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Unused city-owned land measures twice the size of Central Park, study finds

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MAS says the city isn’t doing enough with the land it currently owns

A comprehensive new study conducted by the Municipal Art Society of New York has revealed that the amount of land owned by the city measures about the size of the borough of Brooklyn, and the percentage of that that sits unused is about twice the size of Central Park.

For the study titled, Public Assets: City‐Owned and Leased Properties (Public Assets), MAS looked at 14,000 properties, which amounts to about 43,000 acres of land. Along with their report, the organization has also released an interactive map that they hope will help city planners and housing activists address the needs of New Yorkers.

“City-owned means citizen-owned; New Yorkers deserve to know that we collectively carry the cost, but also potential profit, on land holdings as large as Brooklyn,” Gina Pollara, the president of MAS, said in a statement. “These findings raise serious questions about whether our city’s available property is being appropriately leveraged for civic benefit. True equity in the city’s planning and land use decisions can only be achieved through an informed and engaged public.”

As part of their study, MAS focussed on some key issued that affect New Yorkers such as the environment, infrastructure, landmarks and neighborhood rezoning among others. Some of the findings are rather alarming. For instance, 64 percent of city-owned land is either partially or fully within the 100-year floodplain.

Of the total sites MAS looked at, 247 are either fully or partially designated as New York State environmental remediation sites and 87 of them have been placed in a State Superfund or a Brownfield Cleanup program.

The goal of the report, according to MAS, was to identify sites that would be ideal for low-income housing, to strengthen city-owned properties for future floods, and to take better care of the city’s landmarks.

The city however has not taken to this characterization kindly, of course. A spokesperson for the mayor issued the following statement to The Real Deal, saying the city is focused on, “developing affordable housing, building and modernizing our parks, libraries and schools — and doing so in a manner that ensures community engagement. To suggest that there are acres and acres of underutilized properties that are being ignored by the City is simply untrue.”