Making sense of New York City parks and open space.

Multiple organizations are a part of the NYC parks world, all playing separate but important roles. This Primer on Parks explains the difference between New Yorkers for Parks, the NYC Parks Department, and the many other organizations that contribute to a thriving parks system in NYC.

Who Does What
NY4P sharing open space resources at a Summer Streets event
NY4P sharing open space resources at a Summer Streets event

New Yorkers for Parks is an independent nonprofit research and advocacy organization. We provide objective analysis of open space conditions and the policies that govern our public realm. 

We also create tools and resources that New Yorkers can use to influence decision-makers such as elected officials and city agencies, to improve their open spaces. These resources include our in-depth data and research, our guides such as How Can I Improve My Park? and Clean & Green, our webinars, and community events.

NYC Parks staff at Mill Pond Park in the Bronx
NYC Parks staff at Mill Pond Park in the Bronx

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, or NYC Parks, is the city government agency that manages the over 2,000 parks and nearly 30,000 acres of parkland in New York City. NYC Parks is funded entirely by public dollars, money the city receives through taxes and other sources.

Partnerships for Parks is a public-private partnership between NYC Parks and the City Parks Foundation, a non-profit organization. Partnerships for Parks provides support to groups that maintain and improve local parks, playgrounds, and other open spaces. This support comes in the form of education, staff support, and small grants.

Park conservancies raise private money in the form of donations from individuals and organizations, to supplement what a park receives from the city. This money is used to fund maintenance, as well as capital projects such as play equipment or landscaping. The Central Park Conservancy and Prospect Park Alliance are two of the most well-known conservancies in the city, but there are many more in a wide range of sizes in all five boroughs. 

New York Restoration Project works in public parks, public housing, schools, and the 52 community gardens they own across the city. They've worked with NYC Parks on major revitalization projects in four major parks in upper Manhattan, and provide free education, community events, and tree giveaways. 

Volunteer groups, often called "friends of parks" groups, vary widely in both size and mission. They typically focus on basic maintenance activities such as trash clean up, or planting free daffodil bulbs from NY4P's Daffodil Project. Some host community events like outdoor movie screenings and neighborhood parties. For many groups, park stewardship is just one piece of the work they do in their community. You may be surprised by how much work in parks is done by volunteers!

To learn more about how parks are maintained, read Clean & Green, our report that answers the question, Who takes care of our parks? 

Parks Funding
Who pays for it, and how?

On average, NYC Parks receives 0.5% of the annual city budget. This money covers the cost of staff, equipment, investment in new or existing amenities, and more. NYC Parks will occasionally receive special funding from the mayor or City Council for specific projects, such as the creation of new parkland.

NYC Parks receives two types of funding: capital and operating. Capital is primarily for large physical investments, such as playground equipment, bathrooms or "comfort stations," and heavy equipment such as large vehicles. 

The operating budget primarily goes to staffing costs, including maintenance. 

Unless a park has a conservancy, it is funded entirely by the city.

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