Vacant-land organizing in Philly going social with NYC's 596 Acres
596 Acres — a New York City-based organization that merges vacant-land advocacy with social media to help neighbors organize around disused lots — is gearing up to bring its digitally savvy wherewithal to bear on Philly's thousands of abandoned and vacant parcels. The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia's Garden Legal Justice Initiative is partnering with 596 Acres to create the Philly version of the website, which the Law Center's Amy Laura Cahn says will launch this spring, hopefully by late April.
While the city's so-called front door website for purchasing publicly owned land has offered some clarity on the lots currently for sale by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, it doesn't list all city-owned lots. And in any case, the majority of vacant lots in Philly are privately owned, Cahn notes. The data is out there, but "there's not really one place that brings all of that together and provides the opportunity to organize. What also isn't readily available is how you acquire a publicly owned or privately owned parcel," Cahn says. "That information is easy to find if you're a developer, but much harder to figure out if you're not."
The New York version of the site allows interested community groups and individuals to "watch" lots (receive notifications about activity) or to organize around a parcel, and has spurred the creation of a handful of community gardens as a result.
"We would like to do something that makes more transparent what privately owned land is out there," Cahn says.