Pretty vacants: Urban communities fill empty lots with gardens, skate parks, and creative possibility
In 2011, videogame developer Tami Johnson, then 29, wanted to create an outdoor community space for her neighborhood in Brooklyn. In search of just the right spot, Johnson found an unusual website that mapped all the borough’s vacant lots. It was like a Zillow for perfectly good land obscured by urban blight. She scrolled through and found 348 Bergen Street.
The lot was small, less than a 10th of an acre, and narrow as a brownstone, with twisted trees, tall grass and, of course, take-out wrappers from some of Brooklyn’s finest restaurants.
The website linked Johnson to neighbors who also wanted to build something on Bergen Street. Together, they got the owner’s permission to borrow the lot, then crammed it with amenities: a working farm, beehives, a garden raising ingredients for a local dinner church, and a natural dye garden for a nearby arts center. They started a community composting operation and hosted exhibits, concerts, and classes. They named the place A Small Green Patch.
The group that made it all poss... Read more