Owners of vacant lots to get tax breaks by opening land to ‘public benefit’

Bill would help turn vacant lots into parks, gardens

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Public gardens and pop-up parks may soon dot the borough’s landscape if a plan to give vacant-lot owners a new tax break comes to fruition.

The state legislature is currently considering a bill that would offer owners of vacant land bucks off their property-tax bill if they let community groups use the land for “public benefit.” The bill would potentially eliminate all the taxes on a property, depending on what portion of the lot is used and how long the project is open to the public. Currently, residents say these vacant lots are a scourge, or just a plain waste of space, in their neighborhood.

“Vacant lots in New York City are blights to our communities,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D–Willliamsb­urg). “With this legislation, the property owner benefits by not having to pay property taxes on land they aren’t using and the community gets publicly accessible, environmentally friendly, healthy open space. It is a win-win for the public and property owners.”

One of the main drivers of the legislation is 596 Acres’ NYC Community Land Access Project, a group that works to find uses for the hundreds of acres of vacant lots throughout the city.

“We’ve been looking for ways to create benefits for private landowners to make it easier for neighbors to start conversations with them,” said Paula Segal, executive director of the project.

Segal worked with state Senator Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamsbu­rg) to draft the state legislation, and Levin to pass a city resolution in support of it.

In the draft legislation, “public benefit” is defined as including, but not limited to, “open spaces, community gardens, urban farms and pop-up parks.”

Carly Giglia is one resident who has been trying to convince the owner of an overgrown, vacant lot on 20th Street and Fourth Avenue to let her take over the space.

“I just wanted to make some sort of outdoor space, whether it be a garden or a few benches,” she said. “Anything would be better than looking at falling construction and garbage.”

One of the inspirations for the legislations was the creation of Havemeyer Park and Brooklyn Bike Park on a vacant lot slated to be the site for one of the future Domino towers. The space was loaned by developer Two Trees to Ride Brooklyn, Bobby Redd and North Brooklyn Farms until the company begins construction on the towers. The parks have a space for events, parties and films, a mountain bike track, and even a small farm. Two Trees did not receive any money or tax breaks from the deal, but company officials said tax benefits would be even more of an incentive.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
Here's a better idea. Don't cut taxes on vacant lots--RAISE taxes on them. Then people will sell them to someone who will actually do something with them.

"Here, you keep owning this land that you can do whatever you want with at any time, but don't pay any taxes on it. We'll let your neighbors pay all the taxes to keep the community functioning for you."

July 26, 2013, 6:13 am
diehipster from Exterminating Ethans says:
I can see it now: Hundreds of funemployed Haydens and Megans tending to urban gardens during normal working hours and then going back to their $2000 a month studios. Its friggin magic I tell you.
July 26, 2013, 7:58 am
John Wasserman from Windsor Terrace says:
Pardon me, but who is this "Bill" charactor?
July 26, 2013, 1:57 pm
transplant from booting out diehipster says:
yes, magic, just like Diehipster's 'employment' which apparently consists of posting dumb violent comments after every article. His post is typical mook bs: it's 'his' city so he is entitled to leave droppings wherever he wants, and how dare these interlopers clean up or improve matters without his permission? Well it it turns out that most long time residents actually respect and appreciate the newcomers for putting in the effort to make the neighborhood cleaner and safer, and they won't miss Diehipster and his baseball bat at all when some developer finally pries him out of his inherited rent-regulated apartment.
July 26, 2013, 4:39 pm
The Chooch from mook gulag says:
I'm with Mike. If the property can be developed, then it should be. If it's too small to build on, then okay, maybe this idea works.
July 26, 2013, 6:58 pm
Pete from For Property Rights says:
Nice idiotic comments from people who clearly don't own any land in NYC! You own it, you are definitely paying taxes on it. It is the owner's right to decide if it is worth it to him to continue paying taxes on it while holding onto it waiting for the optimum time for development. You can do whatever you want with your own property as long as it's a legal use!

This is a good law. It provides an incentive for a neighborhood use which will also offset the legal costs of allowing people onto the land. I only hope it clearly spells out the owner's right to provide notice to the garden that he or she is reclaiming the land for development.
July 29, 2013, 12:25 pm
Neighbor from Bed Stuy says:
The first picture shows what used to be One Kin Farm. A private lot that was turned into a garden in 2012 with the permission of the owner. The gardeners were starting free garden classes and building a chicken coop, but got kicked out this spring so the owner could rent the lot as a parking space.

It was a great community space, and the block will miss them.
Aug. 6, 2013, 10:12 am

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