In our backyard
"So, what's going on with the back lot?" No longer an abandoned lot, there have been a lot of changes in our own backyard. As some of you may know the Co-op had been involved in conversations with city government and local activist groups regarding the use and development of the land in the back lot. The Mural Committee, working with the Design-Build Committee hosted a lot clean up event last fall that included priming the back wall. This was done with the support of Drop Cloth Painters, and a Grant from Build It Green's "BIG! Gives Back Program," providing paint, supplies, and expertise. Since then, there has been a lot of activity and interest in the land, the building of a co-op compost bin, and an interesting story that has unfolded about the land ownership and urban development.
The situation is this: The back lot is divided into 8 smaller plots of land that were individually owned, and separately were too small to develop on. Think-- a narrow plot about the width of an alley. You can't put a building on it, but if you owned all 8 plots you'd certainly have enough to develop. Two of those plots were owned by the city, plot 2 and 3 in the image below. The Co-op is number 16 in the image, and the plots in peach in the image below were the plots of land that were held by separate individuals. Recently those separate plots were purchased by a single development group, and in April there was a meeting by the community board to vote on whether or not to sell plots 2 and 3 in the consolidating land buy. There was a lot of concern at this time regarding the type of development that would be done on the land, and any displacement. There was also an interest in using the land in the interim between now and the time of development for a community garden, a community farm, community compost, and shared public event space.
We reached out to the Community Board office and Council Woman James' office to talk about possible implications in advance of the vote. The core issue was a conflict between a publicly funded art project on the space, the transferring of public land for development, and a potential conflict of interest because of the public funds involved in both the site specific art project and the land. Through a series of conversations, we ultimately found out that the land would be used to build affordable housing. We all agreed that the greatest benefit to the neighborhood would be affordable places to live, and we made nice inroads with both the CB office and City Council's office in the discovery process. Our friends in the community board office offered to contact the architects responsible for the build to let them know about the work that was done on the site and local interest in maintaining the momentum that was gathered in support of the space. This is in the very early stages, but we will continue to be in contact with them through the process to potentially preserve the artwork that will be done, or incorporate some of it into the building project. We'll also be inviting our friends in the Council Woman's office to our community workshop events and painting days.
This was a charged issue that concerned land value, property development, and the hard work of a lot of good people in revitalizing a formerly vacant lot into a cared for environment. To the benefit of us all, we were able to reach a resolution, and extend positive relationships with city government, and potential good will with our future neighbors on the back lot.
There will be community workshops for the mural in August, and the bulk of the mural will be painted in September. It will be up for about 2 years before building begins on the site. Within that time there's space for us to reach out to the architects, re-apply for funding through BAC, potentially work with the builders, and ensure that the painting that we make together will continue to have a positive impact on the neighborhood.
Feel free to contact Rachel (rrobbins46 [at]