NYC launches $3.2B ‘Vital Parks’ plan to improve green spaces

June 20, 2024

Photo courtesy of Santosh Janardhanan on Flickr

New York City is making moves to bolster its public green space for the future. The city’s Parks Department on Thursday unveiled Vital Parks for All, a $3.2 billion initiative to preserve existing park facilities, expand accessibility in underserved communities, and help New Yorkers understand the health of their local park. To accompany the plan, NYC Parks has released an interactive map comparing park access among neighborhoods across the city.

NYC faces several challenges that make investing in the parks system critical. These challenges include increased park usage following the pandemic, climate change and extreme weather events, declining life expectancy, and deteriorating infrastructure.

The Vital Parks report outlines how NYC Parks is working to improve our city’s public parks, greenways, pools, playgrounds, natural areas, recreation centers, and public programs, enhancing the quality of life in our communities.

By expanding access to clean and safe public spaces, NYC Parks helps create more secure communities, providing spaces for young people to have fun and be active while fostering connections among community members. Improved green spaces boost both physical and mental health for New Yorkers and help the city better withstand the impacts of climate change.

NYC Parks has already invested $3.2 billion in Vital Parks, with the agency working to improve restroom access as part of the “Ur in Luck” initiative, and through Let’s Swim NYC, its $1 billion capital investment in building, enhancing, and preserving the city’s public pools.

“Our public parks are essential to the success of our city, and our new Vital Parks initiative will ensure that all New Yorkers can enjoy the environmental, social, and health benefits of world-class public greenspaces,” NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue said.

Donoghue continued: “With a $3.2 billion initial investment in our living infrastructure, plus a brand-new digital tool that empowers everyday New Yorkers to advocate and care for their local parks, we’re taking a bold step forward in our mission of providing accessible, equitable, and well-maintained public greenspaces for all. This initiative won’t just make our city greener and more beautiful – it will help us tackle the most pressing challenges that our city faces, from combatting climate change to ensuring public safety.” 

With the Vital Park Explorer, New Yorkers can look at city data to find the level of access your community board has to more than 20 critical park services, ranging from greenways and volunteer groups to dog runs and hiking trails.

Users can also view a Park Condition Score for every site, a comprehensive valuation that includes elements that make parks feel clean, safe, and vital, including its cleanliness, level of litter, fixtures like play equipment, landscape elements, and restroom amenities. Ranging from 0 to 100, the score offers an indicator of the overall condition of the park. For those curious about their local park’s score, you can search for it here.

This powerful tool can also provide data on park access in underserved neighborhoods, and police precincts identified by the city’s Gun Violence Prevention task force.

“Our parks work a host of different jobs. They are the lungs, backyards, watering holes, and cultural hubs of our neighborhoods,” Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi said.

“This initial $3.2B investment in our city’s living infrastructure is a welcome sight for our city. Healthy trees, green spaces, and thriving communities will continue to make our city stronger and more resilient, helping safeguard our city’s future.” 


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