History

1908 The Parks and Playgrounds Association of the City of New York is founded when the Brooklyn Society for Parks and Playgrounds, the New York Society for Parks and Playgrounds for Children, and the Metropolitan Parks Association join forces. Our initial mission is to speak on behalf of children with no parks or playgrounds in their neighborhoods. 

1926 We commission the Olmsted Brothers Firm to report on the rehab needs of Central Park and play an instrumental role in securing a $1 million appropriation for the park’s rehabilitation.   

1928 We become the Park Association of New York City after merging with the Battery Park Association and the Central Park Association. 

1935 New York Times heiress Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger becomes our president, and Robert Moses is appointed NYC Parks Commissioner. The two work closely on park developments in the city, agreeing about the need for new parkland, but often disagreeing about issues of access and maintenance.  

Orchard Beach, 1936
Orchard Beach, 1936

1936 We fight Robert Moses’ plan to allow private bungalows on Orchard Beach in the Bronx – and win. The bungalows are removed, and the entire beach is made publicly accessible. 

1945 New York City Mayoral candidates sign onto our five-point program to improve the city’s park system. The campaign platform demands better maintenance, new parkland, equal access for all New Yorkers, an increase in Parks’ budget to hire more workers, and access to school yards after hours and during holidays for public use.

1970 The Park Association and the Council for Parks and Playgrounds merge into The Parks Council

1971 We expand our summer jobs program, known as the Urban Conservation Corps, which engages low-income teenagers in community and environmental initiatives. The program encourages community-initiated volunteer activities, including a street planting program and park beautification.  

1974 We fund and build Grand Ferry Park in Brooklyn, the first publicly-accessible park space on Brooklyn’s northern industrial waterfront.

1987 We release Hudson River Esplanade ParkA Design Concept for the West Side Waterfront, a preliminary plan for open space development of the Manhattan West Side waterfront. This serves as a catalyst for the eventual creation of Hudson River Park. 

1999 We complete our sixth “Success Garden,” a program that turned ravaged, vacant lots into community gardens. 

2001 Partnering with other major parks groups, we launch the Parks2001 Campaign in response to drastic cuts in the Parks Department’s budget and manpower. The campaign calls on candidates for City office to pledge to increase funding for the Parks Department to 1% of the total City budget. Five of the six Mayoral candidates and 90% of candidates for City Council pledge their support.  

2001 Friends of Van Cortlandt Park joins us for a victorious, precedent-setting lawsuit in which the New York State Court of Appeals holds 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.  

2001 We initiate The Daffodil Project in partnership with the Parks Department, giving away a million free daffodil bulbs to volunteers willing to plant them in public spaces citywide as a living memorial to the victims of September 11th. Over seven million daffodils have been planted in all five boroughs since the project’s inception.  

2002 We change our name to New Yorkers for Parks. New research initiatives, which continue today, include the award-winning Report Card on Parks series, the Open Space Index and the City Council District Profiles.  

2003 We publish the first installment of our award-winning Report Card series. The series has led to significant improvements in parks and beach maintenance citywide.

2009 We release our first round of City Council District Profiles, providing comprehensive information about open space resources, including a district map of all public open spaces and other quality of life measures, with rankings of each district.

2010 We pilot our Open Space Index methodology, against which we measure open space maintenance, access, variety and environmental sustainability of a neighborhood, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The Parks Department has integrated our 15 Open Space Index benchmarks into its neighborhood-level planning process. 

2014 In collaboration with the Center for Urban Pedagogy and Partnerships for Parks we release How Can I Improve My Park? a comprehensive guide that helps parks advocates secure funding for local park improvements.

2015 We release our first Spanish language publication, ¿Como Puedo Mejorar Mi Parque?

A NY4P: Boro x Boro meeting in Brooklyn
A NY4P: Boro x Boro meeting in Brooklyn

2016 We bring our advocacy and community-building to every borough through our NY4P: Boro x Boro meeting series, learning what issues New Yorkers need us to address in our work with City Hall.

2016 We launch a new webinar series that guides advocates on how to improve parks in their communities, covering topics on how to give testimony at a city council hearing, to getting involved in Participatory Budgeting.

2017 We kick off our Open Space Dialogue series, convening experts and activists to tackle some of the most pressing threats to, and opportunities for, quality open space in New York City.