Release: Open space in three borough neighborhoods falls short of key goals in new reports

Open space in three borough neighborhoods falls short of key goals in new reports

New Yorkers for Parks releases its 9th, 10th, and 11th Open Space Index reports on Bay Street Corridor, Staten Island; Bushwick, Brooklyn; and Long Island City, Queens

Includes recommendations to address findings


CONTACT: Jessica Saab / 212-838-9410 ex.316 /

October 10, 2019 (New York, NY) – For the first time in decades, through the leadership of the Play Fair Coalition and the City Council, the City dedicated an additional $43 million to the NYC Parks Department budget for fiscal year 2020 to fund necessary maintenance work in open spaces across the five boroughs. The maintenance backlog extends decades, and while this recent investment represents progress, impending population growth and development will strain existing parks and will necessitate larger permanent investments for new capital projects and increased maintenance.

Three new reports released by New Yorkers for Parks find communities in growing neighborhoods dealing with insufficient and inaccessible parks and open spaces.

The three comprehensive assessments of open space, the Bay Street Corridor Open Space Index, the Bushwick Open Space Index, and the Long Island City Open Space Index, paint a picture of neighborhoods that have serious challenges facing their parks, but also a deep history of community organizing to combat inequity.

“Quality open spaces are important for all New Yorkers, but particularly in areas that are undergoing rapid changes to their built environment,” said Lynn Kelly, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. “Communities facing changes to zoning or increased density have responded with clear and comprehensive needs and wants for their communities, including their open spaces, and with this data their advocacy will be even stronger. These reports also present an opportunity for the City to expand its work on park equity in order to create more creative partnerships across agencies to build more open spaces and livable neighborhoods in every corner of every borough.”

“Having reliable and accurate data is important for New Yorkers who are seeking improvements to their parks,” said New York City Council Member Peter Koo, Chair of the Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee. “As Chair of the Parks Committee, I know how complex the issues facing our parks system are, and thus cannot stress how helpful neighborhood advocates’ work is for their parks and open spaces. As neighborhoods continue to grow and change, groups need to have this data on-hand.”

Ultimately, the Bay Street Corridor failed 11 of the 14 open space goals, Bushwick failed 12 of the 14, and Long Island City failed 11 of the 14. Goals include total amount of open space, access, tree canopy, and overall maintenance. According to the City’s own standards, none of the neighborhoods have enough open space, and what does exist is often hard to get to or inadequately maintained.

The Bay Street Corridor area, which encompasses St. George, Tompkinsville, and Stapleton on Staten Island, was approved for a rezoning in June 2019 by the City, making some area residents nervous about how increased density and construction are going to affect the open spaces they have long felt disconnected from.

“For too long, Staten Island has suffered from being disconnected—from resources, and from other parts of the city,” said Kamillah Hanks of the Historic Tappen Park Community Partnership. “As we prepare for the changes that a rezoning promises, we have an opportunity to create safer, more connected parks. This report gives us the tools and data we need to make compelling points to the City’s agencies leading the incoming changes. Our neighborhoods need more parks, more services, and more connections. And the proof is right in this report.”

In Bushwick, community groups are in negotiations with the City regarding the proposed rezoning of the area, which would allow for much taller developments along transit and commercial corridors. The City’s proposal comes a few years after community members and City Council staff put together the Bushwick Community Plan, a comprehensive document backed by years of community engagement and visioning.  Some residents fear, however, that increased development and population growth will put further strain on the few open spaces they have, which have just recently become safe enough for families to use.

“I’ve witnessed the changes in Bushwick, as a community gardener and someone involved in the local government, and I’m concerned about the impending rezoning and what it’ll mean for our few open spaces,” said Celeste León, District Manager of Community Board 4. “We already have a deficit of open space. With new developments and people coming, our small existing spaces may suffer with increased use and insufficient resources. This report arms us with the necessary data to create effective arguments in favor of investing in current and potentially new open spaces along with programming in this neighborhood, which has long borne the brunt of disinvestment.”

In Long Island City, open spaces continue to be dwarfed by tall developments that occur with as-of-right rezoning, after the City decided to abandon its plan for a neighborhood-wide rezoning of the area. Still reeling from Amazon’s withdrawal from building its second headquarters in the neighborhood, community groups are now wondering how the City plans to invest in its parks, open spaces, and existing infrastructure, all of which are deteriorating and may continue to worsen with a sharp increase in population to the area.  

“Long Island City is growing and changing dramatically,” said Frank Wu of the Court Square Civic Association. “New residential and commercial buildings are bringing way more people to the neighborhood, which means that our infrastructure is under increasing strain. While our neighborhood has some of the most beautiful and largest waterfront parks, this report demonstrates that more quality open spaces are needed further inland, closer to where more people live and work. We hope that these data points will help to shape future development patterns in the area.”

All three reports offer user-friendly and actionable recommendations about how local advocates, elected officials, and agencies might increase and improve open space in these communities.

The Bay Street Corridor study recommendations include:

  • Improve pedestrian access to existing open spaces and create new public plazas.
  • Create more active programming in existing open spaces, including Tompkinsville Park and Tappen Park for recreation that seek to address local concerns such as drug use and homelessness.
  • Support existing community-derived plans like the Maritime Education and Recreational Corridor and the North Shore Greenway Heritage Trail.
  • Invest in open spaces designed for resiliency and in resources for existing volunteer groups.

The Bushwick study recommendations include:                     

  • Expand access to open space by creating partnerships between the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, the NYC Housing Authority, and the NYC Department of Education.
  • Increase multilingual wayfinding information to help individuals find existing open spaces.
  • Increase programming in parks, especially for young people, with a focus on health.
  • Strongly encourage public open spaces in private construction projects.
  • Protect neighborhood trees from being damaged by development.

The Long Island City study recommendations include:

  • Honor the investment commitments made in the City’s LIC.NYC plan for local parks and open spaces.
  • Expand on existing plans for publicly-owned space under the Queensboro Bridge such as the LIC Ramplands, El-Space, and others.
  • Strongly encourage public open spaces in private construction projects.
  • Create new open spaces in the Court Square vicinity further from the waterfront.


Read the full reports:

About the Open Space Index: NY4P’s open space assessments provide residents, civic organizations and elected officials with detailed snapshots of their open space resources – data that can help them prioritize their needs and advocate for strategic investments. Residents and advocates from Southern Boulevard in the Bronx to Brownsville in Brooklyn used data provided in our Open Space Index reports as a base for movements and successes for local parks. In East Harlem it was used to inform the open space vision created in the East Harlem Neighborhood Plan. About New Yorkers for Parks: For over 100 years New Yorkers for Parks has been the independent champion for quality parks and open space for all New Yorkers. Through our research, advocacy, and the Daffodil Project, we work with communities and elected officials to promote and preserve quality open space across the city. Learn more:

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