Commemorating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized 22 of New York’s residents and community organizations for their work in environmental protection with its “Environmental Quality Award.” Among those recognized were a handful of outstanding organizations who work in New York City’s parks and public spaces, including GrowNYC, Brooklyn’s El Puente and Prospect Park Alliance, and the Bronx’s Sustainable South Bronx. These organizations play a vital role in supporting community gardens, park improvements, greenways, and community health. Recipients included:
- GrowNYC, is a New York City non-profit which operates the legendary Greenmarket farmers’ market program and supports community gardens throught the city. It’s Open Space Greening Program provides workshops, supplies, and planning assistance to gardening groups throughout the city and helps develop several new gardens each year. By supporting more than 45 community gardens, GrowNYC has created valuable community green space and helped secure healthy and affordable produce for the city’s residents.
- Luis Garden Acosta, who founded Brooklyn’s El Puente, a community human rights organization based in Williamsburg’s Southside. El Puente engages community members in the arts, education, scientific research, and environmental advocacy. The organization’s ten year long “Green Light District” initiative fought to reduce pollution and promote physical fitness throughout the community, and has transformed the Southside into a model of community wellness.
- Prospect Park Alliance formed in 1987 to address the legendary Olmsted park’s dearth of public funding. The alliance has mobilized private support to reverse the park’s deterioration, renovating the park’s playgrounds, restoring hundreds of acres of ailing trees, and repairing the park’s historic landmarks including Grand Army Plaza. Over the past 23 years, these efforts have increased park use by over 300%, proving that successful public-private partnerships can be the key to restoring city parks in decline.
- Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx), a non-profit dedicated to environmental actions that address community needs. SSBx trains young people to prepare for “green collar” jobs in landscaping, green building, and environmental remediation. The organization has played a central role in designating greenspace in the Bronx, leading the planning effort for the South Bronx Greenway to link the community’s parks, waterfronts, and recreation destinations.
These organizations are leading the charge to create a livable urban environment. We applaud the EPA for connecting their work to the protection of the environment and improvement of living conditions for urban residents.