In 2010, NY4P developed the Open Space Index (OSI) methodology, which is based on a set
of 15 NYC-specific benchmarks against which we measure open space
maintenance, access, variety and environmental sustainability,
generating data on the study neighborhood’s strengths and needs.
East Harlem, Manhattan (2012)
The East Harlem Open Space Index is based on hundreds of hours of on-the-ground surveying and data analysis, including a field survey of more than 250 blocks of East Harlem. We present current open space measures for the neighborhood, and compare those to citywide standards, finding that East Harlem is rich in play areas, courts, fields, and community gardens, but falls short of standards for the total amount of open space per resident. The report offers preliminary recommendations to guide the future of the area’s open spaces, including maximizing public use of existing open space – the more than 100 acres of inaccessible New York Housing Authority lawns, for example – and better connecting people to parks. This is the first in a series of joint research reports conducted by NY4P and Mount Sinai School of Medicine Children’s Environmental Health Center. The report was made possible in part through funding from the Aetna Foundation. Read the report here.
This report establishes the 15 Index standards and provides a detailed methodology for assessing open space in New York City neighborhoods. We piloted the OSI methodology on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which was chosen because of its variety of open spaces, rich residential diversity and vibrant history of park and garden advocacy. The pilot found that the Lower East Side performs very well with regard to community gardens, acres of active recreation, and access to parks. It also found, however, that the neighborhood has an urban tree canopy cover of only 14%, far below the US Forest Service’s 44% recommendation for that community. And the assessment found that the Lower East Side parks have very little green, natural ground surfacing within its parks. Read the report here.
Our second OSI survey focused on the Jackson Heights neighborhood in Queens. The assessment found that Jackson Heights is severely lacking in open space compared to citywide standards. Local groups and elected officials have since used the findings, along with our 2009 City Council District 25 Profile, to advocate for park and open space improvements in the district. See our findings here.