The methods of 596 Acres might sound very technical at first, but they have madedozens of community projects possible, linking local efforts to broad issues like public ownership and governance of land. The 596 Acres stragtegy starts with building a database on ownership of public land: they map the results and make this information available through public signs motivating and informingneighbors how to gain access to this land. The name of the organization refers to the total unused public land area in Brooklyn alone, as found in a first census (around 240 hectares, an area larger than Berlin’s Tiergarten).
Making this information visible under the slogan This Land is Your Land was the first important step in showing people that these lots are public, meaning they can be used and shared in and by the community. 596 Acres combines advanced internet tools with face-to-face ground work when addressing local inhabitants. This link between analogue and digital tools makes the collected data accessible to as many people as possible. With this information strategy 596 Acres has helped transform dozens of unused areas in New York into community gardens. The organization is also successful in spreading their method, both to other North American cities such as New Orleans and Los Angeles, but also worldwide. The goal is to make information accessible in a way that allows for bottom-up transformation, starting within and by the neighborhoods themselves. They specifically support communities in self-organization, helping them to find their way within local politics and administrations. As a result, networks of engaged neighbors and organizations are created. A political and scientific perspective underlines the work of the organization. In 2013, 596 Acres and the New School in New York organized a 300-person symposium under the name of “Turning Vacant Acres into Community Resources;” initiatives from New York, other North American cities and places in the world, including Prinzessinnengarten.
Website 596 Acres