June 28, 2020
By David Brand
Playgrounds are unlocked and public beaches are set to reopen, but New York City can still take creative steps to free up even more space for residents to roam, says one of the city’s leading outdoor advocates.
Adam Ganser, the executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, said the city should consider opening up pools, working with its five botanical gardens and even negotiating with golf courses and cemeteries to ensure New Yorkers can get outside while still social distancing.
Opening playgrounds “means a return to real equity and park access for all New Yorkers,” he said, while also praising Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to staff beaches with lifeguards.
“My main concern now is making sure we’re opening as many parks and open spaces as possible,” Ganser said. “They should continue looking at opening pools. There are immense budget concerns right now, but there are also health and welfare concerns as we approach a scorching summer.”
Ganser, the former vice president of planning and design for the High Line, said cemeteries serve a vital function for many New Yorkers looking to take an outdoor stroll.
“I live near Greenwood [Cemetery in Brooklyn] and that has long been a resource for people in that neighborhood,” he said. “It’s a great place to walk around.”
He also critiqued the city’s Open Streets program for prioritizing roadways located next to public parks, which already provide space. The initiative bans cars from streets during certain hours.
“Open Streets has been successful, but I think we need to focus on opening streets in areas where they don’t have access to big parks and that should happen immediately,” he said.
“Closing streets next to Prospect Park is great, but what about the middle of Brooklyn, large swaths in Southern Queens, the South Bronx?” he added. “There are many areas of the city that do not have access to open spaces and those residents are suffering.”