$40 Million Overhaul Will Make 8 Parks More Neighborhood-Friendly
Image: Fort Greene Park Conservancy
The city has announced plans to make eight of the city’s parks more welcoming and integrated into their surrounding neighborhoods, the New York Times reports. According to officials, the green-space face-lifts are part of a plan to improve city parks and part of the larger goal of having 85 percent of New Yorkers living within walking distance of a park.
The parks, chosen by a nomination process that used feedback from residents, include Seward Park on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Faber Pool and Park on the North Shore of Staten Island, Jackie Robinson Park in northern Manhattan, Van Cortlandt Park and Hugh Grant Circle and Virginia Park in the Bronx, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, and Fort Greene and Prospect Parks in Brooklyn. According to parks commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, the many improvement suggestions the city received were “proof positive of how excited New Yorkers are to increase accessibility and openness in their favorite parks.”
Called Parks Without Borders, the plan addresses unfriendly barriers to entry and use, like chain-link fences installed to protect children in the city’s darker days. At some parks, the high fences will be knocked down altogether. Additional planned improvements include installing new benches, greenery, and distinctive walkways and integrating sidewalks alongside parks, giving peripheral deserted patches new life to make them safer and more inviting.
The city’s parks each have attributes unique to the neighborhoods that surround them. A focus of the plan is on making parks more accessible to those neighborhoods. At Hugh Grant Circle in the Bronx, for example, a community activist explains that, “the park has potential to be a neighborhood hub, used for art installations and community programs and as a complement to a farmer’s market held nearby,” but is currently blocked by a gate that is often locked, making it uninviting and largely off-limits.
Image: Seward Park Conservancy
Seward Park on the Lower East Side, considered the country’s first municipal playground, was created in 1903 to give the area’s–mostly immigrant–neighborhood families respite from the city’s rush. The neighborhood has changed considerably in recent years, but the basketball courts, jungle gyms and benches in the three-acre space that stretches between the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges still see plenty of use from city residents of all ages. Park regulars say the park isn’t reaching its full potential, pointing out broken fountains, chipped equipment and gates and high fences that are often locked. According to a park regular, who envisions a space that is more connected to the neighborhood, “It just needs a little love and care.”