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Thread: NYC Parks

  1. #166
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    Oct 2002


    Correction Seen After Years of Disinvestment in Neighborhood Parks


    Mayor Bill de Blasio helped parks department workers with painting at Bowne Playground in Flushing, Queens, on Tuesday.
    Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

    Omar Saleh, holding his 7-year-old son’s hand, surveyed Bowne Playground, where Mayor Bill de Blasio would soon announce a $130 million plan to upgrade neglected parks. “I’d like to see more color,” he said simply. “Grass, flowers, paint — just more color.”

    The playground, a sea of asphalt punctuated by lonely play equipment in Flushing, Queens, is one of 35 parks in low-income neighborhoods chosen to be part of the new Community Parks Initiative.
    The plan, announced on Tuesday morning, seeks to correct some of the disparities that exist among the city’s more than 1,700 parks and playgrounds, in which high-profile parks in larger neighborhoods have received billions of dollars, while smaller, less visible sites have languished.

    To choose the sites, the parks department looked for the most neglected, identifying 215 parks where less than $250,000 had been spent on capital improvements over the last 20 years.

    Rebuilding all of those would have cost about $1 billion — nearly double the department’s capital budget for the current fiscal year. So parks officials narrowed the list to 134, based on the income levels, population density and population growth in surrounding neighborhoods. After making visits, they winnowed the list further, to 35.

    The parks and play spaces are generally small and little-known, ranging from Hunts Point Playground in the Bronx to Jesse Owens Playground in Brooklyn. On average, each will receive nearly $4 million in capital improvements. Another $36.3 million from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection will pay for what officials call “green” infrastructure, such as rain gardens and porous surfaces that will divert storm water runoff from the combined sewage system.

    “From children and parents to athletes and students, every New Yorker deserves access to clean and safe public parkland — no matter what neighborhood they live in,” said Mayor de Blasio, who was joined by other elected officials and the parks commissioner, Mitchell J. Silver.

    Mr. Silver called the initiative “a down payment” on a sustained effort to correct years of disinvestment in small, neighborhood parks. Next year, the department will revisit the list of parks that did not make the cut, he said.

    In addition, the parks department will begin more minor renovations in 55 other slighted parks, providing touch-ups such as fresh coats of paint and new fencing.

    The 35 parks selected to receive the $130 million encompass about 65 acres, and each is within a 10-minute walk for 220,000 New Yorkers. The initiative also dedicates $7.2 million toward those parks for maintenance and cultural programs. Partnerships for Parks, a joint program of the parks department and the City Parks Foundation, will work with local residents to form friends groups for the parks.

    Change won’t be immediate: Ground won’t be broken on the projects till at least 2016, according to parks officials.

    Tupper Thomas, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, an advocacy group, embraced the initiative. “It’s a very interesting approach,” she said at Bowne Playground before the announcement. “Parks like this one are old-fashioned and haven’t had anything done in a long time.”

    Mayor de Blasio laid part of the blame for the inequity in the park system on his predecessor, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is perhaps best known for supporting sleek new parks like the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park, as well as big-ticket renovations like that of Washington Square Park.

    But the Bloomberg administration also financed renovations in working- and middle-class neighborhoods throughout the city. And, in fact, $80 million of the $130 million in the new plan was allotted specifically to neighborhood parks in Mr. Bloomberg’s preliminary 2015 budget, released shortly before he left office.

    Many of the smallest parks in the system were overlooked in the past decade, however. One reason was the parks department’s reliance on City Council members to pay for projects like dog runs, playgrounds and handball courts out of their discretionary funds. Some gave generously to parks; others did not.

    The equity plan does not include a contribution from conservancies — private groups that raise money and sometimes help operate the parks. The mayor had endorsed state legislation during his campaign that would have required the biggest conservancies to give 20 percent of their operating budgets to a neighborhood parks alliance.

    But the legislation never came up for a vote in Albany, and the conservancies balked at the idea, saying it would dampen donations. At the news conference, Mr. de Blasio said that the city would continue to address the role of conservancies.

    “Today is a first step,” he said. “We will also turn to the major parks conservancies and ask them to make a contribution as part of this process.”

  2. #167
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    Oct 2002


    Greenbacks for the Concrete Jungle

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveils $130 million "Community Parks Initiative."

    by Henry Melcher

    The administration is planning to update neglected neighborhood parks. Malcolm Pinckney

    Mayor Bill de Blasio was elected to City Hall on his pledge to fight back against New York City’s inequality crisis—to turn the “Tale of Two Cities” into the Tale of One. In his determined pursuit to do so, the mayor has been unveiling policies that manipulate and reshape New York’s built environment. The first, and most ambitious of those plans, is to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. With pieces of that housing agenda taking shape, de Blasio has introduced the “Community Parks Initiative,” a $130 million plan to root out inequality of maintenance and design across the city’s 29,000 acres of park land.

    As the mayor sees it, the city’s small playgrounds and parks—often located in poor neighborhoods—were gravely overlooked as the city focused on bigger, headline-grabbing spaces like Brooklyn Bridge Park, Governor’s Island, and, of course, the High Line.

    “It’s truly a necessity in urban life to have a great parks system,” said Mayor de Blasio when announcing his initiative at Bowne Playground in Queens. “But again, not all parks have been treated equally. Not all parks provide enough, [and] are maintained the way they should be. So for some people, the experience of the park is great. In other neighborhoods we have a long way to go.”

    To address these vast disparities, the city looked across its entire parks inventory to see which individual sites had the most need; it found that in 20 years, 215 parks had received less than $250,000 in capital improvements. According to Parks Commissioner Mitchel Silver, it would cost $1 billion to improve all of them, so the department went through a prioritization process. “We looked at density, poverty, growth and then we looked at some other factors and went out to visit each one,” the commissioner told AN.

    The 35 small neighborhood parks are poorly maintained and dominated by hardscape. Malcolm Pinckney; Daniel Avila

    At the end of that process, the department selected 35 parks and playgrounds to receive about $3 to 4 million each in upgrades. That money will go toward new play equipment, horticulture, and green spaces including turf and artificial turf. The Department of Environmental Protection is also investing an additional $36.3 million into the plan for green infrastructure projects. Silver said stormwater capture will be the primary focus of those efforts. Fifty-five other sites have also been identified by the city for quick-fix improvements like painting and fencing.

    The mayor’s plan was praised by Tupper Thomas, the executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, who said the money will provide flexibility for park improvements. “This is a whole different way of looking at parks,” she said. “It looks at them from such a great neighborhood-building perspective.” Currently, funding for smaller parks has to filter through city council members and borough presidents who may want to spend money elsewhere. This sum money will go directly to the parks already selected by the administration.

    At the announcement, de Blasio said that he will also ask the city’s larger parks conservancies, like the Central Park Conservancy, to chip into his effort. During the campaign, he supported legislation that would require conservancies to do this, but has since softened his position. Silver told AN that the administration is in “active discussion” with the conservancies to see how they could support the mayor’s effort—whether through funds, or expertise in management, fundraising, programming, or design.

    The story of park inequity is, of course, not confined to New York’s five boroughs. In cities around the world there are the highly-visited and well-maintained public spaces and then the parks and playgrounds that crumble in poor neighborhoods. But in unveiling his parks initiative, Mayor de Blasio took an opportunity to specifically knock Mayor Bloomberg’s parks legacy—a legacy that is widely respected in the city and beyond.

    “I think [fighting inequality] is front and center in the philosophy of this administration and it applies to everything we’re doing--doesn’t matter if you’re talking about schools or job creation or parks--it’s the way we see the world,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say the previous administration didn’t see the world that way. So it just wasn’t a priority.”

    The former mayor’s team was quick to respond to de Blasio’s assessment. “The Bloomberg administration made $5 billion in capital investments in parks, the largest capital investment in the city’s history, with the vast majority invested in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Northern Manhattan,” wrote Bloomberg Parks Commissioner Veronica White on

    It has also been noted that $80 million of de Blasio’s $130 million initiative was money secured by Bloomberg. When asked about his boss’s criticism, Silver told AN that the press had misread the mayor’s comments. “I was at the press conference and I did not hear that,” he said referring to de Blasio’s supposed swipes at Bloomberg. “We took a 20 year snapshot, not a 12 year snapshot. A lot of people drew that conclusion, but what we’re saying is that $6 billion had been spent, but for some reason, over the past two decades, 215 parks got lost.”

    For her part, Tupper Thomas tried to see past the political back-and-forth and praised both mayors’ efforts to improve parks. “In my mind,” she said, “parks have done very well already with the new administration and ended very well under the last one.”

  3. #168
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    Plaza Sweet

    Downtown Alliance, CB1, and Margaret Chin Press to Close Tunnel Ramp and Create New Park in Financial District

    by Matthew Fenton

    A view of Trinity Plaza (photo by Matthew Fenton)

    The Downtown Alliance is proposing to eliminate a two-lane exit ramp from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and combine a pair of small Financial District plazas that it separates into a single, larger public square.

    One of the two spaces, Elizabeth H. Berger Plaza, is located on the north side of the exit ramp, and surrounded by Edgar Street, Greenwich Street, and Trinity Place. Formerly known as Edgar Plaza, this space was renamed in December, 2013 to honor the deceased president of the Alliance, Elizabeth Berger, who was a tireless civic champion of Lower Manhattan.

    The second space, known as Trinity Plaza and situated on the south side of the exit ramp, is a forlorn, irregularly shaped expanse of concrete that is bordered by Trinity Place on the east, but largely cut off from the surrounding community on all other sides by fencing and guard rails for the tunnel. The exit ramp that currently lies between them vents traffic from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel onto Trinity Place, but is replicated by another, nearby ramp that directs vehicles exiting the tunnel onto Greenwich street. The value of both ramps is limited by the fact that they are closed to traffic during the morning rush hour, when drivers are most likely to utilize them.

    The two-lane exit ramp takes up 2,500 square feet of open space. If eliminated and absorbed into a single plaza created by combining those on either side, the resulting new park would have an area of 18,000 square feet. The traffic that currently uses the ramp slated for removal would still be able to rejoin Trinity Place by making right turns onto either Edgar or Rector Streets.

    "We're pushing to have those parks combined," says, Jessica Lappin, who succeeded Ms. Berger as the Alliance's president in February, 2014. "The Department of Transportation needed to do some studies, which are now complete. And the Department of Parks and Recreation has a design, which is awaiting review by Commissioner Mitchell Silver."

    Berger Plaza is on the right. (photo by Matthew Fenton)

    Ms. Lappin notes that, "there's money in the capital budget for this that has been allocated by City Council member Margaret Chin, so we're hoping to get this to the Community Board right after the Commissioner reviews it."

    "As the Financial District's residential population continues to grow," says Ms. Chin, "we must make it a priority to improve and increase public open space within the neighborhood. This proposal could make a great positive impact on that front, and that's why I allocated the capital funding to help make it possible. I look forward to working with local residents and the Downtown Alliance, Community Board 1 and the City on this plan to provide a larger, more vibrant public space for the community."

    Community Board 1 (CB1) has included calls for funding to implement this project for eight years, in its prioritized budget requests for fiscal years 2009 through 2016. CB1 chair Catherine McVay Hughes says, “the expansion of the former Edgar Plaza, now known as the Elizabeth Berger Plaza, has been a top priority of CB1 for the past decade. CB1 has repeatedly made capital budget requests in order to make this a top City priority. We are delighted that funding has now been secured to make this dream a reality. Beautiful public open space will transform this area.”

    The mission of the Downtown Alliance, which has maintained both plazas (and upgraded them with seasonal plantings) for more than a decade, is to enhance Lower Manhattan for businesses, residents and visitors. (Along with other functions, the Alliance also provides local security and operates the business improvement district, or BID, that covers the area south of Chambers Street.) Among the services provided by the Alliance that Lower Manhattan residents especially prize is Downtown Connection shuttle, which ferries passengers (free of charge) between 37 local stops that link residential areas neighborhoods with business and shopping districts. Running from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, seven days a week, the Downtown Connection was launched by the Alliance in 2003 and expanded in 2009. It is currently utilized by more than 800,000 people each year.

  4. #169
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    Oct 2002


    City Pledges $50M To Beautify & Better New York City's Parks

    November 12, 2015, by Zoe Rosenberg

    The Parks Department has announced a new initiative to beautify New York City's public green space and make them a more welcoming and accessible part of the city's urban fabric. Parks Without Borders will focus on improving entrances to attract visitors, lowering fences to create a more welcoming line-of-vision, repairing walkways, bettering adjacent spaces, and adding plants and trees (h/t NYDN). The initiative is supported by $50 million in funding from OneNYC (formerly PlaNYC). Of that, $40 million will go towards improving eight parks selected through a community nomination process.

    Parks Without Borders design concepts have already started being applied to community green space through the Community Parks Initiative—think Crown Heights' Stroud Playground and the Astoria Heights Playground. To nominate a new project to receive Parks Without Borders Funding, head on over to the Parks Department website. Hint: the more suggestions a park receives, the more likely it will be selected.

    Parks Without Borders [official]
    EXCLUSIVE: New York City launches $40M park redesign program [NYDN]

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