Public Land in Public Hands: Community Land Trusts Demand Control of City Land

Posted by Elise Goldin

Last Saturday, the local community land trust (CLT) movement joined together for a three-borough day of action, with one united message: New York City must keep Public Land in Public Hands. At community actions in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, groups pointed to vacant and underused City-owned land in their neighborhoods, and called on the City to transfer these sites to CLTs for permanently-affordable housing and community-controlled development.

Groups also called on the NYC Racial Justice Commission—mandated to advance changes to the City Charter that eliminate systemic racism—to require the City to prioritize CLTs when disposing of any public land. Read on to learn more, and take action to support the Public Land in Public Hands campaign!

First Stop: University Heights, the Bronx

The day began with an action organized by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. A  vacant City-owned lot at 2275 Loring Place North is boarded up and overgrown with weeds. Community members decorated the fencing with their vision of what the community could do with the lot, if transferred to the Bronx CLT: a community garden, a child care center, meeting spaces, housing for unhoused neighbors, an urban farm.

Bronx CLT recently learned that the City has committed the Loring Place lot—and others the CLT had identified for acquisition—to unknown developers, despite the CLT being in direct talks with the City about its interest in these properties. Bronx CLT is calling on the City to halt this giveaway and to place this public land in the hands of the community.

Next up: Long Island City, Queens

Across the East River, groups assembled in Queensbridge Park for a festival organized by the Western Queens CLT, in partnership with the Justice for All Coalition and new Ravenswood CLT. Community members enjoyed music, free food (provided by Street Vendor Project, La Adelita Restaurant, and the Connected Chef), and art-making, while learning about CLT work in the borough.

Western Queens CLT is organizing to take control of an underused Department of Education building in Long Island City that had been part of Amazon’s planned headquarters. After defeating Amazon’s plan, community members developed their own vision for the building that includes affordable commercial space, a school, a street vendor commissary, and more.

Ravenswood CLT also shared its vision for a CLT controlled by public housing residents, who are seeking site control of a Department of Sanitation-owned lot in Ravenswood, Queens, that will soon be vacant.

Last Stop: East New York, Brooklyn

Groups wrapped up the CLT Day of Action at East New York CLT’s Autumn Soirée. Community members and allies celebrated the CLT’s accomplishments—including leading the campaign to Abolish the NYC Tax Lien Sale—and raised funds to support the CLT’s tireless organizing, as it works to acquire City-owned vacant and underused lots. There was delicious food and joyful dancing, as CLT activists recharged for the fight ahead.

New Economy Project and NYCCLI were pleased to help organize this Day of Action.  Please help us keep the action going, by telling the NYC Racial Justice Commission to keep Public Land in Public Hands!