Open Space Dialogues: Value

October 10, 2017

Parkies and open space advocates already know that open spaces are valuable. But how do we talk about the value of these spaces to those who don’t speak the same technical language that we do? Are there ways of valuing open spaces that we haven’t thought of, that we aren’t measuring? How can we better enumerate or describe the varied and diverse benefits that our open spaces provide?

Seeking answers to these questions, NY4P partnered with WXY architecture + design to convene thought leaders in parks, planning, economic development, and government to talk about parks and open space, and more specifically the value of open space. The first of a four-part series, Open Space Dialogues: A New Perspective in Value brought together New York City Council Member and Parks Committee Chair Mark Levine; Kate Collignon of HR&A Advisors; Kei Hayashi of BJH Advisors; Amy Freitag of The J.M. Kaplan Fund; Madelyn Wils of the Hudson River Park Trust; Joshua Laird of National Parks of New York Harbor; and Weisz of WXY architecture + design. 

What proceeded was an in-depth and detailed discussion, but we’ve distilled it down the main consensus points that emerged. You’ll see that while everyone agreed that parks are essential city infrastructure and should be treated as such, their unique perspectives painted a picture of what we need to do to understand and convey the true value of parks today. Below are potential metrics and questions raised by the panelists. 

What are some new ways of measuring the true value parks?

  • Valuation should be done in a way that prevents displacement. We need to develop metrics that measure the relevance of a park to an existing community.
  • New metrics we should consider might include measuring calories burned in parks, or other health indicators.
  • Safety and community comfort should be factors in any measure of accessibility. 
  • How should we value community engagement that comes from open space and parks programming? What role does parks programming play in youth development?

Everyone likes parks, so why is it so hard to get adequate funding?

  • Parks have health, community, and economic benefits, so why are they still undervalued? What can NY4P's advocacy do to address this?
  • Politics and community organizing are key to getting more funding.
  • There is a need for multiple voices in the open space community to come together as one. Perhaps NY4P can lead the charge.
  • We need to show city government and elected officials that maintenance funding is just as important as capital. Sometimes properly maintaining a park provides just as many benefits as building a new one.

The next panel, Open Space Dialogues: A New Perspective in Development + Design, will take place in December. Stay tuned for more information.

The Open Space Dialogues are supported by The Rockefeller Foundation.