August 15, 2016
“After 9/11, people needed parks. They needed a place to gather, and they wanted to help the city. The Daffodil Project gave them a way to do that.”
Eileen Remor, Director of Arsenal Operations for NYC Parks, has been involved with the Daffodil Project since its inception in fall of 2001, when NYC Parks came together with New Yorkers for Parks to heal a grieving city. Eileen and other Parks staff, including then-Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, had the idea to do a big bulb planting to honor the victims of 9/11. They soon found out that NY4P board member Lynden Miller was thinking the same thing – she was planning a large-scale daffodil bulb planting.
“I have a theory,” Eileen says, “that a good sign of a great idea is when multiple people have it at the same time.”
When NYC Parks and NY4P officially announced the Project and opened it up to volunteers they were overwhelmed with responses. That fall they planted over 1.5 million daffodil bulbs with the help of 10,000 volunteers.
Eileen began working in the parks world in 1999, at Partnerships for Parks, a joint program of NYC Parks and the City Parks Foundation. As an Outreach Coordinator she worked directly with local community members and organizations, helping them to improve and steward their open spaces. She saw firsthand how empowering it is for individuals to engage with their parks in a physical, tangible way.
“After 9/11, people needed parks. They needed a place to gather. And they wanted to help the city. The Daffodil Project gave them a way to do that.”
When asked what the most exciting moments of the Project have been, Eileen talks about the ways she’s seen it help individuals in deeply personal ways.
Eileen coordinated a planting event with an NYC firehouse that was hosting Slovakian Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. PM Dzurinda was in town to run the NYC Marathon, but also made time to visit the firehouse of a Slovakian-American firefighter who died on 9/11. “At the event there was one man in particular who was very passionate about the planting, taking a lot of joy in it,” Eileen recalls. It wasn’t until years later that she learned that the man’s brother, a firefighter, was also killed in the attacks.
“When I’m riding the bus in the spring and I hear people around me exclaiming, ‘Look at how beautiful those flowers are!’ it makes me feel really good,” Eileen says. “Even if they don’t know who’s planting them, people benefit from having that beauty in their lives.”
With over 17 years working for NYC Parks, and a front-row seat for much of the Daffodil Project, Eileen has a clear vision of how the Project can benefit the city. She emphasizes how it helps children by teaching them about 9/11 and how New Yorkers came together in the aftermath. “With the Project kids see firsthand how powerful it is, and how parks can help people heal. If they experience tragedy or loss in their own lives, they know that they have ways of healing.”
“I grew up in New Jersey, near the Jersey Shore. I have lived in New York since January, 1988. Prior to 9/11, I had fantasies about moving to Hawaii or San Francisco,” Eileen explained. “But as a result of the attacks on 9/11, I was determined to remain in my beloved city and help make it come back stronger and better than ever.”
“New Yorkers never forget our own.”