NY4P Interns Debut New Method of Understanding Parks

Monday, July 18, 2016

Every report NY4P produces requires hundreds of hours of surveying, research, and data analysis. This is only possible through the contributions of the great interns we are lucky to work with every year. This summer we are joined by four student interns from New York University, Carnegie Mellon, Princeton, and the Pratt Institute, and a research and planning Fellow from the Pratt Institute. In their work for NY4P, Alisha Beatty, Lesther Martinez, Daniel Tjondro, Caroline Todd, and Charlie McCabe are using an exciting new method for understanding parks usage that will enable us to advocate even more effectively for parks. 

The NY4P intern team is collecting data on open space usage in the Bronx as part of a research project with the Bronx Community Health Network. BCHN aims to reduce obesity and improve the health and wellness of residents of the Bronx through various measures, including improved access to parks and open spaces. 

The project is currently focusing on six Bronx parks, using the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities, a new data collection method developed by Dr. Deborah Cohen of the RAND Corporation. They recently worked with the City Parks Alliance on a nation-wide study of 174 parks across 25 major US cities. NY4P helped them identify sites in New York City, and the study yielded fascinating results.

The team will visit each park at least seven times: one initial period of observation, and morning and afternoon visits on two weekdays and one weekend. The data they gather will ultimately paint a picture of how people in the surrounding communities are and are not using these parks and playgrounds, and will offer insights into how parks, and parks outreach and programming can be improved.

As part of our ongoing effort to create citizen data scientists, our interns are also training youth from El Puente in Williamsburg, and the Brownsville Community Justice Center, both in Brooklyn. These young people can then inform and empower their communities with research and information.

So if you see folks with NY4P badges in your parks this summer, feel free to say hi and ask them what they’re learning about your neighborhood! (Good lunch recommendations are always welcome, too.)

Learn more about our interns:

Alisha Beatty: Alisha is currently a graduate student in the Urban Planning, Environment, Infrastructure and Transportation program at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University. In addition to her work with NY4P, she is also a Graduate Researcher with the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, and the Chair of the Student Representative Committee of the American Planning Association New York Metro Chapter. Alisha graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Anthropology from SUNY Stony Brook.

Charlie McCabe: Charlie is currently a graduate student in the Urban Placemaking & Management program at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, working to finish his studies in December.  Prior to attending Pratt and serving as a research and planning fellow for NY4P this summer, Charlie worked for several parks non-profits, most recently, the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. He is on the board of the City Parks Alliance. Charlie is returning to Boston in August to work on his final project for his master’s and hopes to work with community groups, cities, and towns to build, expand and program parks, public spaces, and trails in Boston and beyond.

Lesther Martinez: Lesther is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture from Carnegie Mellon University, expected class of 2018. During the academic year he works at Morewood MakerSpace and the Fund for Advancement of Minorities through Education, both in Pittsburgh. He is also the founder and president of the National Organization of Minority Architects within the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon.

Daniel Tjondro: Daniel is a recent graduate of Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, and will begin pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Princeton University in the fall. He has worked for the New York Botanical Garden and the Queens Public Library, and held internships with The Nature Conservancy and City Growers. At Stuyvesant he was involved in many extracurricular activities including the Red Cross Club, the Science Olympiad Club and others.

Caroline Todd: Caroline is currently pursuing her Master of Science in City and Regional Planning at Pratt Institute, expected graduation in December 2016. At Pratt she is the Team Leader in the Innovation in Affordable Housing HUD Competition. She is currently a licensed real estate salesperson with Stribling & Associates, and has worked in Get Out the Vote and congressional campaigns in Memphis, TN, and as a Policy Intern with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. Caroline holds a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Rhodes College.

NY4P Remembers Dr. Roscoe Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

We are saddened by the passing of Dr. Roscoe Brown, Jr., who served on the board of New Yorkers for Parks for many years. A tireless advocate for social justice, he was deeply committed to improving and protecting parks and open space in New York City. Dr. Brown’s work for racial equality most notably began with his time in the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, where he flew 68 combat missions. He went on to direct the Institute of Afro-American Affairs at New York University, was the president of Bronx Community College from 1977 to 1993, and then directed the Center for Education Policy at CUNY. In 2007, he and other surviving Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. In addition to sitting on the board of NY4P, he was also on the boards of City Parks Foundation, New York Botanical Garden, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Friends of Van Cortlandt Park and others. Dr. Brown is survived by his four children.

Big Wins in the City Parks Budget

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Overall, this is shaping up to be a good year for our city parks. Advocates from across the city signed NY4P’s letter to the mayor and the city council, came to the Rally 4 Parks, contacted their elected officials, and supported our work. Together we let City Hall know how important open space is to New York communities, and we have city a budget that reflects that.

Mayor de Blasio dramatically increased the seasonal budget to deal with the enormous increase in park and playground use. The City Council also made some significant increases to the Parks Department budget. We can now look forward to better park maintenance during the summer months, a longer beach season, the preservation of essential staff positions, much-needed funding for tree stump removal, and increased access and improvements to parks and playgrounds across the city.

The budget, funded by a combination of mayoral (M) and City Council (CC) money, includes:


  • $12 million for peak seasonal staffing – three times the usual season budget (M)
  • $9.6 million for extending 150 maintenance workers and gardeners for one year (CC)
  • $5.3 million for 67 new Park Enforcement Patrol officers (M)
  • $1.7 million to keep city pools and beaches open an extra week (CC)
  • $852 thousand for artificial turf crews to maintain 151 fields (M)
  • $1 million for citywide tree stump removal (M)


  • $269.2 million for the next phase of the Community Parks Initiative (M)
  • $150 million for Anchor Parks: $30 million allocated to a large “anchor” park in each borough (M)
  • $42.1 million for the Walk to a Park program – including the renovation of schoolyards to allow them to stay open after school hours (M)
  • $50 million for construction of the first indoor DPR pool on Staten Island (M)
  • $59.6 million for reconstruction of recreation centers citywide (M)

This budget shows that Mayor de Blasio and the City Council, under the leadership of Parks Committee Chair Mark Levine and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, understand the importance of our open spaces. It is a big step in the right direction, and with your help we’re going to build on this momentum next year.

To everyone whose dedication, advocacy, and support helped make this happen: Thank you!

Meet A New Yorker for Parks: Audrey Williams, NYC DPR

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

In just a little over two years Audrey Williams has gone from having a temporary position in the Parks Department to becoming a full-time, permanent member of the Brooklyn Borough crew, with another promotion in the works. Having recently received her commercial driving license, she has her sights set on driving the “packers” – sanitation trucks in park’s lingo – a position that offers more responsibility and more compensation.

Ms. Williams started out as a Job Training Participant in November of 2014. Her supervisor saw her dedication and hired her as a gardener in Community Parks Initiative areas. She loved gardening, but the position wasn’t permanent. Every year the staff wonders if the funding will be renewed, or if this is their last year with a job in the department. So when a permanent position opened up, “I jumped on it,” she explains. “The pay is actually less, but being in a temporary position is very stressful. I wanted something I could grow with.”

Now a City Parks Worker responsible for rodent abatement in parks throughout Brooklyn, Ms. Williams drives her Parks Department van to a different site every day. “It’s not the most glamorous job in the world,” she says, “but it’s important. We can’t enjoy our parks if we don’t have someone doing this kind of work. Most people don’t realize how much work goes into taking care of them.”

A native of Brownsville, Audrey has gotten to know Brooklyn better than ever, and sees how much potential there is to improve open space in the city. In her position she talks to people all over the borough who tell her about what’s going well in their green spaces, and what isn’t. She knows the importance of her work, and knows that there is much more that could be done.

“There’s always work to do,” she says. “There’s never a slow day. We’d like to do more, but we have to make do with what we have. It’s ok. But it could be better.

“For us it’s a job, but it’s also important to the health of the city. Look at the trees and flowers. Somebody’s doing all of this work. I know Brownsville looks nicer. And you want to see green, you want to see flowers.”

We can't have quality parks without the hard work and dedication of staff like Ms. Williams. That's why much of our budget advocacy focuses on the protection and creation of permanent jobs within the Parks Department. These jobs support our parks, and support working families - a win-win. Join us in strengthening parks and our workforce by becoming a donor today.

Rally 4 Parks at City Hall, Wednesday May 20, 10-11am

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Join NY4P and parks users, gardeners, and advocates from across the city to make sure the Mayor and City Hall know that we need quality parks and open space. We'll gather on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday, May 25, from 10-11 am. Every city council member will be at City Hall, and with a strong showing we can make sure they hear us. RSVP to the Rally 4 Parks today!

Add Your Name, Tell City Hall to Invest In Parks

Monday, May 09, 2016

Thank you to everyone who signed our letter to the mayor and City Council! The letter has been submitted, but our budget advocacy work continues. In Spring 2017 we will release our priorities for the fiscal year 2018 city budget, and will have another opportunity for folks to add their name and show their support for NYC parks.

Mayor de Blasio and the City Council are just weeks away from finalizing the city budget, and they still haven't included the funding New York City needs to make all of our parks great. We're calling on City Hall to ensure that our parks are well-maintained through the creation of permanent, full-time green jobs - a win-win for all New Yorkers. We're also asking for the creation of new parkland in growing neighborhoods that already lack adequate open space, and increased funding for community gardens across the city. 

#PitchIn4Parks Twitter Storm, Friday, May 20 10am-1pm

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Join us as we hold an online Twitter storm on Friday, May 20 from 10 am - 1pm, telling City Hall that our parks need increased funding. City Hall will hold their Executive Budget hearing at the same time, but even though the public can't testify that doesn't mean we can't make our voices heard! Use hashtag #PitchIn4Parks on Twitter, and tell City Hall why your parks, gardens, and open spaces need more investment. Use the sample tweets provided below, and retweet @NY4P with #PitchIn4Parks. With a strong, unified voice we can ensure better parks for NYC!

Parks and gardens are necessary to the health of New Yorkers. @NYCMayorsOffice @MMViverito: #PitchIn4Parks in the city budget

All New Yorkers deserve access to clean and healthy parks. @NYCMayorsOffice @MMViverito #PitchIn4Parks & provide the funding they need

Growing and densifying NYC neighborhoods need more parkland to be healthy & vibrant. @NYCMayorsOffice @MMViverito #PitchIn4Parks

#PitchIn4Parks and give NYC parks & gardens the funding they need in the city budget! @NYCMayorsOffice @MMViverito 

Parks make New York healthy, and provide good jobs. @NYCMayorsOffice @MMViverito: #PitchIn4Parks, fund NYC jobs & open spaces

Community gardens strengthen neighborhoods and empower communities. @NYCMayorsOffice @MMViverito: #PitchIn4Parks & fund NYC gardens

Or retweet @NY4P and use hashtag #PitchIn4Parks

Meet a New Yorker for Parks: Haywood Liege, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

“This job is just like meditation,” Haywood Liege says as he trims another branch off one of the magnolia trees lining East River Park, which are just days from blooming. “There’s always something to be done – the work never ends. But you get lost in it. Every day when I leave my mind feels a little bit clearer than it did when I got here.”

Mr. Liege has been a gardener at the East River Park for 8 years, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the 57-acre park and its users reflects that. He can tell you when each playground will be the busiest, which ballfield is the most popular, and when bike traffic is heaviest. Working outside in the park in every season, in all types of weather, he knows when the crocuses will appear, when the daffodils will bloom, when the magnolias will blossom, and when it’s time to start laying mulch for winter.

Mr. Liege came to the Parks Department 28 years ago with some experience in landscaping, but learned almost everything he knows about gardening on the job. “It was a very steep learning curve at the beginning,” he recalls, “but I loved it immediately. It’s great to be able to invest time and energy in something, and watch it grow every year.

“I always try to encourage young people to get into gardening, to see it as a career, because it’s so rewarding, and so important to the health of the community. And you don’t know where it can take you. I never thought I’d become a gardener, and now I’m taking care of this park and most of the plants in it. I plan on staying with the Parks department until I retire, and even after I retire I’m still going to garden. I think more people need to understand what a wonderful job this can be.”

“A lot of people are looking for jobs, and are willing to work hard, but they’re having a hard time finding a job they can support their family on. I’m really grateful to have found this, because I really love what I do and am proud of the work that we do here keeping this place nice.”


Give Mom a Gift That Blooms Year After Year

Thursday, April 28, 2016

NY4P's Daffodil Project has planted millions of daffodil bulbs in public spaces across NYC, beautifying the city every spring. Dedicate a Daffodil to your loved one and they'll receive a customized Daffodil Certificate commemorating your support of communities across the city in their honor.

Honoring New Yorkers Who Make the Daffodil Project Grow

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Every year the NY4P Daffodil Breakfast honors individuals and organizations from across all five boroughs that make the Daffodil Project a success. This year we're celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Project, and the planting of over 6 million bulbs in every corner of the city! This past fall NYC celebrated the planting of its millionth tree through the MillionTreesNYC initiative. To celebrate this milestone, this year we are recognizing New Yorkers who use the Daffodil Project as a resource for maintaining their street trees and tree pits. Read more to learn about the 2016 honorees, and find out how your support helps the Daffodil Project continue to bloom across New York City. 

2016 Lynden B. Miller Citywide Daffodil Award Recipient

Trees New York

Trees New York was founded in 1976 as a volunteer response to New York City’s cutbacks in forestry and tree-related community services.  For 40 years Trees New York has worked to plant, preserve and protect New York City’s trees through education and community participation.  Through our signature program, the Citizen Pruner Course, Trees New York has trained over 11,500 volunteers to care for our urban forest.  They are extremely proud to be celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year. Trees New York has participated in the Daffodil Project since it began in 2001, planting thousands of bulbs in street tree pits throughout the city.


Petrona Smith, Boller Avenue Resident Tree Lovers

As an active member of her local Community Board’s Sanitation Committee, Ms. Smith became interested in caring for the tree pits on her block after realizing they were becoming magnets for litter and other refuse. In 2014, Ms. Smith learned about the Daffodil Project, and distributed the bulbs she received to her neighbors and local business owners as a way to encourage the community to become active stewards of the local street trees. Since then, her efforts have resulted in thousands of daffodils blooming along her residential block, as well as the business corridor nearby.


The Prospect Heights Street Tree Task Force (PHSTTF)

Started by a graduate of the Trees New York Citizen Pruner program, the PHSTTF became a local effort to improve the health and conditions of street trees throughout the Prospect Heights community. The planting of Daffodil Project bulbs has been a component of the Task Force’s service projects since it started in 2009, offering a way to both improve the soil health of tree pits, and beautify them each spring.  In recent years, PHSTTF has expanded their efforts further into Crown Heights, and also begun to offer educational workshops to neighbors about street tree care and stewardship.


The Chelsea Garden Club

When the city installed a protected bike lane along Eighth Avenue in 2010, multiple street trees were incorporated along the block. Realizing these tree pits needed stewardship and beautification, the Chelsea Garden Club was born. Community members have used Daffodil Project bulbs as a way to provide spring beautification, and their efforts also include the planting of pollinator-friendly plants and flowers that bloom in the warmer months. Their network of volunteers has expanded to adopt the bike lane pits along Eight and Ninth Avenues, from 17th to 30th Streets.


The Jackson Heights Beautification Group (JHBG)

In 1989, the Jackson Heights Beautification Group began as a community-led effort to beautify the neighborhood, and advocate for the parks and gardens of the neighborhood. Jackson Heights has one of the lowest ratios of open space per resident in the entire city, making the volunteer efforts of the JHBG vital to the improvement and increased accessibility of what little parkland there is to serve this incredibly diverse community. In addition to stewarding the main local open space, Travers Park, the JHBG saw the need to expand into street tree care. In neighborhoods as park-poor as Jackson Heights, street trees provide valuable green space, and their efforts have led to beautified, well-tended street trees throughout the community.


H.E.A.L.T.H. for Youths

H.E.A.L.T.H for Youths, Inc. is a nonprofit formed for the charitable and educational purposes of assisting youth in New York City. They strive to combat community deterioration and juvenile delinquency, improve the quality of education, health care and life-skills training offered to adolescence and young adults. While they work citywide, they have focused their primary efforts in the North Shore of Staten Island. After identifying a need to get young people in the neighborhood positively engaged with parks and open space, the organization partnered with Councilmember Debi Rose to do a long-term tree stewardship project in St. George, Staten Island that also involved planting daffodils in and around tree beds. Since 2013, they have planted thousands of daffodils with local teens and member of the local NYPD Precinct.

The Daffodil Project is made possible by the generous support of people like you. Find out how you can support the work of NY4P, and sponsor a bulb in honor of a friend, family member, or community organization.