Parks in New York City need better leadership and planning to serve the five boroughs equally, open space advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks says.

The group is calling on the next mayor and City Council to create a vision and policu actions for parks in the city, after a citywide analysis of parks and open space showed stark racial disparities.

The 2021 Open Space Profiles conducted by the group showed majority Black, Latinx, and Asian neighborhoods were disproportionately underserved with parks and open space across five boroughs

The group discovered that in Brooklyn Community Board 17, which includes East Flatbush, there was just 1% of parkland for a community that’s 89% Black. But it also said majority-white communities were not universally well-resourced, with Community Board 12, comprising Borough Park, having a 70% white population and just 1% parkland.

“There are disparities across parkland totals in Brooklyn and many districts lack amenities: districts in South Brooklyn have few parks and open spaces, 11 of 18 have no recreation center, 10 have no swimming pool and 10 have no dog runs,” the group said in a statement.

The analysis also found 33% of New Yorkers did not have a park within a five minute walk; 48 of 59 districts had less than 10% of city-owned parkland within their district; and 12 of the 20 districts with the least amount of parkland were districts with a majority people of color.

In response to the data, New Yorkers for Parks released its ‘Five Point Plan for Park Equity

The plan includes “doing the bare minimum” of reinvesting in the Parks Department — which suffered an $80 million budget cut last year; increasing parks investment; developing a five-borough open space plan; addressing disparities in park access based on race and income; overhauling the capital process to deliver parks improvements; creating new parks across the city and investing in the maintenance of natural areas and waterfronts.

New Yorkers for Parks Executive Director Adam Ganser said it was a pivotal moment for NYC’s parks system. “We need a new vision for a new era of parks in our city.”

“Now is the time to prioritize these open spaces as the essential infrastructure they are not only for our quality of life and environmental resilience, but as drivers of New York’s economic recovery,” Ganser said.

“Every New Yorker deserves access to quality parks and green space, but we have a long way to go to achieve that goal.” 

On April 19, the Play Fair Coalition, joined by New Yorkers for Parks, will host a mayoral forum in partnership with New York Law School to discuss policy recommendations for the future of city parks and open spaces. For more info, visit here.


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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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