Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is the City agency tasked with building and preserving housing, but they also control the majority of vacant, public land in New York City. Formerly, HPD used to license land for community gardens on an interim basis through GreenThumb, providing 1 to 2 year license agreements, though they have recently stopped agreeing to grant these licenses. There are still dozens of active gardens around the city with these types of licenses.
If the lot you've found is managed by HPD, there is still the possibility to advocate to have the property transferred to the Parks Department or the Department of Cultural Affairs to create a permanent community garden or park; a transfer is very likely if land is planned "open space" under an Urban Renewal Area Plan.
A good first step is to call HPD (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.
First, ask if they have plans for the lot. If they do, ask if they have a timeline or a developer lined up. If HPD's plans for the site are hazy, more than a year away, or if they don't have a developer, a transfer is still possible!
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.
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) 788-8070 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 is 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.
HPD also leases its land for other uses directly. For commercial leases, you can look at their progam here: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/vendors/doing-business-commercial-leasing-hpd-properties.page
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