community leaders after the sales were posted.

 When asked what are local politicians are doing about this issue, Vigil discussed they are focusing more on rezoning and its effects on the residents and forgetting about the community garden.

Councilwoman Barron, Brooklyn’s Community Board Five, developers and the City are still working on the proposed affordable housing plan in hopes to find what is best for the community.

The proposed plan claims developers will not directly or indirectly affect the natural resources or any areas functioning as ecological systems. City Planning even promotes creation of more recreational opportunities in the area.

After presenting at Brooklyn's Community Board Five’s October meeting on Wednesday, City Planning's Project Manager Koren Manning declined to answer any questions for this story.