For many NYC neighborhoods, green space hard to come by

Posted by on Dec 5, 2013 in Visuals, Words | 0 comments

Plans to create a park on this lot of land in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn were approved in December 2013. Sheepshead Bay has among the least amount of park space in the city.

Plans to create a park on this lot of land in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn were approved in December 2013. Sheepshead Bay has among the least amount of park space in the city.

This piece was created for an assignment in Sandeep Junnarkar’s Fundamentals of Multimedia Storytelling (Interactive) course in Fall 2013.

When discussing New York City’s green spaces, you could bet that Bill de Blasio would say it’s a tale of two parks.

Earlier this year, Mayor-elect de Blasio announced his support of a state bill that would require park conservancies with budgets of $5 million or more to contribute 20% of their funds to other city parks. These other parks, all funded by the city’s parks department, would receive the funds through non-profit created through the bill.

The bill would likely affect five conservancies: Central Park, the High Line, Asphalt Green, Randall’s Island and Prospect Park.

Opponents say this money would seriously hinder these conservancies’ ability to provide residents with beautiful, children-friendly parks.

This proposed would force conservancies to give as much as $1 million over to these other parks, which could come to as much as $10 million each year. Some say this represents very little money when considering how cash-strapped the Parks Department already is.

“Honestly, $10 to $15 million, if we think that’s solving anything, I mean as you said, that’s a pittance,” said Holly Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, in a piece featured in Capital New York about a forum of park advocates she moderated in SoHo last week.

However, many including Mayor-elect de Blasio say that such a plan would level the playing field between high profile places like Central Park and local neighborhood parks. Central Park spends over $58 million each year, according to the Central Park Conservancy. That comes to almost 15% of the total $380 million budget for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department that serves around 5,000 parks.

With more money, this bill’s advocates say the department could invest more capital to create greater access to green space for city residents, such as the new playground unveiled at Brooklyn’s Canarsie Park this Tuesday.

As it stands now, around 20% of the Big Apple serves as open space for parks and recreation. Below is a chart that shows the percentage for each borough, compared to the citywide average.

The chart above could leave someone thinking that park access is roughly the same across the city. Yet – that’s far from the case. True, some community districts, like Brooklyn’s district 18 that includes Canarsie, devote almost 40% of their land  to parks. But others like Manhattan’s district 2, which includes Greenwich Village, dedicate less than 5% of their land to open space.

In the map below, you can check out the percentage of land used as open space for each community district.

It is important to note that some major parks, like Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park and Central Park, are not included in any community district. These parks of course attract millions of visitors each year, but do not contribute to individual community district’s park access.

However, parks are not the only way New Yorkers can get a taste of nature. The city also houses hundreds of community gardens across its five boroughs. Although, like with parks, these gardens become a matter of where you live.

For instance, if you live in Brooklyn, chances are that there’s a community garden in your neighborhood – almost 60% of the city’s gardens lie within that borough. But in Staten Island, you can find only two according to data provided by the Parks Department on NYC Open Data.

Below are two graphs illustrating the numbers of community gardens per borough and what percentage of the total number each borough possesses.

For now, Squadron’s bill has not been passed by New York state legislature – although that could change when de Blasio takes office. This isn’t the first time de Blasio has acted as a parks advocate. Back in July, de Blasio supported organizers protesting the Mayor Bloomberg-backed plan to develop Flushing Meadows Corona Park into a shopping mall.

So, who knows – come January, de Blasio could make the Big Apple as green as a Granny Smith.

(Data: NYC Open Data, Central Park Conservancy, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, NYC Department of City Planning Community Needs Reports.)