New Yorkers for Parks Releases East Side Open Space Index

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

New Yorkers for Parks today released the East Side Open Space Index, which gives residents, civic organizations and elected officials in New York City Council Districts 4 and 5 a detailed snapshot of their open space resources -- data that can help them prioritize their needs and advocate for strategic investments. 
As the report illustrates, the open space needs of these communities, which extend roughly from 14th Street to 96th Street between the East River and Central Park, are many. In fact, Districts 4 and 5 fall far short of nearly every one of the 15 New York City-specific benchmarks that comprise NY4P's Open Space Index (OSI) – even when Central Park and Privately Owned Public Spaces are take into account. From overall active and passive space to environmental sustainability, the findings reflect an urgent need for improvement.
"Central Park and the parks on Roosevelt Island are indispensable resources for residents in the westernmost and easternmost parts of these districts," said Holly Leicht, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. "But there are 25,000 people living on the East Side who are not within walking distance of any public park."
The East Side OSI report is based on hundreds of hours of on-the-ground surveying and analysis, including a field study of more than 350 blocks of Manhattan, including Roosevelt Island. Surveyors assessed 15 categories of open space resources, including the total amount of active and passive open space, walking distances to parks, permeable ground surfacing, and the number of features such as recreational facilities, courts and fields.

In addition to this data, the East Side OSI offers preliminary recommendations about how local advocates might go about increasing and improving open space in such a dense, land-starved community:

-          Reimagine Underutilized Public Spaces: enhance existing open spaces through proven programs like the Trust for Public Land’s Schoolyards-to-Playgrounds, which transforms asphalt schoolyards into public playgrounds during non-school hours, and the New York City Department of Transportation’s Plaza Program, which recaptures surplus street beds for use as public plazas

-          Pair New Development with Open Space Improvements: require the creation or enhancement of open space as part of large-scale development projects and rezonings to mitigate the negative impacts of additional density

-          Realize the Full Potential of the East River Waterfront: build consensus around, and act upon, the best of the numerous plans for improving the East River waterfront to create a seamless esplanade

New York City Council Members Daniel R. Garodnick (District 4) and Jessica A. Lappin (District 5) provided funding for the East Side Open Space Index after learning that their districts rank near the bottom citywide for open space per capita.

"We know that the East Side of Manhattan is starved for open space, but this report reveals that we are failing in every sub-category," said Council Member Garodnick. "We are currently adding a number of local parks and other publicly-accessible spaces to address this problem, but we clearly have our work cut out for us."

"In a borough as dense as Manhattan, parks and open spaces are critical to our quality of life,” said Council Member Lappin. "This survey will help us assess our current open space needs and plan for the future."

You can learn more about the report in The Wall Street Journal, Curbed and Metro

NY4P has also published OSI reports for Jackson Heights, the Lower East Side, and East Harlem, and is currently doing the field survey for an assessment of Mott Haven in the South Bronx. The Jackson Heights OSI was the springboard that civic groups and elected officials used to garner support and funding for several recent open space improvements, including a new park and public plaza. The East Harlem study was done in partnership with Mount Sinai School of Medicine Children’s Environmental Health Center as part of a comprehensive study analyzing the links between local children’s access to a variety of open spaces and their physical activity and health.

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