New Partners Caring for Your Parks

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

“It’s so nice to have an excuse to get out of the office and make a difference.”  is, without fail, one of the most common refrains we hear at our corporate volunteer events.  This spring brought two new corporate partnerships to NY4P, with new opportunities to make an impact in some of the Bronx’s highest-need and most heavily-used parks.

In April, we were joined by a group of Green Team volunteers from TIAA-CREF in St. Mary’s Park. We re-painted over a dozen park benches and removed massive amounts of leaves that had piled up around the fencing of the heavily-used baseball fields in the southern end of the park. The thirty volunteers who joined us that day were surprised to learn that the tasks we completed in a few hours’ time would have taken weeks for one person from NYC Parks to complete. Some of the volunteers even expressed that they had never realized they could participate in stewarding their parks, and that they were interested in getting involved in clean-up efforts in their own communities. One of the most meaningful outcomes for NY4P staff and volunteers is that shared sense of stewardship for parks across the city. 

In June, we partnered with Epsilon on a volunteer clean-up of Indian Lake in Crotona Park.  Joined by 15 volunteers, we tackled the debris and litter that had collected along the banks and in the reeds that line the lake. Maintenance of water bodies in parks provides a unique challenge for NYC Parks. We collected over twenty trash bags full of debris, which allowed the parks maintenance staff to attend to maintenance needs elsewhere in this large neighborhood park as they prepared for the busy first weekend of summer.  When large debris floated out of reach, an Epsilon staff member suggested we try using the pole of our extendable pruning saw to trap it. The extendable pole worked perfectly, and she exclaimed, “Never give me a challenge, because I will always find a way to solve it!” That sense of teamwork, dedication, giving, and yes, even problem solving, embodies what makes a park volunteer day so special.

To find out more about corporate volunteer opportunities with NY4P, visit our website, or contact our Director of Development, Jon Kornfeld.


TIAA-CREF at St. Mary's Park in the Bronx

Summer Surveying Begins

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How does NY4P create conscientious, well-researched reports? Our survey interns are the key: they collect thousands of data points about conditions in New York City’s parks. Those results are analyzed by trained statisticians and contextualized by our Planning staff. That’s how we learn what NYC Parks does well and what the agency might need additional capital or operation funding for in order to make improvements. We build the base for our advocacy and budget work from data.

This summer, our six interns are collecting data for a new Report Card on Parks. They will focus on neighborhood parks within the DeBlasio administration’s Community Parks Initiative zones, allowing NY4P to measure what more needs to be done to continue and expand the CPI program in these important neighborhoods where parks have been poorly funded.  Almost 40 parks of 2 to 20 acres will be surveyed before Labor Day.

Surveyors work in teams to grade park features and document the conditions that they see. This summer, we’ve been able to add more survey interns due to a new partnership with Futures & Options, a workforce development program serving New York City youth. Our Futures & Options interns will help us to collect data – and they’ll help us to reach more park users and engage them with our research.



L – R: David Olea, Demani Williams, Maggie Randall, Chhime Sherpa, Victorio Matias, Marcel Negret

Holding the Line for A Strong Parks System

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

We spoke up for parks, and we plan to continue. 

The budget that Mayor Bill de Blasio submitted in the spring would have dented NYC Parks' ability to keep open spaces clean and attractive. Seeking to save operating costs, the mayor proposed cutting essential money from the Parks budget, including $8.7 million for 150 park gardeners and maintenance workers- money the City Council added last year. 

Then NY4P and our allies swung into action. 

Working with Councilmember Mark Levine and dozens of grassroots activists, we staged a rally on the City Hall steps demanding more funding for the parks and gardens that elevate our lives. Journalists from the New York Times, among others, began to hear our call. If the mayor wants a city that delivers great benefits to everyone, how can he sign a budget that makes it harder for NYC Parks to do its job? 

We still have to pose that question to the mayor, despite the welcome news we got today. In adopting a final budget, the City Council restored the $8.7 million for maintenance staff.  It also gained $1.65 million for the Parks Equity Initiative, which will support work in parks under the Community Parks Initiative. This will make it possible for more parks in more neighborhoods to stay safe, clean and useful. This is a real win for advocates and for neighborhood residents who love their local open space. 

It's also a challenge to us to keep organizing. The budget misses a lot of needs, like funds for capital and for midsize parks, for GreenThumb and community gardens and a permanent increase in maintenance funds. We'll be fighting for these issues in coming months, well ahead of next year's budget. That's because parks' benefits, and their needs, never end. 

For now, though, we thank our partners and supporters for bringing back much-needed dollars to a park system we all cherish  in so many ways. 

Click here to find your councilmember and thank him or her for speaking up for parks- and give the word that we need more for all our parks in budgets to come. 

Speak Up for Parks Before June 30

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Mayor's Executive Budget falls short of funding basic maintenance and capital needs for New York  City's parks and community gardens. 

Fortunately, the Executive Budget isn't the last word. The mayor and City Council will agree by June 30 on a budget for the next fiscal year. You can reach out to your public officials now and tell them to make vital additions so that all New York City parks can thrive. 

"For pennies on the dollar, the city can strategically invest in making public spaces clean, useful and safe," our executive director, Tupper Thomas, said in testimony to the City Council in May. 

Specifically, the city should take these steps (see our news archive for a fuller analysis): 

  • Restore $8.7 million for full time gardeners and park maintenance workers, allowing NYC Parks to rely less on  temporary workers.
  • Add $5.4 million for 200 new playground associates, who play an integral role in keeping parks and playgrounds safe and well-kept during the warm months when parks are busiest.
  • Add $5 million in capital funding and $1 million in expense funding to the GreenThumb program for community gardens. 
  • Restore the $750,000 added last year to hire additional community outreach staff through Partnerships for Parks. 
  • Provide $500,000 for a master-planning process in at least four neighborhood parks.
  • Add $50 million in discretionary capital spending for sites that may need more funding to complete, or that won't likely get funding from elsewhere.

Councilmember Mark Levine, who chairs the Parks Committee, has stepped out in front on this issue. He cowrote an opinion piece with Tupper that lays out the additions the budget needs. 

More recently, Levine told the New York Times: "If you want every park to be beautifully maintained, then we have to spend money on staffing." 

Councilmembers are joining our cause. At a May 27 rally we co-hosted with Councilmember Levine, 11 other City Councilmembers spoke up for better parks funding. 


  • Be sure to mention the $8.7 million for full-time staff and $5.4 million for 200 playground associates. 
Mayor de Blasio has made a strong downpayment on improving under-funded neighborhood parks with his Community Parks Initiative. It's time for the city to make necessary investments in all parks. 

The 2015 Report Card on Beaches is Here

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

New York City’s eight swimming beaches have made steady overall progress since New Yorkers for Parks began tracking them in 2007, despite the interruption of Hurricane Sandy.

There is more work to do, though, to make these beaches consistently great.

The 2015 Report Card on Beaches, released today by New Yorkers for Parks (NY4P), revisits and reassesses the seven swimming beaches surveyed between 2007 and 2011, and adds an assessment of Cedar Grove Beach in Staten Island. Results were strong: half the beaches scored in the A or B range, and only one received a failing grade. The depth and breadth of our study make this report - the only independent assessment of its kind - and its recommendations timely as beach season resumes.

 The report awarded the top scoring Rockaway Beach in Queens with a grade of 90, and runner up Manhattan Beach in southeastern Brooklyn received a score of 87. The report also depicts beaches where the city has serious work to do: Orchard Beach in the Bronx scores a 69 and Wolfe’s Pond Beach in Staten Island pulled in a low score of 36.  Overall the results of the 2015 report prove that the trend towards improved conditions at the city’s beaches continues.

“The Parks Department has worked diligently and visibly to improve beach quality since our first report in 2007, and to deal with the unique challenges of recovering from Hurricane Sandy,” said Tupper Thomas, NY4P’s Executive Director. “With this report, we hope to help the city work for even stronger systems of maintenance and operations as well as to spell out and dedicate the capital improvements that are needed to make our beaches world class.”

The report presents findings and recommendations based on data collected by NY4P surveyors at all eight city beaches that have lifeguards during the summer months of 2014. Each surveyor used NY4P’s established methodology to physically assess and score four key features: Shorelines, Pathways, Bathrooms, and Drinking Fountains. NYC Parks has generally improved the maintenance of all these areas since NY4P began assessing beaches in 2007, though some beaches score notably higher than others. The data collected shows significant variety within and across beaches. Just in Staten Island, Midland Beach got a 45 for its drinking fountains but scored a 96 on its pathway.

The report makes six key recommendations:

  • Continue capital repairs required to recover from Hurricane Sandy. Although many structures and amenities have been replaced since the storm, many beaches remain without permanent replacements for facilities and infrastructure that the storm damaged.
  • Use dedicated contractors to meet plumbing and carpentry needs at beaches. This would dedicate attention to the beaches, which require an especially high amount of plumbing and carpentry for their share of the NYC Parks portfolio. Private contracting will allow NYC Parks staff to adequately service the plumbing and carpentry needs at parks and playgrounds.
  • Make clear where access is prohibited with uniform, consistent signage across all beaches. Clear signage helps to protect visitors and fragile beach environments alike. Visitors should unequivocally know where they may tread on open sand and across fragile beach dunes.
  • Keep investing capital dollars in new drinking fountain and spray shower models. Modern, drainless drinking fountains, such as the new models found at Rockaway Beach, do not clog with sand or litter. Stand-alone spray showers help swimmers rinse off sand and salt water, keeping existing fountains and comfort stations clean.
  • Create a capital plan for maintaining and renovating Orchard Beach. The popular Bronx beach, inside Pelham Bay Park, has suffered long-term effects from Sandy without getting capital investment priority, as the Long Island and Staten Island beaches did. The City must create a long-term plan to make Orchard Beach resilient and magnificent.
  • Replenish sand at Wolfe’s Pond and other Staten Island beaches. Erosion has taken its toll on these sites. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to enter a contract to study what would be necessary to keep these beaches well-maintained over the long term.

The good news in the Report Card on Beaches is that the city has continued a general upward trend in beach conditions since NY4P’s surveys began. Average scores in all areas were equal to or higher than they were in 2009. That year, the highest score was 77. This year, despite the ongoing challenges from Sandy, the city showed one Excellent and three Very Good beaches.

That Rockaway Beach in Queens, where Sandy ripped miles of boardwalk from the earth, earned a grade of 90 just two years later shows what NYC Parks can do with enough capital and a thorough plan. The Report Card on Beaches shows ways to bring all beaches to that standard.

An Array of Ideas for Funding Parks Beyond the City Budget

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

We’ve been working with our partners at the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund to find innovative strategies for funding maintenance, operations, and capital needs for parks across the city. Our recommendations, presented in “Funding an Equitable Park System,” Part III of Dig Deeper for a Greener New York, provide creative options for policymakers and advocates to use in a range of situations. From establishing a citywide Park Equity Fund to thinking creatively about designating capital monies for future maintenance needs, the strategies we highlight are innovative yet achievable. We’re excited to advance the conversation about how to fund New York City’s park needs when the City’s budget leaves big gaps. Read the recommendations here.

We Respond to the Mayor's Budget

Friday, May 22, 2015
New Yorkers for Parks has analyzed the mayor's executive budget. We applaud the $151 million intended for the Community Parks Initiative, which can help improve many playgrounds over time and sustain the citywide conversation about park equity.  The new capital initiative, Parks without Borders, can also create exciting changes to many open spaces. We also welcome the $5 million base-lined for 80 new PEP officers citywide, and $6 million for street and park tree pruning and care. But we see major gaps in funding that would provide for cleaner, safer parks and gardens citywide. For around $65 million, less than one percent of the total budget, the city can make good on its pledge to advance the larger park equity goal this year. Here are our recommendations: 

  • Restore $8.7 million for full time gardeners and park maintenance workers, allowing NYC Parks to rely less on roving crews of temporary workers and more on a secure, permanent workforce.
  • Add $5.4 million for 200 new playground associates, who play an integral role in keeping parks and playgrounds safe and well-kept during the warm months when parks are busiest.
  • Add $5 million in capital funding and $1 million in expense funding to the GreenThumb program. At a time when the city’s community gardeners need assurance that the administration respects their contribution to our city’s health, a $1 million addition would increase outreach staff, who provide support and oversight of community gardens citywide. $5 million in capital would allow infrastructure improvements in gardens across the city, many of which are in high- need communities. These will help the gardens flourish as true community open spaces.
  • Restore the $750,000 added last year to hire additional community outreach staff through Partnerships for Parks.  These professionals create long-term engagement with community stakeholders in the parks that CPI has targeted. Their technical expertise is crucial now, with CPI’s first 35 playgrounds still in the design process, and not slated for completion until 2017.
  • Provide $500,000 for a master-planning process in at least four neighborhood parks, to intelligently prepare for future capital projects at these key sites.
  • Add $50 million in discretionary capital spending for sites that require action. Communities that have seen projects start based on local funding may see unanticipated costs to complete them,  and other communities may need new park projects. The Commissioner could use discretionary funding to manage contingencies, changes and critical new needs throughout the system.

We invite anyone who loves parks to join New Yorkers for Parks and Councilmember Mark Levine at a rally on the City Hall steps on May 27 at 11 a.m. For pennies on the dollar, the city can strategically invest in making public spaces clean, useful and safe- and in protecting the mayor’s equity agenda.  

Parks Make Gains in Participatory Budgeting

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

NY4P was honored to participate in this City Council term's participatory budgeting process, which included 24 districts. Citizens in these districts voted on public priorities, and in many cases came out strongly for parks and open spaces. Projects improving close to 40 parks, playgrounds and green spaces drew upwards of $12 million out of a total $32 million allocated this year. We see a vibrant future for this democratic tool, and congratulate all who participated. Read more about the results here

Rally for Parks and Gardens May 27

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Join New Yorkers for Parks, Councilmember Mark Levine, community gardeners and other fellow open space advocates from every borough as we call on the Mayor and City Council to commit much-needed funding for our city's parks and gardens. 

Bring your friends, neighbors, colleagues, family members- anyone who cares about NYC's open spaces. 

Wednesday, May 27th
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
City Hall Steps

Click here to RSVP

See you at City Hall!

Our 2015 Daffodil Honorees

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Click here to see a photo of the honorees and more about our breakfast! 


The Greenacre Foundation 

The Greenacre Foundation was founded in 1968 by Mrs. Abby Rockefeller Mauze, in order to maintain and operate one or more parks in New York State for the public. In 1971, she established Greenacre Park, a small vest-pocket park and waterfall on 51st Street in Manhattan, in order to provide New Yorkers "some moments of serenity in this busy world." In 1983 the Greenacre Foundation helped fund the restoration of the Heather Gardens and fund a master plan for Fort Tryon Park. The foundation continues to support nature walks for kids and families in Northern Manhattan Parks as well as other causes that champion parks and open spaces.


Basia Nikonorow
Partnership for Parks, Outreach Coordinator

Partnerships for Parks supports  community leaders and advocates with tools to transform open spaces into lively and vibrant assets for all to enjoy. Partnerships provides critical connection between active park groups and those interested in becoming involved, and offers expertise and guidance to co-create public spaces.  This year we honor the hard work of Basia Nikonorow, the Outreach Coordinator who serves the South Bronx. Ms. Nikonorow, whose participation in the Daffodil Project pre-dates her time with Partnerships. identified St. Mary’s Park in Mott Haven as a focus for community development, and worked with us to understand our research and planning assessments of the neighborhood. Using our former research reports and the NYCHA Choice Neighborhoods process as a catalyst, Basia has successfully formed a new Friends of St. Mary’s Park. Council. Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito recently committed $1.5M in funding for the redevelopment of Playground West in St. Mary’s. Basia also worked with us in her former district of Hunts Point to help us organize our planting event in Joseph Rodman Drake Park, in partnership with last year’s Bronx Honorees, P.S. 48. She also helped NY4P relocate our Bronx bulb distribution to St. Mary’s, helping us to bring more resources and visibility to the Mott Haven neighborhood, and the South Bronx as a whole.


Rosalina Mestric
Resident Gardener - Pomonok Houses, Bulb Brigade volunteer

In the warmer months, Ms. Mestric, a resident gardener of Pomonok Houses, can usually be found tending her slice of land known as Mestric Garden. Originally from Brazil, Ms. Mestric has given back to her new community by cultivating a beautiful space that is a visual delight for her neighbors to enjoy. As a long-time member of NYCHA’s Garden & Greening Program, her garden reflects the positive benefits of a resident taking ownership of a space that would otherwise be neglected. Her commitment to beautifying her development goes beyond her garden plot, as she decorates the garden with her own folk art created from found materials, and engages young residents to plant with her. Rosalina, our star Bulb Brigade volunteer for the past two seasons of the Daffodil Project, travels from far out Queens every fall to accompany us at our bulb distributions throughout the city. Her dedicated spirit demonstrates her passion and love for gardening as well as her commitment to fostering the next generation of stewards. Our events would not be the same without her.


Pamela Pettyjohn
Coney Island Beautification Project

The Coney Island Beautification Project was founded in response to Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the waterfront community. Two years post-Sandy, the organization continues to be a great force, engaging community members in beautification events to foster neighborhood stewardship. This spring, hundreds of daffodils will bloom all along Mermaid Avenue because of the Coney Island Beautification Project. The group organized the students of P.S 188, 288, 329, and Liberation Diploma Plus Academy (an alternative high school), along with a large network of community partners to make this event happen. In addition to the daffodil planting volunteer day, CIBP hosts “It’s My Park Day” events, street tree care workshops, and supports other local organizations. Coalitions like the Coney Island Beautification Project prove that residents can feel proud of their community by taking ownership for their streets, parks, and open spaces, while also continuing the important work of rebuilding a neighborhood hard-hit and still recovery.

Staten Island

Jody Stoll
Partnership for a Healthier Staten Island, Program Manager

In tune with a larger mission to create a healthier New York, Partnership for a Healthier Staten Island seeks to promote wellness and to improve the health of the Staten Island community through collaboration and a multidisciplinary approach. The Partnership aims to improve the health outcomes by preventing the leading causes of death and disability across the life span for all New Yorkers, particularly those who experience disparities in health. They will tackle health issues and identify evident based and innovative health promotions strategies specifically for healthy eating, active living, tobacco control, and reduced alcohol consumption. The goal of the Partnership is to significantly reduce chronic disease in New York City—for everyone—by supporting proven, community-level efforts, to change the environments in which people make decisions that impact their health. This fall, Jody Stoll organized multiple plantings along the North Shore of Staten Island, a primarily low-income part of the borough. The North Shore was also flooded during Sandy. Ms. Stoll received over 4,000 bulbs for various planting events organized by the Partnership for a Healthier Staten Island, and much of their focus was on Faber Park, where they recently organized a 2-day Daffodil Festival that took place in mid-April, and had over 1,200 attendees.

The Lynden B. Miller Citywide Daffodil Award

Jessie Kerr-Vanderslice
Grow to Learn NYC, Director

Grow to Learn was born in 2010 as a citywide school garden initiative to promote the creation of a sustainable school garden in each and every public school across New York City. From mini-grants, gardening materials, to technical assistance, Grow to Learn ensures that every public school has access to the information and support needed to create and maintain a successful garden. Their goal is to see that every New York City public school student has the opportunity to get their hands into the soil -- and learn and grow. Since 2013, Grow to Learn has distributed over 15,000 bulbs to approximately 80 public schools. They have been an amazing partner, and have helped get our daffodils into the hands of hundreds of school children to be planted and enjoyed by their communities when they are in bloom.