Meet A New Yorker for Parks: Audrey Williams, NYC DPR

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

In just a little over two years Audrey Williams has gone from having a temporary position in the Parks Department to becoming a full-time, permanent member of the Brooklyn Borough crew, with another promotion in the works. Having recently received her commercial driving license, she has her sights set on driving the “packers” – sanitation trucks in park’s lingo – a position that offers more responsibility and more compensation.

Ms. Williams started out as a Job Training Participant in November of 2014. Her supervisor saw her dedication and hired her as a gardener in Community Parks Initiative areas. She loved gardening, but the position wasn’t permanent. Every year the staff wonders if the funding will be renewed, or if this is their last year with a job in the department. So when a permanent position opened up, “I jumped on it,” she explains. “The pay is actually less, but being in a temporary position is very stressful. I wanted something I could grow with.”

Now a City Parks Worker responsible for rodent abatement in parks throughout Brooklyn, Ms. Williams drives her Parks Department van to a different site every day. “It’s not the most glamorous job in the world,” she says, “but it’s important. We can’t enjoy our parks if we don’t have someone doing this kind of work. Most people don’t realize how much work goes into taking care of them.”

A native of Brownsville, Audrey has gotten to know Brooklyn better than ever, and sees how much potential there is to improve open space in the city. In her position she talks to people all over the borough who tell her about what’s going well in their green spaces, and what isn’t. She knows the importance of her work, and knows that there is much more that could be done.

“There’s always work to do,” she says. “There’s never a slow day. We’d like to do more, but we have to make do with what we have. It’s ok. But it could be better.

“For us it’s a job, but it’s also important to the health of the city. Look at the trees and flowers. Somebody’s doing all of this work. I know Brownsville looks nicer. And you want to see green, you want to see flowers.”

We can't have quality parks without the hard work and dedication of staff like Ms. Williams. That's why much of our budget advocacy focuses on the protection and creation of permanent jobs within the Parks Department. These jobs support our parks, and support working families - a win-win. Join us in strengthening parks and our workforce by becoming a donor today.

Rally 4 Parks at City Hall, Wednesday May 20, 10-11am

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Join NY4P and parks users, gardeners, and advocates from across the city to make sure the Mayor and City Hall know that we need quality parks and open space. We'll gather on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday, May 25, from 10-11 am. Every city council member will be at City Hall, and with a strong showing we can make sure they hear us. RSVP to the Rally 4 Parks today!

Add Your Name, Tell City Hall to Invest In Parks

Monday, May 09, 2016

Thank you to everyone who signed our letter to the mayor and City Council! The letter has been submitted, but our budget advocacy work continues. In Spring 2017 we will release our priorities for the fiscal year 2018 city budget, and will have another opportunity for folks to add their name and show their support for NYC parks.

Mayor de Blasio and the City Council are just weeks away from finalizing the city budget, and they still haven't included the funding New York City needs to make all of our parks great. We're calling on City Hall to ensure that our parks are well-maintained through the creation of permanent, full-time green jobs - a win-win for all New Yorkers. We're also asking for the creation of new parkland in growing neighborhoods that already lack adequate open space, and increased funding for community gardens across the city. 

#PitchIn4Parks Twitter Storm, Friday, May 20 10am-1pm

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Join us as we hold an online Twitter storm on Friday, May 20 from 10 am - 1pm, telling City Hall that our parks need increased funding. City Hall will hold their Executive Budget hearing at the same time, but even though the public can't testify that doesn't mean we can't make our voices heard! Use hashtag #PitchIn4Parks on Twitter, and tell City Hall why your parks, gardens, and open spaces need more investment. Use the sample tweets provided below, and retweet @NY4P with #PitchIn4Parks. With a strong, unified voice we can ensure better parks for NYC!

Parks and gardens are necessary to the health of New Yorkers. @NYCMayorsOffice @MMViverito: #PitchIn4Parks in the city budget

All New Yorkers deserve access to clean and healthy parks. @NYCMayorsOffice @MMViverito #PitchIn4Parks & provide the funding they need

Growing and densifying NYC neighborhoods need more parkland to be healthy & vibrant. @NYCMayorsOffice @MMViverito #PitchIn4Parks

#PitchIn4Parks and give NYC parks & gardens the funding they need in the city budget! @NYCMayorsOffice @MMViverito 

Parks make New York healthy, and provide good jobs. @NYCMayorsOffice @MMViverito: #PitchIn4Parks, fund NYC jobs & open spaces

Community gardens strengthen neighborhoods and empower communities. @NYCMayorsOffice @MMViverito: #PitchIn4Parks & fund NYC gardens

Or retweet @NY4P and use hashtag #PitchIn4Parks

Meet a New Yorker for Parks: Haywood Liege, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

“This job is just like meditation,” Haywood Liege says as he trims another branch off one of the magnolia trees lining East River Park, which are just days from blooming. “There’s always something to be done – the work never ends. But you get lost in it. Every day when I leave my mind feels a little bit clearer than it did when I got here.”

Mr. Liege has been a gardener at the East River Park for 8 years, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the 57-acre park and its users reflects that. He can tell you when each playground will be the busiest, which ballfield is the most popular, and when bike traffic is heaviest. Working outside in the park in every season, in all types of weather, he knows when the crocuses will appear, when the daffodils will bloom, when the magnolias will blossom, and when it’s time to start laying mulch for winter.

Mr. Liege came to the Parks Department 28 years ago with some experience in landscaping, but learned almost everything he knows about gardening on the job. “It was a very steep learning curve at the beginning,” he recalls, “but I loved it immediately. It’s great to be able to invest time and energy in something, and watch it grow every year.

“I always try to encourage young people to get into gardening, to see it as a career, because it’s so rewarding, and so important to the health of the community. And you don’t know where it can take you. I never thought I’d become a gardener, and now I’m taking care of this park and most of the plants in it. I plan on staying with the Parks department until I retire, and even after I retire I’m still going to garden. I think more people need to understand what a wonderful job this can be.”

“A lot of people are looking for jobs, and are willing to work hard, but they’re having a hard time finding a job they can support their family on. I’m really grateful to have found this, because I really love what I do and am proud of the work that we do here keeping this place nice.”


Give Mom a Gift That Blooms Year After Year

Thursday, April 28, 2016

NY4P's Daffodil Project has planted millions of daffodil bulbs in public spaces across NYC, beautifying the city every spring. Dedicate a Daffodil to your loved one and they'll receive a customized Daffodil Certificate commemorating your support of communities across the city in their honor.

Honoring New Yorkers Who Make the Daffodil Project Grow

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Every year the NY4P Daffodil Breakfast honors individuals and organizations from across all five boroughs that make the Daffodil Project a success. This year we're celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Project, and the planting of over 6 million bulbs in every corner of the city! This past fall NYC celebrated the planting of its millionth tree through the MillionTreesNYC initiative. To celebrate this milestone, this year we are recognizing New Yorkers who use the Daffodil Project as a resource for maintaining their street trees and tree pits. Read more to learn about the 2016 honorees, and find out how your support helps the Daffodil Project continue to bloom across New York City. 

2016 Lynden B. Miller Citywide Daffodil Award Recipient

Trees New York

Trees New York was founded in 1976 as a volunteer response to New York City’s cutbacks in forestry and tree-related community services.  For 40 years Trees New York has worked to plant, preserve and protect New York City’s trees through education and community participation.  Through our signature program, the Citizen Pruner Course, Trees New York has trained over 11,500 volunteers to care for our urban forest.  They are extremely proud to be celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year. Trees New York has participated in the Daffodil Project since it began in 2001, planting thousands of bulbs in street tree pits throughout the city.


Petrona Smith, Boller Avenue Resident Tree Lovers

As an active member of her local Community Board’s Sanitation Committee, Ms. Smith became interested in caring for the tree pits on her block after realizing they were becoming magnets for litter and other refuse. In 2014, Ms. Smith learned about the Daffodil Project, and distributed the bulbs she received to her neighbors and local business owners as a way to encourage the community to become active stewards of the local street trees. Since then, her efforts have resulted in thousands of daffodils blooming along her residential block, as well as the business corridor nearby.


The Prospect Heights Street Tree Task Force (PHSTTF)

Started by a graduate of the Trees New York Citizen Pruner program, the PHSTTF became a local effort to improve the health and conditions of street trees throughout the Prospect Heights community. The planting of Daffodil Project bulbs has been a component of the Task Force’s service projects since it started in 2009, offering a way to both improve the soil health of tree pits, and beautify them each spring.  In recent years, PHSTTF has expanded their efforts further into Crown Heights, and also begun to offer educational workshops to neighbors about street tree care and stewardship.


The Chelsea Garden Club

When the city installed a protected bike lane along Eighth Avenue in 2010, multiple street trees were incorporated along the block. Realizing these tree pits needed stewardship and beautification, the Chelsea Garden Club was born. Community members have used Daffodil Project bulbs as a way to provide spring beautification, and their efforts also include the planting of pollinator-friendly plants and flowers that bloom in the warmer months. Their network of volunteers has expanded to adopt the bike lane pits along Eight and Ninth Avenues, from 17th to 30th Streets.


The Jackson Heights Beautification Group (JHBG)

In 1989, the Jackson Heights Beautification Group began as a community-led effort to beautify the neighborhood, and advocate for the parks and gardens of the neighborhood. Jackson Heights has one of the lowest ratios of open space per resident in the entire city, making the volunteer efforts of the JHBG vital to the improvement and increased accessibility of what little parkland there is to serve this incredibly diverse community. In addition to stewarding the main local open space, Travers Park, the JHBG saw the need to expand into street tree care. In neighborhoods as park-poor as Jackson Heights, street trees provide valuable green space, and their efforts have led to beautified, well-tended street trees throughout the community.


H.E.A.L.T.H. for Youths

H.E.A.L.T.H for Youths, Inc. is a nonprofit formed for the charitable and educational purposes of assisting youth in New York City. They strive to combat community deterioration and juvenile delinquency, improve the quality of education, health care and life-skills training offered to adolescence and young adults. While they work citywide, they have focused their primary efforts in the North Shore of Staten Island. After identifying a need to get young people in the neighborhood positively engaged with parks and open space, the organization partnered with Councilmember Debi Rose to do a long-term tree stewardship project in St. George, Staten Island that also involved planting daffodils in and around tree beds. Since 2013, they have planted thousands of daffodils with local teens and member of the local NYPD Precinct.

The Daffodil Project is made possible by the generous support of people like you. Find out how you can support the work of NY4P, and sponsor a bulb in honor of a friend, family member, or community organization.

Meet A New Yorker for Parks: Missy Adams, Chelsea Garden Club

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

In the fall of 2015 New York City celebrated the planting of its millionth tree as part of the MillionTreesNYC initiative, which increased the urban forest by 20%. This is great for the quality of our public spaces, but with the city budget stretched thin maintenance of the trees has sometimes been lacking. This has inspired many New Yorkers to care for street trees and tree pits in their neighborhoods, using their own time, money, and resources.

To help celebrate this milestone, at our annual Daffodil Breakfast New Yorkers for Parks is honoring New Yorkers who use the daffodils they receive through the Daffodil Project as a way to care for their street trees and tree pits. This year’s Manhattan honoree is the Chelsea Garden Club, who turned the once-neglected and trash-strewn tree pits along 8th and 9th Avenues into urban oases.

“I vividly remember the first time I came into contact with the Daffodil Project,” recalls Missy Adams, founder of the club. “I was leaving the Union Square Greenmarket, and two people at a small table asked if I wanted free daffodil bulbs. They explained what the project was all about, and I thought it would be great for the tree pits in front of my apartment building. I figured that they would just give me a few, but they filled my backpack to the top. From then on the Daffodil Project was burned into my brain, what a really fantastic thing it is.”

The tree pits in front of her apartment building were the first places Missy began caring for. “They had standing water, some of the trees were rotting, they were full of litter, and dogs were using them on a regular basis,” she remembers. “Getting the tree pits to a place where I could maintain them well was an uphill battle.”

When protected bicycle lanes were installed on Ninth Avenue in 2007, the Department of Transportation also installed pedestrian islands with larger tree pits. DOT planted trees and bushes, but little was done in the way of maintenance. Missy noticed someone further up Ninth Avenue maintaining their tree pits, and she originally thought (as many of us do) it was the Parks Department. But it turned out that all the work was being done by a local volunteer like herself, and it inspired her to do the same.

Missy didn’t intend to start an official club, but asked if people wanted to work together when the city began ripping up the plants she and other folks were caring for, and replacing them with other plants. She tried to explain to the workers pulling out the beds that she and other volunteers were caring for them, but they said that they had a contract from the city and he had to get done. “It seemed so ridiculous for the city to spend money on it, when we were doing it for free.”

Missy met with a representative of State Senator Tom Duane’s office who found all of the agencies responsible and set up a meeting with them and the community board, with the goal of giving Missy and the other folks in the neighborhood permission to garden in the pits. Missy felt that they would be more effective at the meeting if everyone joined together, so about 10 people formed the Chelsea Garden Club. “We all knew that it was good for everyone,” Missy explained. “We would save the city money while providing a valuable service.”

The Club had a rough start because of the high cost of plants and the difficulty in maintaining tree pits, and they were looking for anything they could get for free. The club signed up to get free bulbs from NY4P, and in their second year they planted 1,500 bulbs up and down 8th and 9th Avenue. Because the daffodils naturalize, and most of the pits are adopted, they haven’t had to put many more in since.

“The daffodils are always the first flower to bloom every year, and are the harbinger of spring for our neighborhood. They’re just so bright and beautiful. I find them heroic in their ability to come back year after year. Any plant that can survive the city really is.”

“The plants remind people that something is happening on the streets, and people are maintaining it,” Missy explains, reflecting on how the sense of stewardship and pride extends throughout the neighborhood. They’ve even installed a few Chelsea Garden Club and Daffodil Project signs in the pits. “Strangers come up to us all the time and thank us for their work and say how much they appreciate it. A lot of people don’t realize that the work isn’t being done by the city.”

“It’s really important to get the word out. People need to know that these daffodils are coming from New Yorkers for Parks, and that these gardens and green spaces wouldn’t exist without this community effort.”

When asked if she has any advice for other folks interested in maintain their tree pits, Missy says to “just start planting.” “First make sure no one else is working that spot. But if it’s empty and neglected, put some daffodils in there. It’s not complicated. Word of mouth helps a lot if you want to start a group. We get local press coverage through Chelsea Now, and they really help spread the word. Track down people from other tree pits and invite them to join. Be aware of your neighborhood, and whatever you do, don’t get put off by the challenges.”

“Every year that it continues is awesome. I’m always surprised that it keeps growing,” she says when asked what she’s most proud of. “It’s such a lovely group of people. This may sound schmaltzy, but I find it to be a very selfless act. At its core it’s a very generous thing that each person is doing. There are a lot of challenges, but also a lot of payoff. It started off as a random, almost accidental thing. We’ve crept along step by step, feeling our way through. It’s a big achievement, and I don’t think any other neighborhood in Manhattan has done quite so much.”

“There is no grand plan or ambition; we simply want to plant something lovely to look at that might also shelter and feed a few birds, butterflies, and bees.”

When asked if she has any parting words to share, Missy says the Daffodil Project bulbs have been very “garden-affirming,” and gave the club an easy way to start. “It’s been so great for us and the community. The Club and NY4P are kindred spirits like that. We just want to make our public spaces better, and aren’t looking for much in return. It’s something that the world needs more of.”

#DaffodilProject on NY1

Monday, March 28, 2016

Today New Yorkers for Parks and the Friends of Morningside Park were featured on NY1, showing off Daffodil Project blooms in the beautiful and historic Harlem location. The Friends of Morningside Park have participated in the Daffodil Project since its beginning in 2001, and the committed volunteer group exemplifies the dedication to community green spaces that make the project such a success. Watch the feature here, and sign up for our newsletter to find out when you can register to receive bulbs for the 2016 fall planting season. If you have Daffodil Project blooms near you, share them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with hashtag #DaffodilProject.

Help Us Celebrate the Daffodil Project on April 20

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Every year NY4P hosts the Daffodil Breakfast, where we honor the dedicated New Yorkers throughout the city that make the Daffodil Project such a huge success - and this year we’re also celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Daffodil Project and the planting of our 6 millionth bulb! 2016’s honorees use the Project as a way to beautify their communities, engage disadvantaged youth, improve police-community relations, maintain neighborhood street trees, among others. All proceeds from this beautiful event support the Daffodil Project. 

The Daffodil Breakfast takes place at the Bryant Park Grill, Wednesday, April 20th, from 8:00 to 9:30. RSVP today.