NYC Parks - Community Parks Initiative

The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) Community Parks Initiative (CPI) is a program that directs investment in neighborhood parks that have the greatest needs, to create thriving public places for targeted communities. The CPI is part of a broader NYC Parks agenda – “Park Resiliency” – which ensures that parks and open spaces will withstand and recover from disruptive events such as coastal storms and catastrophic floods, and withstand more gradual threats such as sea-level-rise associated with global climate change.  The CPI is driven by NYC Parks’ Framework for an Equitable Future, which aims at creating thriving public spaces for all New Yorkers by strategically allocating resources and incorporating community and stakeholder engagement.  

In implementing its equity initiatives like CPI, NYC Parks employs data-driven approaches to design, plan, develop, and renovate parks in New York City. Through the CPI, NYC Parks is making capital investments for new parks in under-resourced communities, as well as implementing immediate recreational and greening improvements and developing new sports, fitness, and arts programming at existing parks in these communities.

The objectives of the CPI are: (1) to establish a park system that is fairer to the needs of all New Yorkers and (2) to involve members of the beneficiary communities in the development and care of their parks. In working towards a more equitable park system, NYC Parks employs the following criteria when determining where to invest: (1) The parks should be in densely populated and growing communities; (2) The communities must have higher-than-average concentrations of poverty; and (3) The parks have not benefited from significant public investments in decades. Beyond capitalizing and improving neighborhood parks that have the greatest resource needs, NYC Parks engages local groups in decision-making and it incorporates their ideas in the implementation of CPI projects. During public input meetings,  NYC Parks asks community members to re-imagine parks in their neighborhoods; community members often highlight needs for more green space, safety features, and accessibility improvements. Public input meetings have attracted community members of all ages, helping to ensure that city investments will meet the needs of all park users.  Furthermore, the CPI builds the capacities of the local groups to care for, and better use their parks.

The quality of life of New Yorkers is challenged by an expanding population, aging infrastructure, climate change impacts, and an evolving economy. The CPI builds on the city’s previous efforts to address these challenges and implement PlaNYC, which included establishing more than 200 acres of new parkland by 2011 and making improvements to existing parks. Since launching in 2014, the CPI has invested in 67 new parks and 110 existing under-resourced parks, completing improvements such as repainting, repairs, and accessibility upgrades of recreational amenities and playgrounds, and replanting of gardens or addition of other green features.

Overall, the CPI targeted investments in new and existing parks in under-resourced areas have improved the quality, accessibility, resilience, and sustainability of city public space. The CPI has also helped to reimagine or create new thriving neighborhood destinations, ultimately improving the equitable distribution of parks that serve New York City’s diverse communities.

Publication Date: 2014

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