The Department of Citywide Administrative Services is a department that holds title to City-owned land and assigns it to agencies like Housing Preservation and Development, Parks and Recreation, Police, Fire and Cultural Affairs so that those departments can create places that fulfill their missions. When a lot is assigned to DCAS, that means that no mission-driven use has been identified for it yet.
If the lot you've found is managed by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, a good first step is to call the DCAS Real Property Management Unit (at the number on the lot's page). Be ready to take notes on your call and get the name of the person you speak to. After you finish with your call, record your notes on the lot page so that others who are interested in this lot can benefit from what you learned. We're all organizers together.
First, find out whether or not they have plans for the site. If the lot is still within the jurisdiction of DCAS, then most likely it means that there are no plans for the site. If this is the case, ask if DCAS might be willing to transfer the land to another agency, such as the the Parks Department or the Department of Cultural Affairs.
If the Parks Department is willing, land can be transferred to their jurisdiction and then licensed as a garden through the GreenThumb program. This is probably the best option for long-term stable community use. Start by contacting GreenThumb at (212) 602-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can begin organizing your neighbors to create a campaign that will convince the Parks Department that your community group will be successful stewards. Here are some things you might consider gathering as you organize your neighbors, which will help you build a successful campaign:
- A mission or vision statement that lists benefits to the community;
- A letter from the local Community Board in support of the project and group (this information is found in the "Political Boundaries" section of the lot's page);
- A name for the proposed garden/group being formed to look after the garden;
- List of community members interested in the project (at least 10 names, addresses, phone numbers, emails)
- Sketch or rendering of project
- List of partners/sponsors/endorsers (including churches, school, local business, city agencies, etc.)
Some letters of support from elected officials are also helpful. You can use the "Political Boundaries" section on the lot's page to see the elected officials and community board for the lot. You might also be able to get a letter of support from GreenThumb.
We are aware of three other pathways to community use of DCAS-owned land:
(1) Purchase of a lot through auction (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcas/html/business/real_estate_purchasing.shtml). Then the land could be transferred to a land trust, such as the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust, to remain a public asset in perpetuity!
(2) If you happen to own the property next door, DCAS can sell you the lot through the SAIL Away program. Then the land could be transferred to a land trust to remain a public asset in perpetuity!
(3) A lease between a non-profit organization and DCAS for use of the land; DCAS is open to hearing plea for a HEAVY reduction in the cost of renting the lot for a non-profit. In order to get a number from DCAS for how much rent will be and get the conversation started, a nonprofit will need to fill out a short form and include the following:
- A short LEASE application (email email@example.com for a copy of it)
- Certificate of incorporation
- Proof of 501(c)(3) status
- A certificate of good standing from the IRS
- $25 check or money order for processing, made out to DCAS/Asset Management
- Notarized disclosures from all officers of the non-profit (this is a form; email firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of it)
- A cover note describing all the awesome community benefits of the proposed project is also crucial - that's the piece that will be key in advocating for reduced rent.
Here's an article by Carolyn Zezima of NYC Foodscape written for companies managing housing that lays out the steps they can take to incorporate gardens in their projects. It's a pretty good guide that you can use, too (and you should share it with anyone you know who manages a housing facility!): https://www.assistedhousinginsider.com/article/take-10-steps-create-successful-community-garden-residents