Thank You for Partying 4 Parks!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thank you to everyone who partied with us at the 2017 Party 4 Parks! It was an evening of fun and inspiration, and we couldn't have done it without you. We received record in-room pledges, exceeding our challenge goal for the night and raising over $30,000 from attendees! Thank you to everyone who showed your support for parks and open spaces!  

Check out pictures from the 2017 Party 4 Parks. 

Educating the Next Generation of Open Space Stewards

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

This fall we're working with educators in every borough, teaching public school students how to plant and tend daffodils. Altogether we'll work with 50 students, many of whom will go on to be a part the next generation of open space stewards and advocates. We're also working with over 50 volunteers from NYC & Co. and Con Edison to bring daffodils to public spaces around the city.

We work to ensure that all young people in NYC get to experience the sense of accomplishment and pride that comes from beautifying their community. That's why every school we work with has a high percentage of students who qualify for free lunch. Beautiful open space should be accessible to everyone regardless of income. 

We're also working with volunteers from Con Edison and NYC & Company to plant daffodils and clean up open spaces across the city. If your corporate group would like to get involved, contact Michelle Velez, Development Manager at, or at 212-838-9410 ex 315.

2017 General Election: Where the Candidates Stand

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

In October 2017 we sent our Public Realm Bill of Rights for New York City to candidates running for elected office on the general election ballot across the city, and asked for their responses to four questions about the bill: Which article of the Public Realm Bill of Rights for NYC speaks to you the most, and why? What is your favorite park or open space in your district? How can it be improved and why? What do you consider to be the most pressing park or open space need in your community, and what is your plan to address it? 

Their answers show what open space issues the candidates see as most pressing, and how they think those issues should be addressed. We're sharing their responses here so that voters can make an informed choice when they cast their ballots in the in the general election on Tuesday, November 7th.  

Click here to see the candidates' responses. If you're unsure of what council district you live in, you can find out here. To find your polling place, click here.

Action Alert: You can help save a NYC park!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Save Marx Brothers Playground

In August, New Yorkers for Parks sent a sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to veto two bills that would take away a playground in park-poor East Harlem and pave the way for it to be redeveloped as a 68-story residential tower. This neighborhood is already suffering the consequences of insufficient open space: area residents are hospitalized for asthma at twice the citywide rate, and have higher than average rates of diabetes and obesity.

The Governor is expected to decide this week whether to sign these bills, which would set a dangerous precedent for the alienation of parkland city-wide.

We need your help! 

What You Can Do

Call Governor Cuomo's Office Today
(518) 474-8390
When prompted, press (1) to leave a message.

Talking points:

I urge Governor Cuomo to veto S.6721 and A.8419, two bills that set a dangerous precedent for the protection of parkland city-wide.

Removing the protections for East Harlem's Marx Brothers Playground would dispossess a community that is already underserved by open space. 

Parks are essential to the health and welfare of New Yorkers, and should be treated as such as our city grows.

New York is expected to grow by more than 500,000 residents in the next twenty years; to be a healthy, thriving city we need more parkland and more housing. 

Spread the Word

Use social media, email, and good old conversation to tell your neighbors, friends, family, and colleagues that this is happening. It’s not too late to have our voices heard

Thank you to The Municipal Art Society of New York, the Trust for Public Land, and Carnegie Hill Neighbors for helping to draw attention to this important issue. 

Valuing Open Space

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Madelyn Wils of the Hudson River Park Trust, Amy Freitag of The J.M. Kaplan Fund, and Joshua Laird of National Parks of New York Harbor at the Open Space Dialogues: A New Perspective in Value

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 Design, will take place in December. Stay tuned for more information.

The Open Space Dialogues are supported by The Rockefeller Foundation. 

Honoring Doug Blonsky at the Party 4 Parks

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

This year we are delighted to honor Doug Blonsky, President & CEO of the Central Park Conservancy, at our 2017 Party 4 Parks. Doug has been with the Conservancy for over thirty years, playing a key role in its restoration from a place of neglect to the world-renowned public park masterpiece it is today. 

We’re especially excited to celebrate the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks, which Doug established in 2013 to ensure the sustainability of Central Park and the Conservancy, as well as to provide assistance, training, and on-site support to current and aspiring park professionals. The Institute shares the knowledge and passion of the Conservancy’s team with people across from across the world, and across the five boroughs. 

The Institute’s Park to Park program provides direct assistance and education to parks all over New York City, including gardening, site assessment, visitor engagement, and turf care. The Five Borough Program performs improvements to NYC parks as a way to build skills and knowledge. By bringing their expertise directly to our city’s parks the Institute supports the employees and volunteers who are the backbone of a healthy park system. 

Doug understands that great parks make a great city, and has put this into action for the betterment of Central Park and neighborhood parks across the city that are just as beloved by the communities who use them. For this reason we are proud to honor Doug at this year’s Party 4 Parks.

NY4P in NYC (and beyond!)

Monday, October 09, 2017

We’ve had an action-packed summer and early fall! Learn more about what we’ve been up to.

In mid-July Emily Walker, Director of Outreach and Programs, was on a funding workshop at the NYS ReLeaf Conference. She talked about how NY4P resources and data can help build a case for funding and investments in neighborhood open space and greening.

Lynn Kelly at Greater & Greener

On July 31st Lynn Kelly spoke about how to build a park advocacy organization at the City Parks Alliance Greater & Greener Conference in the Twin Cities. Co-panelists included the National Parks Conservation Association, Park People, Park Pride, and Innovate Memphis.

New Yorkers show their love for open space

On August 12th we were at DOT Summer Streets sharing our Public Realm Bill of Rights and talking with New Yorkers about why open space matters to them.

On September 5th Emily Walker participated in a Candidate Forum in District 18 in the Bronx, asking candidates for City Council about their stance on open space and environmental issues. The forum was organized by the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and also featured representatives from the Waterfront Alliance and Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.

Emily Walker at the Court Square Civic Association

Emily Walker was on the Court Square Civic Association Parks and Recreation Committee Meeting panel with Commissioner Lewandowski on September 26th at MoMA PS1. She helped answer questions about how a neighborhood facing tremendous development pressure and a lack of open space can work to find opportunities to create new open space where possible, and how to seek better maintenance and conditions in the parks they already have. Sheshared our District Profiles, Bill of Rights, and advocacy guides.

Lucy Robson presents data from our Civic Action Tracker

On September 29th Lucy Robson, Director of Research and Planning, presented our Civic Action Tracker data at the APA-ASLA-AIA Public Spaces, Social Movements conference. Lucy Robson presented an update of the data NY4P has been collecting on protests in public spaces as part of the Civic Action Tracker. NY4P’s data shows that civic actions take place in all five boroughs, at an average of at least one protest every 20 hours, with the most people turning out for protests about federal legislation. Lucy and the Research & Planning team will present full-year findings in 2018.

And last but not least, on October 5th we kicked off our Open Space Dialogues series, looking at new ways to value open space. Read more about it here.

Meet a Few New Yorker 4 Parks: NYRP

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Donte Taylor and Jason Sheets

By Kim Ahrens, Communications Intern

The New York Restoration Project (NYRP) was founded by Bette Midler in 1995 with the conviction that every New Yorker deserves a well-maintained area of open space near their home. To reach this goal, NYRP has planted trees, created community gardens, restored open spaces, and purchased land to create new green spaces. NYRP focuses their work on high density and low-income areas to create a joyous space to escape to.

When NY4P met with Jason and Donte of NYRP at the Family Garden in East Harlem, it didn’t take long to realize the amount of passion they have for their work. To them it is not just a job, it is something that they truly believe in and enjoy. But, before NYRP neither of them imagined themselves making a living with a career in horticulture.

Jason Sheets has been with the organization for 17 years, and over the years, has earned the title of Deputy Director of Community Gardens. Jason started with NYRP in 2000 creating a steady maintenance level within the community gardens. He now focuses his work on the grant programs that NYRP has to build special projects outside of their owned land. He has also been a mentor for many people within the organization, such as Donte, and thoroughly enjoys his position and the work that he does. He says the people at NYRP are so close it’s like another family. Jason sometimes wonders if he should pursue something different or make a career change, but each time he finds himself coming back to the foundation because there is always something new and different going on within NYRP. “These gardens have been part of my life for 17 years and it is really a testament to the organization, the work we do, the partnerships I have with folks in this community, and the community based organizations. It’s really hard to walk away from something you have put so much time into as well as seeing the potential these spaces still have.” Whether it be a new initiative or reaching their goal of planting one million trees around NYC a whole year ahead of schedule, Jason can’t see him leaving this career behind. 

Donte Taylor discovered that after about a semester and a half of college that it wasn’t for him. He had no idea what he wanted to do in life and struggled to find the next step. That was until he unintentionally discovered his passion for horticulture after seeing a sign for graffiti removal through NYRP. He checked out the opportunity just looking to make some money and, instead, began his career with NYRP and has earned the position of Director of Garden Horticulture.

“I had no idea I would ever take a liking into horticulture or community gardens. My field interview was supposed to be graffiti removal in Highbridge Park, but there were a whole bunch of broken branches that covered the pathway that made the park inaccessible. [We] had these handsaws and removed the branches. I liked it because it was physical work and I had the chance to work up a sweat, so I was excited to join from that day.” Donte has been with NYRP for 14 years and works out in the field helping his maintenance team and executing plant designs working alongside Jason, while viewing him as his mentor, Donte is extremely grateful for the opportunities he has been given and never takes it for granted. “I had the chance throughout my childhood to live for a few years in the Bronx and Manhattan, and I remember as a young kid seeing all these lots that NYRP now owns. Now today I am able to maintain these spaces and it has been a great thing to me.”

NYRP privately owns 52 community gardens spread throughout the five boroughs. These spaces owned by NYRP are classified as privately owned public space, meaning anyone can access it just like they do a public park. A community garden is a publicly cared for garden cultivating plants and fresh fruits and vegetables. Some of the land before it was bought by NYRP contained old or unkempt community gardens, so it was a challenge to begin bringing people in to maintain them. “When I first came in [to the community gardens], it was to meet the people and not come in as the landowner trying to kick the people out and I wanted to figure out what the use of the space is and how we can build on that. Slowly, but surely we started getting these gardens reopened. We started to get school groups to come in and held public movie nights to get more people in to break down the enigma of what the space is because it really is for the public.”

Although you can plant whatever you want in these spaces, NYRP can offer advice on which plants thrive in different environments. NYRP will also provide you with seeds to plant as well. The foundation holds workshops and projects open to the community to advance their horticulture knowledge and to encourage the neighborhood to participate in their local community garden. These gardens also double as a public meeting space that can be used as a public gathering area or even a classroom.

The spaces owned by NYRP are open different hours based on their use. The agricultural sites are open less frequently to prevent people from picking other residents’ vegetables, while other spaces are open from dawn until dusk. Jason explained NYRP “mandates at least 20 open hours per park each week and those hours are posted on our bulletin board and on our website as well.”

One of the most fulfilling parts of Donte and Jason’s jobs is meeting and maintaining relationships with the gardeners who contribute to the community gardens. Donte and Jason admit that when they first started working in these communities, residents living in the surrounding area were not quickly to accept that there were new, unknown people coming in to transform their public space. However, over time they became more accepting and appreciative of the work completed and that is what has led to such strong relationship between NYRP employees and members of the community. Creating and maintaining these relationships with the public is an extremely important amenity that NYRP has, because it keeps the people coming back to use and care for the open space.

Jason and Donte are both extremely grateful for the opportunities NYRP has given them to create their career. They each credit the incredible people within the organization in helping them reach their highest potential. Behind all of NYRP's great gardens is a great crew of people caring for them.

Welcome New NY4P Staff

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Michelle Velez, Mariana Lo, Caitlin Mason, and Gabriella Cappo

NY4P has four new team members! Get to know Gabriella, Mariana, Caitlin, and Michelle in their own words.

Gabriella Cappo, Community Outreach Coordinator

I grew up in Connecticut and currently live in Brooklyn. My undergraduate degree is in International Affairs and Spanish. I got my Master’s Degree at the New School in International Affairs with a focus on Cities and Social Justice. Before coming to NY4P I was with the Parks Department helping organize volunteers in caring for street trees and natural areas.

As NY4P’s new Community Outreach Coordinator, I will be working closely with Emily Walker, the Director of Outreach and Programming. I am starting my time here by working on the Daffodil Project and the 2017 election campaign. In general, I will work to build and strengthen relationships between NY4P and the communities we serve.

I am really excited about being a part of NY4P as a whole. All of the NY4P projects, those I am involved with and those I am indirectly tied to, are fascinating and I am thrilled to be part of an organization that serves the community in so many important ways.

Fun fact about me: I have visited a park in ALMOST every continent (except for Australia and Antarctica)

My very own dream park would have LOTS of off leash dog areas, so I could go on long walks with my Pomeranian, and comfortable reading nooks.

Mariana Lo – Research and Planning Analyst

Prior to joining NY4P, I was a researcher and litigation assistant at Earthjustice. I hold a Master’s degree in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where I also worked as a Community Forester and street tree planter. After earning my undergraduate degree in linguistics from the University of Chicago, I spent three years as a full-time AmeriCorps volunteer, serving with the Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps in Chicago and later at Bethlehem Farm in West Virginia. I grew up in California’s Silicon Valley suburbs and now live in Manhattan. 

As the Research and Planning Analyst at NY4P, I do data collection, analysis, and research on parks and open spaces in support of our advocacy work. This fall, I’ll be spending most of my time on the Civic Action Tracker and the next Open Space Index report. I hope that my work will further illustrate the importance of parks and open spaces to the civic life of the city, as well as to the physical and social health of New Yorkers. I’m excited to learn more about, and get involved in, city politics and policy.

My dream green space would be a network of rooftop gardens on every apartment building in the city, so that people who don’t have backyards could still enjoy the benefits of greenery and gardening (and maybe a nice view!).

Caitlin Mason – Development Associate

I graduated from Boston College in 2016 with a degree in English and Theatre, and became really interested in development through my recent internships at two nonprofit theatre companies.

As Development Associate, I will be assisting will all fundraising efforts, from gift processing to working on grants to helping plan and run events. I am excited to learn more about parks and open space policy, and to help get others to care and be encouraged to donate to support the work NY4P does to promote open spaces for everyone.

My dream park would have lots of walking paths, benches, pools of water, and waterfalls with artistic programming.

Michelle Velez – Development Manager

I am a development professional with experience as a fundraising consultant and a passion for green space. My last position was at CCS, a firm that provides onsite fundraising consulting services for non-profit organizations. My career in the non-profit world began in Mexico City, where I was a Princeton in Latin America Fellow at Endeavor, an international nonprofit that promotes high-impact entrepreneurship in developing economies. I am excited to reconnect with my passion for green space and sustainability that began while I was in college at Villanova University. As an undergraduate, I helped spearhead an initiative to organize a campus community garden that I am happy to share has recently broken ground thanks to continued leadership in the years since my graduation. I am also a native Long Islander who loves beaches and hikes.

As the new Development Manager, I am working closely with each NY4P team to develop strategies for our annual development plan. Currently, my Development Team, with the support of our new Development Associate, Caitlin, is preparing for our annual gala. We are responsible for all aspects of NY4P’s development activities to reach our annual budget and grow additional support over time.

I’m thrilled to join the NY4P team! I look forward to a successful 2017 Party 4 Parks annual gala in October and to continue to build relationships with the generous individuals, foundations, and corporations who make our work for parks possible.

On Sundays, you might just find me playing Quidditch (the sport from the Harry Potter series where the players fly on broomsticks) in Central Park!

In a world of dream parks, I think a park with fruit trees would be cool – local apples in the fall and beautiful blossoms in the spring!

2017 Election: Where the Candidates Stand

Monday, September 11, 2017

In September 2017 we sent our Public Realm Bill of Rights for New York City to candidates running for elected office across the city, and asked for their responses to four questions about the bill: Which article of the Public Realm Bill of Rights for NYC speaks to you the most, and why? What is your favorite park or open space in your district? How can it be improved and why? What do you consider to be the most pressing park or open space need in your community, and what is your plan to address it? 

Their answers show what open space issues the candidates see as most pressing, and how they think those issues should be addressed. We're sharing their responses here so that voters can make an informed choice when they cast their ballots in the primary election on Tuesday, September 12th, and again in the general election on Tuesday, November 7th.  

Click here to see the candidates' responses. If you're unsure of what council district you live in, you can find out here. To find your polling place, click here.