By Anna Liang and Hayoung Ryu


596 Acres is an organization led by Paula Z. Segal that raises awareness of the acres of underused land in Brooklyn. Through 596 Acres – also available as a website at – Segal tags tracts of land that can be considered for community, research, and or recreational purposes. During one of her bike trips around the borough, Segal would hang signs on vacant lots, which said, “This lot is public land. It’s very likely that they would let you and your neighbors do something nice here – maybe a farm or an outdoor movie theater.” Such advertisements have caught the attention of several interested individuals, for instance Mr. Tom Hallaran, a bioinformatician at Washington University Genome Sequencing Center. He organized Feedback Farm, a modest garden that demonstrates the concept of “movable urban garden[s]” as a more mobile and economical alternative to rooftop gardening.  Most importantly, Hallaran received the temporary lot through Segal’s program – after all, the city or private owner holds the right to reclaim the space within a short notice. At the end of the day, Segal and her team have generated opportunities through their efforts, which would have otherwise went unnoticed.

Despite the rising interest in converting the emptied land into green spaces and the like, there is conflicting interests between land developers and activists like Segal and Hallaran. Letitia James, a Brooklyn councilwoman, calls attention to the city’s worry that community-organized green spaces will evolve to take on irreplaceable roles in neighbors, and thus limit the amount of land available for housing construction. As a result, it is very difficult  to receive permits to run community gardens on public land. So what is your take on green spaces versus housing?
It is, also, interesting to note that Hallaran is not someone who is relying solely on his garden experiment for his salary. As for Segal, she is currently a law clerk at the Law Office of Rankin & Taylor according to the 596 Acres website. Is there a way to integrate community projects into our daily lives without compromising our ability to bring home a decent salary? Their primary occupations obviously don’t seem to be related to their interests in these projects to make vacant public spaces into more useful and dedicated spaces. How do their roles in these projects impact our viewpoints about serving our community, even as hardworking, honors students?