Posts tagged with "New York Restoration Project":

Placeholder Alt Text

The hidden power of community gardens

As a follow-up to my conversation with Commissioner Silver, I contacted Deborah Marton to speak with her about the New York Restoration Project’s work with under-served communities in New York. The group's mission states:
New York Restoration Project (NYRP) is a non-profit organization driven by the conviction that all New Yorkers deserve beautiful, high-quality public space within ready walking distance of their homes. Since our founding in 1995 by Bette Midler, NYRP has planted trees, renovated gardens, restored parks, and transformed open space for communities throughout New York City’s five boroughs. As New York’s only citywide conservancy, we bring private resources to spaces that lack adequate municipal support, fortifying the City’s aging infrastructure and creating a healthier environment for those who live in the most densely populated and least green neighborhoods.
Their work with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) was the focus of the discussion. The Architect's Newspaper: What is New York Restoration Project doing to address borders? Deborah Marton: Borders we deal with are perceptual.  Systems of management can impose socioeconomic borders on space. An example from our experience is that some people in certain groups don’t go to Central Park because they don’t feel comfortable there. These are people who live within walking distance of the park but don’t feel that it belongs to them as public space. AN: Can you tell me more about NYRP’s work on public housing sites in New York? DM: Public housing with the Corbusian tower in the park model is a failed paradigm in its insistence that the green space be green poche. These spaces became a no-man’s land that invited crime. New York City, New York State codified the standard of having fences everywhere making green space unusable and inaccessible. Fences were not just about maintenance. They presented an idea of control and policing. AN: How did NYRP get involved with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)? DM: NYRP got involved with NYCHA beginning in 2008 because of the Bloomberg administration ‘Million Trees Initiative’. The Department of Parks and Recreation can only plant trees in parks and along streets. They cannot plant trees in space that is not parkland. The Bloomberg Administration invited NYRP to be its private sector partner because they could work across jurisdictions, including on NYCHA property where there is more open space for planting trees. AN: Can you explain how your involvement with NYCHA evolved? DM: Residents of NYCHA started applying to our program “Garden in the City.” The program provides resources to groups in high need areas who apply for support to make public gardens. NYRP supports groups that show the organizational capacity with stewardship and funding for their efforts. As we received more and more requests, the program led to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between NYCHA and NYRP to do more projects. We are currently working on 50 or 60 NYCHA sites mostly to develop urban agriculture. AN: How did you engage the larger community? DM: We hold workshops that are open to the public where we provide education about how to develop, maintain, and manage community gardens. The gardens are also self-governing, managed outside of city structure. People in the neighborhoods around NYCHA projects as well as within can participate. AN: Beyond breaking down the visual and physical space, how did this change the community? DM: There are few spaces where people of different socio-economic and racial backgrounds can merge and collaborate. Community gardens create these kinds of places. Community gardens on NYCHA land have a geographic catchment beyond NYCHA property extending to broader neighborhood. We are working not only on gardens in NYCHA property but also have 52 gardens that we developed independently. Latest social science thinking suggests that social isolation is an ongoing contributing factor in lack of social mobility and advancement, poverty, mental health problems, and violence. Expanding community gardens is one of the most effective and least expensive poverty measures, reducing crime, improving public health. In a 2011 study the Philadelphia Horticultural Society and University of Pennsylvania Medical School conducted a study about the reuse of vacant lots in Philadelphia. One was control where they did nothing, a second looked group, they cleaned the trash, and in a third they added a simple lawn and fence and maybe a tree. They studied the area from 2011-14 and found that crime went down in groups 2 and 3 with the biggest impact on group 3 where people in the neighborhood reported a reduces feeling of helplessness and depression. You can read more about the project in a Fast Company article that came out earlier this summer entitled The case for building $1,500 parks. AN: How does NYRP work in New York City compare to the work in Philadelphia? DM: NYRP has been doing similar work for over 20 years and understood the value qualitatively which is now proven by more quantitative studies. Among the places where NYRP has made significant investment, East Harlem has experienced 150 less felonies/40,000 residents. Crime has dropped in general on the blocks where we built gardens. The community has stronger ties to the garden and to each other. Social capital and presence led to drops in crime.
Placeholder Alt Text

A new petition aims to turn 360 unbuildable lots in NYC into green spaces

The New York Restoration Project (NYRP) has launched a petition to turn more than 360 lots deemed unbuildable into parks, gardens, and other green spaces, often in underserved neighborhoods. These lots are considered unusable for building because of their odd size, shape, or proneness to flooding. Rather than leaving them abandoned, the NYRP is offering to transform these patches of land into usable green spaces. They are petitioning the Mayor's office to place this land under their care. Public parks are an incredibly valuable part of a neighborhood, with benefits to quality of life for residents as well as potential for urban farming and use as a community space. Parks are often few and far between in the neighborhoods that need them most, while those in more affluent neighborhoods tend to have more resources available for maintenance. By acquiring this otherwise unusable land from the city and relying on volunteers for labor, the NYRP would be able to provide an essential service to underserved neighborhoods in all five boroughs at a low cost, as well as cleaning up the vacant lots. The NYRP just celebrated the 20th anniversary of its founding by Bette Midler in 1995. The non-profit organization revitalizes neglected parks across the five boroughs, specifically in underserved neighborhoods. In 1999, Midler and the NYRP led a coalition to save 114 community gardens being auctioned off by the city for commercial development. They now maintain 52 of those community gardens with the help of volunteers. The organization also completed their MillionTreesNYC initiative on November 20, 2015, two years ahead of schedule. With the help of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, the NYRP planted one million trees across the five boroughs. They also offer free trees for New Yorkers to plant in their yards. Sign the petition here, and find more opportunities to donate or volunteer on the NYRP website.
Placeholder Alt Text

Plan unveiled to transform the South Bronx with public space and waterfront access

The New York Restoration Project (NYRP), a non-profit founded by Bette Midler in 1995 to support public space, has unveiled its vision for a greener, cleaner, artsier, bike-friendlier, and overall healthier South Bronx. The master plan, known as the Haven Project, was created with a range of stakeholders including community groups, designers, and health professionals “to promote physical activity, improve pedestrian safety, and increase social interaction in neighborhoods saddled with some of the city’s heaviest industrial uses and suffering from high rates of poverty, diabetes, asthma and obesity.” The master plan would see the creation of a new waterfront park along 134th street, and bike and pedestrian paths that feed into the upcoming Randall’s Island Connector, which will run between the Bronx and the open spaces of Randall’s Island. A pier on the river would be also redeveloped to “protect the neighborhood and industries from storm surge and foster waterfront recreation.” Conceptual renderings of the new public spaces in the Bronx were drawn up by the Denver-based landscape architecture firm Civitas and include a series of public art installations. The master plan also calls for the implementation of green infrastructure and landscaping throughout the South Bronx, starting with the planting of 800 trees in Mott Haven this year. An NYRP official told Capital that the nonprofit hopes to break ground on the pier redevelopment in 2017. But, as the publication noted, for that to happen, the NYRP will have to navigate through a series of land use and landmark issues, as ownership at the site is unclear and includes two landmarked gantries. But, importantly, the plan has support from local community leaders and a host of city, state, and federal officials. Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said the NYRP was founded in 1955, it was founded in 1955. 
Placeholder Alt Text

New York Restoration Project Jumpstarts Design Competition with Selection of Eight Local Firms

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, architects have been called to arms to both engage in the immediate recovery efforts and to come up with design solutions that will make New York City's buildings more resilient and sustainable in the long-term. The latest in a flood of new Sandy-inspired design initiatives was launched yesterday by New York Restoration Project (NYRP), dubbed "EDGE/ucation Pavillion Design Competition," asking a group of hand-picked, up-and-coming architecture firms to create a storm-resistant pavilion in Sherman Creek Park right on the Harlem River. The structure, located on a former illegal garbage dumping site, would serve as a boating facility and outdoor classroom for a number of activities such as wetland exploration and oyster gardening. The NYRP undertook a major clean-up of the polluted 5-acre area in 1996 and has since transformed it into a healthy and verdant public space for recreation and boating. The project is expected to cost $900,000. With the help of Susanna Sirefman of Dovetail Design Strategists, the NYRP selected eight Manhattan and Brooklyn-based firms, that include: Bade Stageberg Cox, Desai/Chia Architecture, HOLLER Architecture, KNE Studio, Lang Architecture, Taylor and Miller Architecture + Design, Urban Data & Design, and WORKac. The firms will submit their proposals on September 16th, and the following month, a Technical Advisory Group made up of leaders in the field—such as Adrian Benepe, Director of City Park Development for Trust of a Public Land and Thomas Christoffersen of BIG—will select the five finalists. A new jury—including NYRP founder Bette Midler, James Polshek of Ennead Architects, and Christopher Sharples of SHoP Architects—will then look over the submissions. A winning proposal will be announced in late November 2013.
Placeholder Alt Text

Bette Midler, Gardener

Bloomberg Networks' architectural critic James Russell writes today about Bette Midler's continuing commitment to beautifying some of New York's derelict open spaces (with the unintentional side effect of reducing the number of "Law & Order" crime-scene sites). The Divine Miss M is in New York "to open a community garden next to an abandoned tenement, the 33rd oasis her New York Restoration Project has transformed from garbage-strewn wasteland." You remember the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse by Robert A. M. Stern with Armand LeGardeur on the Harlem River in Swindler Cove Park, one of the Restoration Project's most lauded transformations.