New City Council District Profiles Provide Data on Your Parks

Thursday, October 01, 2015

As the City Council continues to play a critical role in funding New York City’s parks, understanding how parks and open space rank in each of the 51 City Council Districts provides key to local advocacy efforts.
The 2015 City Council District Profiles, released on Thursday by New Yorkers for Parks provide a comprehensive assessment of open space resources throughout the five boroughs, and may be used to educate citizens, elected officials, non-profits and others on park issues and to inform park advocacy in every district.
Each Council District Profile tells a local story about neighborhood resources, but as a collection, they tell us a lot about each borough and the city as a whole.  Some interesting findings include:
61% of New Yorkers have access to a local park: NY4P measured the proportion of city residents who live within a five-minute walk of a city park entrance. 

Access to parks is highest in Manhattan: 69% of Manhattan residents live within a five-minute walk of a city park entrance. However, Manhattan has proportionately low park & playground acres per residents, with only 1.7 acres of city parks & playground per 1,000 residents. 

Staten Island has the highest amount of city parks & playground acres per resident: There are 11.8 acres of city parks & playgrounds per 1,000 residents in Staten Island. Yet, only 33% of the borough’s residents live within a five minute walk of a city park entrance. 

Brooklyn, compared to other boroughs, is park-poor: Brooklyn has 1.4 acres of city parks & playgrounds per 1,000 residents, well below the city’s average of 2.9 acres. Only 6% of the borough’s area is comprised of city parks & playground properties. Three out of the five lowest-ranked districts for park & playground area are in Brooklyn: District 45 (Jumaane Williams), 1%; District 44 (David Greenfield), 2%; District 34 (Antonio Reynoso), 2%.

City parks & playgrounds cover 9% of the city’s area: The Bronx has the greatest proportion of city parks & playgrounds by area, at 16%.

Each profile provides rankings for park acreage in each district, maintenance inspection information, population and parks access, and capital spending on parks in each district. New Yorkers can find out how their district ranks on number of parks amenities and measures of civic engagement. Up-to-date maps pinpoint the locations of parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, recreation centers and community gardens.  In addition to the data, contact information for political representatives is included to support local advocacy efforts.

The Council District Profiles indicate how well each district performs against other districts and citywide averages in measuring important local indicators such as how many residents live within a 5 minute walk of a park entrance, or the amount of district land that is made up of parks and playgrounds.  The profiles take a deeper dive by highlighting the percentage of the local population that is under 18, and the amount of parkland acreage per 1,000 children.  The senior population is given the same attention, with population measures and the amount of parkland per 1,000 residents over age 65.  For the 2015 district profiles, socioeconomic data is included to measure the open space inventory for the most under-resourced communities by including statistics that reflect the percentage of a district population in poverty, as well as the percentage of children receiving public assistance.


 About the City Council District Profiles: NY4P’s City Council District Profiles provide residents, neighborhood groups and elected officials with comprehensive information about open space resources in their communities. They also include quality of life measures, such as civic engagement and socioeconomic statistics, and borough and citywide data that enable constituents to compare their local resources to those of other neighborhoods. The last installment of District Profiles was completed in 2009.

Data Collection by the Numbers

Thursday, September 10, 2015
NY4P's summer survey team covered a lot of ground this year collecting data for our next Report Card on Parks. Here are some stats on their stats:

6 surveyors traveled to:
5 boroughs in
10 weeks to collect data in
39 parks.

They took more than:
200 subway rides and covered
449 acres of parkland in
770 man-hours (and woman-hours).

They leave more than 1,200 data sheets and
3,000-plus photographs for analysis - which they collected using
3 tablet computers and 
2 digital cameras (equipped with 6 backup batteries).

Our next steps are to take that massive pile of data and find out what it tells us about the health of our parks - and we've been given a huge head start with their work.

Beautifying NYCHA Housing, One Garden at a Time

Thursday, September 10, 2015

One of NYC’s most interesting (and competitive) annual contests is one that many New Yorkers likely don’t even know is taking place. Since 1963, residents of NYC public housing have been eligible to compete in the annual New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Garden Competition. Every August, NYCHA’s Garden and Greening program convenes horticultural professionals to serve as judges, as their resident gardeners compete to win the top spot in three garden categories – prizes can be won for the best Flower Garden, Theme Garden, and Vegetable Garden. NY4P staff have had the privilege to participate as judges for the last few seasons, and this summer’s batch of gardens were as impressive as ever.  NYCHA’s Garden and Greening program uses the contest to highlight the hard work, dedication, and care that NYCHA residents put into their beloved spaces. The competition is just one facet of what NYCHA’s Garden and Greening program does – they serve as an environmental education program that provides technical assistance and informational workshops for residents wanting to gain more horticultural knowledge.

NY4P’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Dora Armenta, served as a first time judge this summer. “I was blown away by the devotion and love NYCHA residents pour into their gardens. They truly transform the grounds to a space of beauty and community pride.” As we walked through each development, it became evident that these spaces serve to provide a source of community pride and a place for homegrown stewardship. One garden at the Wise Towers development on the Upper West Side was scattered with handmade signs featuring uplifting quotes for passersby to read. At Union Avenue Consolidation in the Claremont section of the Bronx, we spoke to a vegetable gardener who shares her crops with her neighbors – she even shared some of her fresh peaches with us while we were there. At Breukelen Houses in Canarsie, Brooklyn, long-time gardener and 2013 Brooklyn Daffodil Award Honoree, Ms. Anne Marie Rameau, once again wowed the judges with her impressively designed and beautifully blooming flower garden.

For NY4P Director of Outreach and Programs, Emily Walker, one of the most incredible aspects of the judging experience is getting to speak with the gardeners themselves. “At Parkside Houses in the Bronx, we spoke with a woman whose love of gardening was borne out of mourning. She told us about how after her son passed away, she realized she needed an outlet for her grief. His love of flowers inspired her to start beautifying a patch of land in front of her building in his memory. The results are incredibly colorful, beautiful, and welcoming, and clearly provide such a therapeutic outlet. It’s amazing that these residents have this kind of opportunity.”  Having the chance to view so many colorful, bountiful, and fascinating gardens throughout the city, one thing rang true – these are spaces that truly cultivate and grow community.

Breukelen Sight Garden

Peace Love and Breath Garden

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.