NBD_Garden Permits


Would you like to turn a city owned empty lot into a productive flower or vegetable garden? Are you interested in changing an unused parcel of land from ‘abandoned’ to ‘cared for’? If the answer is yes, we encourage you to step up your involvement and apply for a Garden Permit. There is a growing national movement that involves residents at the local level to create attractive green spaces.  It’s a healthy activity that also improves the health of our communities. In many instances, caring for vacant lots has proven to be the starting point for homeowners to increase the value and security of their collective neighborhoods, to improve the safety of their residents, and to encourage growth and opportunities in their area.    

There are many vacant lots in Rochester, maybe next door to your home or just down the street, and a large percentage of them are available to you through the City’s Garden Permit program.  

Garden Permits are issued annually for approved City-owned vacant lots.  Permit holders must be 18 years of age or older. The applicant may be an individual, a group of volunteers, a neighborhood based agency or community group.


There is no charge.

Terms and Conditions 

Get started with your garden project by submitting your Garden Permit application to the Division of Real Estate. The application will be quickly reviewed  to determine the status of the requested lot, including (but not limited to) ownership, if the site is on hold for a City program or project, and restrictions due to known subsoil conditions, easements or lease agreements, etc. If the lot you have chosen is not available, you will be notified and you may request an alternate location. After your application is approved, you will have a permit for the current growing season. To assist you, this link contains mapping of all City Owned Property, and can help you do a search of City-owned vacant lots in the vicinity of your home (or whatever you would like to use as your ‘center’). 

It is important for permit holders to understand the responsibilities and time commitment necessary to plan, establish and properly maintain the site.  Following are two of the more important ones:  no permanent structure can be installed on the lot and vegetables or fruits must be grown in raised beds only.   Gardening guidelines must be followed to ensure acceptable aesthetic and sanitary conditions for neighboring homes and community.   Details of these and other conditions can be found in the first portion of the Garden Permit, entitled ‘Terms and Provisions’.  

Garden permits are temporary agreements only, valid from March 1 through December 15, and cannot be carried over to the next year.  Permit holders may renew by submitting a new application on an annual basis; first rights of refusal for any particular lot are given to the previous year’s permit holder.  Click here to fill out an application for a one-year Garden Permit. You must scan it back in and attach it to an e-mail for submission to diane.powell@cityofrochester.gov or send the hard copy to the Division of Real Estate, City Hall-Room 5A, 30 Church Street, Rochester, NY 14614.  

Information About Water 

Having access to water is almost always the deal breaker in the success of a garden.  And that, in turn, deeply influences the commitment of your volunteers.  Very few vacant lots have a spigot and those that do are snatched up quickly and not relinquished.  If the garden parcel you’ve chosen is not directly next door to your own lot, the odds that you will have water at your demand are quite slim.  You will have to be creative and energetic to produce that water source.  Some ideas for you to consider can be found in our document  Water Options.  Always an option of course, is paying to install a water line, but there is no assistance with funding and no refunds will be issued if the lot is sold or if you decide to stop gardening.  Details for that are found in  Water Lines.  

Note:  Five year garden license agreements and five-season garden permits are now available for community organizations/non-profits who have held a garden permit for three consecutive seasons without complaint or citation and can be accessed below. 

If you have further questions about the Garden Permit, please contact the Division of Real Estate at 585-428-6807, via e-mail at diane.powell@cityofrochester.gov or visit our office at City Hall in person at Rm 5A, 30 Church Street, Rochester, NY   14614 between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm.


  •  The City of Rochester Department of Environmental Services is offering Community Garden Assistance. Please contact Pamela.ReeseSmith@CityofRochester.Gov for information on what they have to offer.