Students at Rochester Institute of Technology are working with Rochester high school students to see if some of the 300 city-owned vacant lots in the Marketview Heights neighborhood can be turned into assets such as community gardens, playscapes or exercise stations.
The survey is a pilot program that is using the leadership team of the Field to Table program, which began seven years ago when a vacant lot on First Street was converted to a children’s garden. The garden continues to be a positive neighborhood asset, educating children and providing food to area residents.
Using an app on their phones, city high school students, supervised by RIT students Malkia Nyakako, a fourth-year double major in civil engineering and sociology and anthropology from Princeton, Mass., and Exa Page, a fifth-year environmental sciences major from Annapolis, Md., recently canvassed the streets running off Bay Street in Rochester.
They loaded data about each vacant parcel they found, including whether there were any structures on the lots, the number of trees, curb cuts and access to water. Many city-owned lots, about 2,100 in Rochester, are idle and covered in grass. Homes once stood on most of the sites, but they were torn down due to fires or abandonment. Housing codes today call for larger parcels of land for new houses to be built, so replacing homes is not an option for the parcels.