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Breakthrough Public-Private Partnerships: The Work of New Yorkers for Parks (Part 1)

Executive Director Holly Leicht’s last day with New Yorkers for Parks was January 10.  She has been appointed by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan to serve as Regional Administrator of HUD Region II, which comprises New York and New Jersey. In her new role, Leicht will be instrumental in carrying out ongoing Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.

Last month I had a chance to talk with Holly about public-private partnerships in New York, the new mayor, and the work of New Yorkers for Parks.  I’m glad I did, as her new job will take her far beyond park boundaries and the work of the more than 100-year old New Yorkers for Parks (NY4P).  Founded in 1908 because there were not enough resources for children’s play in the city, it’s only been within the last two decades that research to substantiate advocacy has become an important part of what they do.

New Yorkers for Parks
Around the time that the Bloomberg administration took office in 2002, the former Parks Council took on its new name and broader mission.  “But,” says Holly, “one issue that has crossed our 100 years is that we are a watchdog on alienation issues – protecting parkland all the way back to the Moses era.  We work to maintain the ‘public’ in public parks.”

Holly arrived at NY4P in 2011 just as NY4P was solidifying its reputation for airtight research and reporting on the city’s parks, essentially creating a database that now supports the efforts of both citizen advocates and elected officials. Continue reading

People and their Playgrounds

By Matthew Shulman

How do urbanites use public playgrounds? Do they use them every day? Who uses them? How are they maintained? Is collecting this information even possible? These were some of the many questions posed when a team of public space researchers from New Yorkers for Parks and New York University collaborated on the daunting task of obtaining this elusive yet vital information.

The findings have been published in Understanding Playground Utilization, a new report that digs deeply into the users of 10 sample neighborhood playgrounds. The results as well as the methodology employed can be illuminating not only for the rest of city’s 1,900 parks but also to the parks of many other cities around the country.
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Paradise Built on a Parking Lot

Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing our cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.

Santa Monica, CA
Built on the site previously occupied by the RAND Corporation’s headquarters and more recently a surface parking lot, Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square (once collectively known as the Civic Center Parks) encompass 7 acres in the heart of Santa Monica. The completion of these parks represents the first step toward completing a plan for the 67-acre civic center area, which re-envisioned the area as a vibrant neighborhood with improved linkages to the Santa Monica Pier, Palisades Park, downtown Santa Monica and Santa Monica State Beach.  Continue reading

Mexico City Parks Revival: Partnerships in Action, Part II

DTMC1
Downtown Mexico City, with one of the world’s largest collections of seventeenth to nineteenth-century architecture, is working hard to reconnect its buildings and parks with pedestrians.  When our group of City Parks Alliance board members traveled to the city in October, we headed downtown after our visit to Chapultepec Park and passed through much construction – the narrowing of streets, the widening of sidewalks, and the remaking of downtown parks such as the Alameda Central.  We also had the chance to climb to the top of city hall to see its rooftop garden, and then gazed down on the main plaza in the historic center of the city, the Zόcola, a gathering place for Mexicans since the Aztec era and filled that day with a giant book fair.

In the Alameda, made iconic in the Diego Rivera mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda,” concrete sidewalks have been replaced by marble, and tarp-covered vendor stands were kicked out – a renovation that cost about $18 million.  The newly opened park, anchored by the Palacio de Bellas Artes, is green, walkable, and a respite in the midst of a bustling city.

But the most impressive re-creation we saw was the Parque Bicentenario.  With over 50 acres, the park is ten times as large as the Zόcola and sits on a former refinery site.  It was named Parque Bicentenario in recognition of the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence.
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Seniors Are a Recreation Powerhouse – But Do They Deserve a Discount?

 By John L. Crompton.

 Dr. Crompton is University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University and a former city councilman of College Station, Texas. This blog post is an excerpt from an article published in the December, 2013 issue of Parks and Recreation Magazine.

There are several reasons for recreation and park departments to consider moving seniors to the center of their service efforts – most significantly because of their rapidly increasing numbers. In 2011, there were 41.4 million U.S. citizens aged 65 or older. They accounted for 13.3 percent of the U.S. population. The number is projected to increase dramatically to 56 million by 2020 and to 80 million by 2040, at which time they will comprise 21 percent of the population.

In addition to the growth in numbers, there are other factors: extension of active retirement time; contributions to economic development; enhanced leisure literacy; disproportionate political influence; and enhanced discretionary income. In this excerpt, we will look only at the last: enhanced discretionary income.
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