Co-Designing the Flatbush Community Land Trust

Two different people's hands point at spots on a large map with colored dot stickers placed on it

The Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush encompasses some of New York’s highest rates of black homeownership. However, in recent years, outside developers purchased properties in the neighborhood, raised rents, and pushed out residents. Flatbush neighbors are considering a Community Land Trust to protect their homes and culturally significant spaces.

This project expands beyond typical community engagement to co-create a shared vision for the neighborhood. As the lead designer, Ellen Garrett, a visiting assistant professor in Landscape Architecture and the founder of the Flatbush Workshop for Design, facilitates and builds frameworks for community members to make decisions and generate ideas. The proposed result is a Community Scrapbook that captures the lesser-known history and memories of the neighborhood and illustrates a shared vision for a better future. The studio partners with Brooklyn Level Up (BKLVLUP), a community-focused non-profit that cultivates equity, wealth, and networks for people of color in Brooklyn.

A class discussion with about eight people sitting around a table

The students are introduced to the basic formation of a Community Land Trust as a model for more equitable design projects in the food and social justice space. The studio builds comprehensive narratives born out of design dialogue with the community, and culminating in a series of land-based proposals. BKLVLUP and local residents participate and make decisions at every step of the design process, not just at the beginning or end.

A student reads posters from classmates with maps and text pinned up on a white wall.

The Community Scrapbook showcases the power of storytelling in community engagement while identifying sites and early designs co-created with the neighborhood. The Community Scrapbook is intended for fundraising and furthering the dialogue with neighbors and public officials about what is possible within a land trust. The scrapbook will be a living document that captures community memory and future narratives for the neighborhood. The forces of gentrification are not unique to Flatbush. The community-centered design process will prove useful as a case study for other land trusts or collectivized grassroots endeavors. 

Project Year



  • Ellen GarrettVisiting Assistant Professor Landscape Architecture Graduate Architecture and Urban Design