New York City Park Equity Plan

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit New York City hard. The pandemic’s economic impact—from job losses to business closures—has only widened longstanding inequities, including access to outdoor spaces. In fact, New York City’s park system lags behind other cities in terms of acres per person, park amenities, and the equitable distribution of open space, as shown by The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore index

TAKE ACTION

It’s time to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers. This starts with our most visible public infrastructure: parks. Great cities have great parks that give residents space to exercise, play, socialize, and stay cool during hot summers.

Innovative green spaces are also drivers of economic recovery—a recovery we need to start now. By investing in parks, we can leverage federal funding and create much-needed construction and maintenance jobs. 

That’s why the Trust for Public Land created the New York City Park Equity Plan, and we’re calling on the City’s elected leaders and candidates for office to commit to expanding the park system so all New Yorkers have access to vibrant outdoor spaces.

New York City Park Equity Plan

Here are three steps to improve New York City and its park system: 

Achieve 100% of residents living within a 10-minute walk to a park 

We’re almost there, with 99 percent access. But there are still 75,000 residents who do not enjoy the benefits of a park within a 10-minute walk of where they live. By creating 70 new parks in the Bronx, Queens, South Brooklyn, and Staten Island, New York City can achieve 100 percent access for all New Yorkers.

New York City Park Equity Plan

Transform asphalt schoolyards into 100 new vibrant green community playgrounds open to the community

New York City’s playground-to-people ratio lags behind 68 of the 100 most populous cities. At the same time, many of its students spend recess on schoolyards that look like parking lots, not playgrounds. By renovating 100 existing schoolyards and then making these spaces publicly accessible, the City can address its playground gap and facilitate outdoor learning while creating jobs and revitalizing neighborhoods.

Close the park equity gap in high-need, under-served neighborhoods

New York City’s park system doesn’t meet its residents’ needs. 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 they also deserve smartly designed open spaces that become the pride of their communities, and we can get there with creative rethinking of streets, schoolyards, empty lots, and other public lands. The QueensWay, for example, would turn a vacant, abandoned former rail right-of-way owned by the City into a new 47-acre, 3.5-mile linear park in Central Queens.

Put parks where they matter the most: Support the NYC Park Equity Plan

How we do it

We’re calling for 1) an increase in capital funding for parks of $1 billion over four years[1] and 2) an increase in the parks baseline operating budget to 1% of the city budget—up from 0.6% currently—so existing and new parks are better staffed, maintained, and programmed.

Why now

The past year has shown us that marginalized communities in New York City have suffered far more during the pandemic than affluent ones. For New York to make a full and robust recovery, we need to build those public spaces that show we believe in our city and in equity for all.

A commitment by the City to provide close-to-home parkland for every New Yorker would acknowledge that parks are not a nicety. They are a necessity.

Who we are

For nearly 50 years, The Trust for Public Land—the nation’s leading conservation organization—has protected land and created parks in more than 5,000 locations across the United States.

We’re committed to ensuring all communities reap the health, social, economic, and environmental benefits of parks, and we work hand-in-hand with local and state governments to realize that goal. 

Want more details? Download your copy of the complete New York City Park Equity Plan.

 

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[1] NYC Parks current budget of $4.3 billion in Fiscal 2020-2024 (City and Non-City funds) is about five percent of the City’s total $85.5 billion Preliminary Capital Commitment Plan for Fiscal 2020-2024.