From the Roman Empire to the Magna Carta to U.S. common law, the public trust doctrine protects the public’s right to quiet enjoyment of parks, open space, air, waterways, shorelines and other natural resources. New Yorkers for Parks has been the leading watchdog on this issue in New York City for the past century.
In December of 1908, a proposal to erect a stadium in Central Park “stirred the fighting blood of those citizens of New York opposed to any invasion, curtailment or spoliation of the city’s public breathing spaces,” according to a New York Times article.
Leading the way in that fight was the newly-formed Parks and Playground Association of the City of New York, which later became NY4P. In The Times, Association President Eugene A. Philbin vowed to “take the matter up and resist to the last degree any proposal to invade the space of Central Park.”
We continued our advocacy against alienation in 1935. Then known as the Park Association of New York City, we opposed private bungalows on Orchard Beach in the Bronx as an improper use of public parkland, leading Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses to make the entire beach publicly accessible.
More recent cases include the successful, precedent-setting 2001 joint lawsuit with Friends of Van Cortlandt Park in which the New York State Court of Appeals held that parkland is protected from any non-park use absent specific approval of the New York State Legislature. This important case, which arose from the City’s alienation of 28 acres of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, clarifies and strengthens a critical requirement in the process to transfer parkland to private use, the establishment of the Croton Mitigation Fund, a $200 million fund set up through the City’s Municipal Water Finance Authority and its Department of Environmental Protection to make up for the loss of parkland in the Bronx.
And in 2011 and 2012, we were successful in convincing New York University and the City to alter NYU’s 2031 development plan to ensure that the open space where Mercer Playground has existed for several decades is mapped as parkland and that newly-created open spaces created in the plan will be more accessible and welcoming,
serve a broader spectrum of New Yorkers, and be better maintained than
the current spaces within the superblocks south of Washington Square
Recent NY4P positions on parkland alienation
Proposed United States Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Expansion: Testimony to New York City Planning Commission
April 24, 2013
Proposed United States Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Expansion: Testimony to Queens Borough President
April 4, 2013
Proposed United States Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Expansion: Testimony to Queens Community Boards 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 & 9
NYU’s 2031 Expansion Plan: Testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Land Use
June 29, 2012
NYU’s 2031 Expansion Plan: Testimony to the City Planning Commission
April 25, 2012
NYU’s 2031 Expansion Plan: Testimony to Community Board 2
January 19, 2012
Alienation of Parkland in Old Mill Creek Park: Testimony to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
March 30, 2004