Pols proposing law granting tax breaks to landlords who open up vacant lots to public

July 12, 2013 11:00AM

Elected officials are working on legislation that would permit the city to grant property tax abatements to landlords who open their land for public use at least 20 hours a week, Capital New York reported.

The city is home to nearly 23,000 privately-owned vacant lots, according to an estimate by the Columbia Urban Design Lab. Richard Semegram of 596 Acres, a nonprofit that helps New Yorkers build community gardens, told Capital New York that he believes roughly 60 percent of all vacant land in the city is privately owned.

“We constantly get this barrage of people asking, ‘What about this fenced-off vacant lot in my neighborhood?'” Semegram said.

Now some officials, such as Williamsburg-based Joe Lentol and State Senator Daniel Squadron, are looking to reward developers and landlords who would allow the use of such vacant land for open space, community gardens, urban farms or pop-up parks.

Two Trees Management plans to build a major mixed-use development at the 11-acre site of the former Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg, and it has already opened up a temporary public park on the currently vacant land.

“I think encouraging this kind of stuff is obviously a good idea,” Walentas told Capital New York, while standing inside the temporary Havemeyer Park.

A spokesperson for Mayor Michael Bloomberg declined to comment on the proposed legislation, but City Councilman Stephen Levi, who is supporting the proposal, told Capital New York that vacant lots produce little tax revenue in comparison to income-producing lots, so it wouldn’t necessarily result in a big financial hit for the city. [Capital New York]  — Hiten Samtani