The Trust for Public Land’s NYC Playgrounds Program Receives ASLA Olmsted Medal

The Trust for Public Land’s New York City Playground Program Director, Mary Alice Lee, has received the prestigious Olmsted Medal from the American Society of Landscape Architects. The Olmsted Medal was instituted in 1990 to recognize individuals, organizations, agencies, or programs outside the profession of landscape architecture for environmental leadership, vision, and stewardship. This is the second time in TPL’s history our work has been recognized with an Olmsted award.   

“This medal is a testament to the strength and impact of our longest standing Community Schoolyard program and underscores our commitment to bring new, vibrant green space across New York City and across the country,” said Mary Alice Lee, NYC Playgrounds Director for The Trust for Public Land. “New York City has been the model for our playgrounds work for nearly 25 years and we’re proud of the collaboration and community engagement we’ve been able to implement in our design process, ensuring residents have a voice in creating these spaces.” 

In the past two years, The Trust for Public Land has opened 10 new schoolyard spaces across the city, providing critical new park space to 239,240 residents, just when people needed help and relief from COVID through safe social spaces in their neighborhoods the most. These new sites brought the number of community schoolyards built by The Trust for Public Land in NYC up to 218, and over 25 years we have guided thousands of students and parents to make the most of their schoolyards. 

Our playgrounds not only provide access to outdoor recreation, they also include green infrastructure design elements like permeable pavers to capture millions of gallons of stormwater each year, helping to reduce neighborhood flooding and improve the health of nearby waterways. According to new research from The Trust for Public Land, open access to all public schoolyards across the country during non-school hours would put a park within a 10-minute walk of more than 19.6 million people, including 5.2 million children, who currently lack access.   

Nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has transformed more than 300 underused schoolyards into nature-rich parks designed to address inequities in education, health, and climate impacts. Every one of our community schoolyard transformations includes agreements between a school district and other local agencies to allow the community to use the space when school is closed. 

As part of our NYC Park Equity Plan, The Trust for Public Land is planning to build 100 more in neighborhoods that have crowded parks. Our data shows communities of color have 33.5% less park space per person within a 10-minute walk compared to white communities. These neighborhoods not only need more parks, but also should have access to smartly designed open spaces through transformation of our schoolyards, vacant lots, and other public lands. 

About The Trust for Public Land  

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit