Posts tagged with "NYC Parks":

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Future uncertain for rare public landscape by A.E. Bye in Brooklyn

Brooklyn's first park may be getting a new entrance that some say would open up the green space to the neighborhood, but opponents contend the renovation would erase significant historic fabric, including a rare public commission by the late modern landscape architect Arthur Edwin (A.E.) Bye, Jr.

In light of divided public testimony, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) postponed a vote last week on a Parks Department plan to redesign a main entrance at Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park. The renovation would eliminate one of the few public works by an eminent 20th-century landscape architect, following a trend in New York City park design that opens park edges to the streets. The agency's proposal has been gaining momentum since earlier this year, but those who came to speak at the September 19 hearing cleaved on whether Bye's landscape should be demolished to make way for the new entrance. According to the Parks Department, the proposed changes would align with an unrealized design by McKim, Mead & White.

For those who don't know, Fort Greene Park is a beloved 30-acre expanse in the northern corner of Fort Greene, a gentrified neighborhood near downtown Brooklyn. On a recent late summer day, children jumped around on play fortresses in the Revolutionary War–inspired playground, installed in the 1990s, while joggers cut paths around the hill to the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument, McKim, Mead & White's towering memorial to the thousands of people who died aboard British ships in New York during the Revolutionary War (the remains are interred in a crypt below the structure). But the firm wasn't the first notable architect to work on the park.

The area, once the site of a military fort from which the neighborhood takes its name, has been in use as a recreation space since 1848, but the state waited around 20 years after its founding to bring on Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux to convert the decommissioned fort into a proper city park. As in Central Park and nearby Prospect Park (which both opened more than two decades after Fort Greene Park), the duo cut closely planted, wending walkways through a rural landscape, with paths offering views of great grassy lawns. The designers planned a main entrance at the northwest corner that opened onto an open space for public gatherings.

Since then, and amid minor tweaks and changes, the park has undergone three partial redesigns by leading landscape architects. Though unmistakably of their eras, all of these redesigns pay homage to Olmsted and Vaux's original design and reveal the layered histories that characterize New York City parks of this vintage.

McKim, Mead & White led the first major revamp in the early 1900s, adding formal and classical elements to the park. The firm re-imagined the lead-up to the crypt with a palatial set of granite stairs cut into the hillside that allowed access to the crypt and the monument, cutting an axis through Olmsted and Vaux's gathering meadow.

More than a century later, Robert Moses's landscape architect, Gilmore D. Clarke, together with his partner Michael Rapuano, applied their experience designing parkways in Westchester County, New York, to the landscape. The pair regraded the terrain, replaced winding paths with straight promenades, and erected a stone wall around the park perimeter in the 1930s while programming more space for recreation. Their interventions strengthened the McKim, Mead & White axis.

Around 40 years after that, in the early 1970s, A.E. Bye built upon the work of his predecessors with a characteristically spare series of mounds that lead up to the steps of the monument at the top of the park's highest hill. Though it's not as obviously modern as a Dan Kiley or Lawrence Halprin landscape, Bye's work near Fort Greene Park's northwest edge is undoubtedly modernist in its approach and execution—his design vocabulary of cobblestones, grass, and urban street trees drew on existing plant life and the city's natural systems. It's also the latest work of modern landscape architecture in New York City to be threatened with removal.

Bye's stone and earth mounds may look like leftovers from another project, but they typify the landscape architect’s work, which is often so subtle that it goes unnoticed at first. Obsessed with light and shadow, Bye would watch precipitation slide off the land, move earth around, observe the ground, and move more soil until he could get snowfall to settle in the lees of his hills in accordance with the patterns he wanted. His 1971 Brooklyn work, in the lead-up to McKim, Mead & White's stairs, references the graves of the war prisoners buried in the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument. Its Brutalist forms are close cousins to children's playscapes of the era, most notably Richard Dattner's adventure playgrounds. (Dattner and Bye were Cooper Union colleagues.)

Now, the Parks Department is planning to replace Bye's and part of his predecessors' work with a new, more open entrance as part of Parks Without Borders, the agency's initiative to rethink the edge conditions of New York City greenswards.

The plan started in May 2016 with a $10.5 million grant from Parks Without Borders, with around $7 million of those funds going to the contested entrance redesign. That initiative, spearheaded by Parks Department Commissioner Mitchell Silver, gives grants for improvements to parks selected by area residents. The money goes towards revamping entrances and park-adjacent spaces by taking down fencing that some see as imposing, or adding plantings to visually (and some say, symbolically) open up parks to the public they serve. The Fort Greene Park Conservancy, the nonprofit that stewards the park, successfully applied for a grant to re-do the northwest entrance. The current proposal would eliminate part of Clarke's wall and all of Bye's landscape.

The Parks Without Borders project area is almost four acres, and plans call for replacing the mounds with flat paving flanked by an allée to soften the space. In the schematic drawing, the entrance facing the monument is 45 feet wide, as opposed to the original concept drawings, which depicted a 75-foot-wide entrance. A circular paved space in the park would be updated with a water feature surrounded by plantings and benches. The redesign would add two ten-foot-wide ADA-compliant ramps on St. Edwards Street and Myrtle Avenue—illustrated by a Drake meme in the renderings.

Bye is best known for his minimal, sculptural landscapes, found mostly on the gated estates of the East Coast elite and suburban corporate campuses. He designed gardens for George Soros' homes in New York and Connecticut, as well as for Leonard and Evelyn Lauder. Bye didn’t do as much urban work, but in New York, his early work could be seen at the Water Street POPS, a privately-owned but publicly accessible plaza at 77 Water Street with stylized geometric stream wending towards the East River. 

Archival plans for Bye’s designs are co-credited to Berman, Roberts & Scofidio, Ricardo Scofidio's firm before he and Elizabeth Diller founded what is now DS+R.

“Ed wasn’t much of a drawer,” Scofidio said, referring to Bye by his nickname. He didn't design in plan. Instead, Bye used self-designed stamps of trees to create planting schemes, or he worked on-site, moving earth to realize his designs. This hands-on approach didn’t mesh with the city bureaucracy, Scofidio said, so his firm at the time did drawings for city approval that showed how Bye would remove concrete paving, add 16 trees to the plaza, and install a lawn surrounded by earthen mounds. Pictures from the 1970s show the mounds edged by concrete and wood benches that faced outward from their anchors. 

Scofidio noted that his other partners were more involved in Fort Greene Park than he was. Attempts to contact John Roberts, the firm's other surviving member, were unsuccessful. It's likely, though, that Bye's mounds in Fort Greene were developed under a Parks Department program championed by former mayor John Lindsay that hired noted landscape architects to inject new life into aging city parks. 

To learn more about Bye and his public work, The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reached out to Thaisa Way, an urban landscape historian at the University of Washington, Seattle and the author of a forthcoming book on Bye.

“Normally the work he does in natural materials like soil is done here in stone,” Way said.

She strongly disputed the Parks Department’s assertion that Bye’s mounds are incongruous with Fort Greene Park's overall appearance—his practice was tied too closely to architecture to ignore the work of designers who came before him.

Though Bye was offered teaching positions at prestigious landscape architecture schools, he preferred to teach architects. Way pointed out that for almost a decade, Bye taught at Cooper Union under then-Dean John Hejduk, whose design of Wall House 2 (also known as the A.E. Bye House) bears Bye's influence, since it was the only design by the paper architect that featured a site. From 1951 through the mid-1960s, pretty much every architect-in-training at Cooper—including Scofidio, a former student and later colleague—took a course with Bye, and for years afterward Bye co-taught site-planning courses for architects at the school. Moreover, before he started teaching, Bye worked briefly for Clarke and Rapuano, a relationship that suggests he was familiar with the firm's approach to public projects. 

To Way, Bye’s considered, subtle approach to topography and materials offered a spatial richness that knit together urban spaces in a way that few designers can or could. Bye's role at Cooper bridged a gap between architecture and landscape, a gap that still dogs the profession today. "In our design education, architects are educated on one side of the building and landscape architects are on the other. We end up with cities where there might be a beautiful building, but it's set awkwardly in the site, or we have a beautiful landscape, like the High Line, with buildings that just want to grab a view. We don't do a very good job of integration: How do you make the urban landscape inclusive of the buildings, the parks, sidewalks, the streets in a way that adds delight and pleasure and efficiency? How do you see spatially, and not just scenographically?”

On any nice day, there are people lounging on Bye's mounds, stretching after a run up the steps, or lying down, staring up at the trees. The mini-landscape is a raised stage for dance performances, a subtle modern lead-up to McKim, Mead & White's rigidly formal classical monument.

In spite of this, the Parks Department wants to remove all of Bye’s work, citing accessibility concerns. The mounds are lined with uneven cobblestones, and their grade is too steep for wheelchair users and others with mobility impairments to access. The agency’s preliminary renderings show a grand entry at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and St. Edwards Street that replaces the mounds with a flat plaza, pictured above. The project's website states that the design phase is 30 percent complete,  and construction is expected to begin between spring and fall of 2019. (The rebuild will be done in phases to keep the Myrtle Avenue entrance open throughout construction.) In July, at a meeting of Brooklyn Community Board 2 (CB2), residents came out in force against the proposed changes, but at a meeting two weeks ago, Brooklyn Paper reported that CB2 voted unanimously in favor of the Parks Department plan, with one abstention and one recusal.

In order to advance, the redo needs a green light from the community board and Landmarks (the park was designated as part of the Fort Greene Historic District in 1978). Curiously, the designation report doesn't mention any design updates past the early 20th century, so Clarke's substantial work goes unmentioned. Bye's work, completed seven years before designation, isn't mentioned at all.

Now that the landscape is over 40 years old, a decade past the lower cutoff for landmarks consideration, there is growing concern that modernist landscape design is disappearing from New York City parks and public spaces. What is the motivation, then, for dramatically altering a park that some say is working just fine?

The park is a thick dividing line between wealthy and poor Fort Greene. The entrance in question, on Myrtle Avenue, faces a superblock of public housing complexes; its mostly black and Latino residents frequent the park's north side. Although there new luxury apartments popping up around the Myrtle Avenue corridor, that side of the park closes at 9 p.m., while the southern border at DeKalb Avenue, which faces a stately row of brownstones, closes at 1 a.m.

In 2000, there were almost 35,000 black residents of Fort Greene, or 65 percent of the population. The 2010 census found that black people now make up only 47 percent of the population, while the white population spiked from 18 to 36 percent of the neighborhood. The 18 percent decrease in the black population is 4.5 times greater than the borough average, and nine times greater than the city as a whole. 

Despite real estate pressures and divergent opinions over the importance of Bye's design, stakeholders do agree that the park is in need of ADA-compliant upgrades, like handrails and curb cuts, new lighting, enhanced active recreation areas, including a new basketball court, as well as some T.L.C. for cracked walkways and lawns eroded by overuse.

To prepare for the revamp, the Parks Department held a design visioning session in February 2017 at the Ingersoll Houses, one of the public housing complexes across from the park. At that meeting, The Brooklyn Paper reports, the agency presented two plans (one had more trees) and some residents expressed concern that the plans were too similar, leading them to believe the design was "fait accompli." At that same meeting, the paper reported that Parks believed that keeping A.E. Bye's mounds for preservation's sake was ill-advised, as the work doesn't match Olmsted and Vaux's vision. The Parks Department said it didn't know why Bye added his mounds.

At last week's Landmarks meeting, though, the commissioners’ discussion focused on the historic issues that the LPC is supposed to weigh in on and deferred any discussion of more urbanistic concerns, such as whether the proposal included enough green space. In addition to representatives from three nonprofits and one landscape architect who specializes in modern landscape preservation, six community members came out to testify against the plan, and four, including one CB2 member and two individuals from the Fort Greene Park Conservancy came out in support of modifying Bye's work. Opinions on the mounds contrasted sharply.

Testimony from urbanists at the City Club of New York, preservation advocacy groups Historic Districts Council (HDC), and Society for the Architecture of the City implied that Parks had cherry-picked historical examples to support its design vision. Christabel Gough, secretary of the Society for the Architecture of the City, suggested the open, monumental Parks Department renders are “more reminiscent of Mussolini’s Rome than Olmsted," while Patrick Waldo of HDC critiqued the Parks Department plan for gesturing to a never-realized McKim, Mead & White scheme instead of actual history. Waldo argued that returning sites to some halcyon “original” was contrary to the intent of contemporary preservation practice. 

Landscape architect and preservation consultant Michael Gotkin framed Bye’s mounds as a homage to Olmsted that had to be considered in his era to be fully understood. “In the 1970s, this was their approach to preservation,” Gotkin said. Claiming that Olmsted would have wanted visitors to enter on an axis, as the Parks Department did, was a false assumption; on the contrary, Olmsted's entrances were oblique and visitors were encouraged to discover the access. It would be a mistake to return the park to some way it never was. (The Parks Department diagram that illustrates this argument is laid out on page 33 of its plan.)

Echoing Gotkin’s testimony, Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said entering the park from the corner was “antithetical” to previous design approaches, but Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan didn’t quite agree. The commission "doesn't have to reject something because it wasn’t historically here,” she said.

“This is one of the most interesting and difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make,” said Commissioner Frederick Bland. 

In light of the conflicting testimony, especially around Bye's work, the commission decided to hold off on a vote. An LPC spokesperson said that once the commission receives a revised design from the Parks Department, it will schedule the item for another public hearing.

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James Corner Field Operations’ Freshkills Park moves closer to realization

James Corner Field Operations' plans for Freshkills Park in Staten Island inched closer to fruition this week after New York City authorities awarded a $23 million contract to Lomma Construction Corporation to carry out the first phase. Occupying what was once the Fresh Kills Landfill site on Staten Island, the North Park will cover 21 acres and be open by 2020. In an email to The Architect's Newspaper (AN), a spokesperson for NYC Parks said that North Park had been identified as an area for simple recreational facilities, vast natural settings, meadows, wetlands, and creeks. "It is envisioned as a lightly programmed natural area connecting with Schmul Park in the Travis neighborhood, extending the rich habitat provided in the adjacent William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge, and capitalizing on one of the quietest and most sheltered areas of Fresh Kills," they said. Inside visitors will be able to find an observation tower from which they can look over the Arthur Kill River and watch birdlife on the marshes. When complete, Freshkills Park will be 2,200 acres—almost three times bigger than Central Park, second only to Pelham Bay Park. It will be the largest park built in New York City since the 19th century. 450 of its acres will be wetland. The Phase One work will also mean that come 2020, the public will be able to use broad pathways, "secondary paths," a seven-acre seed farm, a forested plateau, a composting comfort station (i.e. a composting public bathroom), a picnic lawn, a waterfront overlook deck, a bird observation tower, and a bicycle repair station. A parking lot for 67 spaces will also be included. Some areas of the park are now open to the public, though only during certain times of the year. According to DNAInfo, two parks connected to Freshkills have already been completed: the Richmond Avenue greenway and one entrance to North Park, Schmul Park.

Authorities expect the whole of Freshkills Park to be fully open by 2036. More information can be found on the park's website, here.

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What is happening to these landmarked fences in a Harlem park?

The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) this week approved a Parks Department plan to renovate a historic park, but proposed replacement of tall art moderne fencing with a shorter new fence—in keeping with an initiative to make parks more welcoming—was vigorously debated by commissioners and members of the public. At Tuesday's hearing, the Parks Department presented an expansive proposal to spruce up Jackie Robinson Park in West Harlem. The 13-acre greensward, once called Colonial Park, hugs Bradhurst and Edgecombe avenues between West 145th Street and West 153rd streets. Its rolling hills host a swimming pool and bathhouse at its southern end, one of the city's 11 WPA-era pool complexes and the only one built in a minority neighborhood. Designed by Aymar Embury II and Henry Ahrens, architects who worked under then-Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, the Jackie Robinson Play Center, built between 1935 and 1937, is art moderne through-and-through, with its simple brick massing anticipating the work of Louis Kahn. The pool and park perimeter are encircled by fencing; the most distinctive barriers are thin steel posts set between brick piers that match the bathhouse facade. The Parks Department would like to replace those landmarked fences with shorter ones, in keeping with Parks Without Borders, a new program to make parks more open and visually appealing. That program launched in 2015 with eight parks in the five boroughs selected for improvement the following year: Communities nominated parks for facelifts that could include lowering tall perimeter fences or removing them entirely, opening up narrow entrances, and building curb appeal in park-adjacent spaces. At various points in her presentation to Landmarks, a Parks Department representative called the entrances "unwelcoming" and referred to the fences as "giant," "heavy," "fortress-like," and "harsh," but acknowledged that the piers' brickwork matches the bathhouse. The Parks Department wants to remove the eight-foot-high perimeter fence at the southern border, which is bent and broken in places, and replace it with a four-foot-high barrier whose decorative elements borrow from fences elsewhere in the park of an earlier vintage. The agency also raised the possibility, based on its own research, that the southern fences were added at a later date (though the LPC designation report ties their to the construction of the pool and bathhouse). This project would come out of the almost $5 million in capital funds the city has allocated to carry out planned repairs, but that funding is not yet secured. Manhattan Community Board 1o reviewed the plans and supports the proposed changes. The fences were the subject of intense debate at the hearing, with members of the public and some commissioners voicing concern that the proposed fencing just doesn't harmonize with the surroundings. "This would be like replacing moderne windows with Victorian windows in an art deco building," said Patrick Waldo, reading a statement from preservation group Historic Districts Council (HDC). Reducing the height of the piers without reducing their width, HDC argued, would look strange and not dialogue appropriately with the monumentality of the pool complex. The group's statement noted that the wrought iron fence, which borrows from another park fence of a different era, is "stylistically inappropriate," adding that the complex is akin to a total development like Rockefeller Center; changing the details by stretching or shrinking them would compromise the overall design. In his testimony, landscape architect and preservation consultant Michael Gotkin called the fence replacement an "empty gesture." Gotkin, a longtime resident of the Upper West Side and West Harlem, believes that instead of the Parks Department addressing issues like inequality and disinvestment that prevent access to parks, the fences are being lowered for symbolic reasons. By the same logic, his testimony doubted whether the agency would lower Central Park's imposing Vanderbilt Gate or the tall wrought iron fence around the East Village's Stuyvesant Square. "We deserve as much preservation as rich neighborhoods," he said. After the hearing, historian and Harlem resident Michael Henry Adams highlighted a subtext to the planned changes in a historically black and rapidly gentrifying neighborhood where the median annual income hovers around $36,000. "It's just nutty to be talking about these airy-fairy things of making the park more welcoming for affluent white people when to do that, you are diminishing and altering an individual landmark. I think that's wrong." Adams has chronicled Harlem in two books and to works to preserve its history with Save Harlem Now!, a group he co-founded. The Landmarks commissioners, too, had conflicting perspectives on the fence replacement plan. Like every other commissioner, Adi Shamir-Baron favored the removal of chain link fences but called the removal of the larger piers a "strange thing to do." Formally, they dialogue with the monumentality of the building, but for her raised larger questions about their contemporary perception. "There's another discussion here: our new understanding of the heroic language of public work. We are uncomfortable with it. The tension around that is important to think about: What means what to whom?" Commissioner Diane Chapin noted that ideas around how the perimeters of parks should look are always in flux, she was not convinced on the appropriateness of a more ornate fence. Her colleague Michael Goldblum asked if there were other options: Could the piers stay and the fences be lowered? Lower most of the pillars but leave the ones near the entrance intact? "It's within preservation ideology and philosophy to make some changes along the perimeter and not be [a] slave to every possible historic aspect," said LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, a statement with which Commissioner Frederick Bland agreed. Sybil Young, a Parks preservationist, requested approval from the Commission in light of the fact the project's funding remained undecided. Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan assented and the commission agreed it could approve the work, among other requested changes. If and when the Parks Department has the capital funding for the new fences, it can go back to the LPC for discussion. An LPC spokesperson said that if there is significant new information the commission may hold an additional public meeting. A Parks Department spokesperson said that right now, except for work at the two southern entrances, the agency does not have funding or LPC approval for a new southern border fence or money to reduce the height of the piers. The agency is not actively seeking funding for the southern border portion of the project.
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Philip Johnson’s New York State Pavilion all set for $14 million revamp

The famous—and famously neglected—New York State Pavilion in Queens is poised for a major revamp. The city last week announced it is giving the pavilion, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a $14.25 million redesign. Originally conceived by Philip Johnson and Lev Zetlin for the 1964 World's Fair, the pavilion is a far cry from Johnson's Glass House but became a New York City icon nonetheless. Now, though, the National Register–listed item is largely abandoned, looming over other World's Fair infrastructure that has been successfully incorporated into the park.

The work, however, depends on a successful bid for the project. If all goes well, construction is scheduled to start next spring and wrap in fall 2019.

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Meet the 10 artists who will install artworks in NYC parks this June

NYC Parks and UNIQLO USA announced the ten artists selected for the Art in the Parks: UNIQLO Park Expressions Grant for 2017. The UNIQLO grant, which accepted proposals last fall, is part of NYC Parks’ initiative to increase cultural and arts programming in previously underserved parks. Each artist will receive $10,000 to execute his or her piece and installation will begin this June. The chosen locations are Joyce Kilmer Park and Virginia Park in the Bronx; Fort Greene Park and Herbert Von King Park in Brooklyn; Thomas Jefferson Park and Seward Park in Manhattan; Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Rufus King Park in Queens; and Tappen Park and Faber Park in Staten Island. The judges, a committee of art professionals and community members, selected proposals that not only had creative and artistic merit, but also responded to the park and its surroundings. The winning artists and their submissions for each borough are: Manhattan     Brooklyn Bronx Queens Staten Island
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Parks Without Borders discussion series in NYC will explore innovative ideas for parks and public space

Today, NYC Parks announced the launch of a new Parks Without Borders Discussion Series that aims to explore new ideas for parks and public space. Continuing through 2017, the conversation will expand on topics from NYC Parks’ Parks Without Borders Summit of last spring. Hosted by commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, the discussion series features park and public space leaders throughout the United States, with topics such as new park design, peacemaking and engagement, building greener parks, healthier communities, and more resilient neighborhoods. The series will be held on the third floor of the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park. “The Parks Without Borders Discussion Series is the first of its kind, and we are excited to welcome so many esteemed guests. Conversations about improving our cities and public spaces are crucial to progress and change,” said Silver in a statement. The debut events will take place January 18, February 9, and March 9. January 18, “The Seamless Public Realm,” will host Kathryn Ott Lovell, commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Jayne Miller, superintendent of Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, Jane Rudolph, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation for Arlington, Virginia, Silver, and Lynn B. Kelly, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks as the moderator. Thursday, February 9, “Rethinking Public Space,” will bring Justin Moore, AICP, executive director of NYC Public Design Commission, Signe Nielsen, commissioner of NYC Public Design Commission and principal at Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, and Rudolph as the moderator. Thursday, March 9, “For the Love of Cities,” introduces Peter Kageyama, author “For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places,” and Silver as the moderator. NYC Parks is working to find innovative ways to develop public spaces, using the discussion series to inspire creative conversations about how to strengthen and improve the parks system. “Great parks make a great city, and at this series we will have the chance to hear from some of the greatest parks leaders in the country,” said Kelly in a statement.
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Nike and KAWS remake these NYC basketball courts with colorful pop art

  Thanks to a partnership between government, a local artist, and a global athletic brand, basketball players on Manhattan's Lower East Side can now enjoy colorful courts and high-style hoops that highlight the energy of the sport. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) teamed up with Nike and KAWS, the Brooklyn-based artist and toy designer, to transform Sara D. Roosevelt Park's two basketball courts into vibrant permanent installations. The four vividly-hued backboards and their matching asphalt playing surfaces—painted with bright character silhouettes against kaleidoscopic backdrops—were unveiled in a ceremony last week. “The newly installed pop-art design, conceived by Nike and KAWS, is an exciting new add to these refurbished Sara D. Roosevelt Park basketball courts. The collaborative work here not only make these courts a destination for recreation, but also for viewing creative, culturally relevant, pop-art,” said NYC Parks commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, in a statement. “Thanks to Nike for funding the stunning facelift of such a great Lower East Side amenity that is at the intersection of multiple Lower East Side neighborhoods and districts.” Nike, which recently collaborated with Portland, Oregon on its bike share program, committed $300,000 to the basketball courts for the KAWS installation and general spruce-up. The park, which opened in 1934, last received a major overhaul twenty years ago. Although this collaboration was public-private, over the past several years the Parks Department has launched three major public initiatives to refurbish parks citywide. The Parks Without Borders project asks New Yorkers to nominate parks that could be better knit into the existing urban fabric through edge-condition design interventions, while this summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio committed $150 million to reinvigorating anchor parks, the largest and best-loved parks in the five boroughs. The older but ongoing $285 million Community Parks Initiative (CPI), started in 2014, added nine new sites to its improvement list in September. CPI targets parks in low-income, historically disinvested neighborhoods with growing populations.
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Nine more NYC parks slated to be fully rebuilt

It's not just New York City's Anchor Parks that are receiving renewed attention: Earlier this week, the city announced that nine additional parks would be fully renovated as part of the ongoing Community Parks Initiative (CPI). The CPI is $285 million project that was launched in 2014 and aims to improve "historically under-funded parks in densely populated and growing neighborhoods with higher-than-average concentrations of poverty," according to a press release. 60 parks will be rebuilt and 100 more sites will receive "targeted improvements and enhanced programming," such as "new pavements for basketball courts, new plantings, and aesthetic improvements." The CPI—which also features an annual $2.5 million budget for ongoing park maintenance—is also part of the Mayor de Blasio's oneNYC plan, which broadly aims to encourage economic growth, ecological sustainability, and resiliency, all while reducing inequality. “For health, for relaxation, and for happiness, great neighborhoods need the great neighborhood spaces the Community Parks Initiative creates,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, in a press release. “This is why CPI is not only an investment in parks—it’s an investment in the well-being of millions of New Yorkers for generations to come.” The nine parks to be renovated are: Bronx · Garrison Playground · Playground 174 · Playground 134 · Plimpton Playground Brooklyn · La Guardia Playground · Weeksville Playground Manhattan · Abraham Lincoln Playground · Audubon Playground Queens · Almeda Playground According to the press release, 35 of the inaugural CPI parks have already broken ground on construction. 12 other parks are in the design phase and more sites will be added to the initiative next year.
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NYC Parks to join $200K public art partnership with UNIQLO

Today, The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) and Japanese clothing company UNIQLO announced that UNIQLO has committed $200,000 in a grant to be issued over the next two years. The “Art in the Parks: UNIQLO Park Expressions” grant will install original artworks by New York City­­–based artists in 10 parks (two parks per each of the New York City's five boroughs). The grant is part of NYC Parks’ broader initiative to bring frequent public art exhibits to parks that have not had cultural programming in the past. The participating parks are Joyce Kilmer Park and Virginia Park in the Bronx; Fort Greene Park and Herbert Von King Park in Brooklyn; Thomas Jefferson Park and Seward Park in Manhattan; Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Rufus King Park in Queens; and Tappen Park and Faber Park in Staten island. Over the next two years, 20 emerging artists who “submit the most compelling public art proposals” will each receive $10,000 to complete their projects for their assigned park. The first round of artists will be announced in January 2017 and the first artworks will be ready for public display in spring 2017. The announcement was held at 11:30am this morning at Fort Greene Park Plaza with NYC Parks commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, UNIQLO USA CEO Hiroshi Taki, UNIQLO global director of corporate social responsibility Jean Shein, city councilmember Laurie Cumbo, and artist Alexandre Arrechea, as well as local artists and community members. This project is one of several in which UNIQLO has engaged to better local communities. In addition to its clothing recycling program, an ongoing initiative that collects gently used clothing at its stores and delivers them to those in need, the company has donated millions to people in need, such as refugees, disaster victims, and disadvantaged youth.
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Mayor de Blasio announces $150 million in funding for city’s “anchor parks”

Mayor de Blasio has announced $150 million in funding for major improvements to five New York City "anchor parks." The mayor chose one large park per borough—Highbridge Park in Manhattan, Betsy Head Park in Brooklyn, Freshkills Park on Staten Island, Saint Mary’s Park in the Bronx, and Astoria Park in Queens—to receive $30 million to upgrade facilities. Together these parks are within walking distance of 750,000 residents, but have suffered in years past from under-investment. The city has designated the five sites as anchors because they are community resources in densely populated, lower-income areas that have strong development potential. Parks Department commissioner Mitchell Silver told PIX11 that the chosen parks are a "stabilizing force in neighborhoods and offer more diverse resources than smaller community parks." “New Yorkers deserve to have the greatest parks in the world steps from their homes. That’s why our administration is focused on park equity, which brings fair access to and development of parks across the city. The Anchor Parks program, joined with the Community Parks Initiative and Parks Without Borders, marks another major step in advancing park equity for all New Yorkers,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. In the fall, Parks officials will outreach the surrounding communities to determine the best improvements to make. The announcement follows the Parks Department's groundbreaking on its first Community Parks Initiative (CPI) project last week. The mayor started CPI in 2014 to improve green space in low-income neighborhoods. City officials gathered at Thomas Boyland Playground in Bushwick, Brooklyn to celebrate the start of construction on the first 35 sites that will be built in CPI's first phase (an additional 12 parks are in design, with more sites to be announced soon). The $3 million renovation at Thomas Boyland will add a natural turf baseball field, basketball court, fitness equipment for adults, new landscaping, and a redesigned children's play area with a cooling spray shower. Last fall, de Blasio announced that CPI will receive $285 million in capital funds through 2019.
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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.
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The Central Park Conservancy announces $300 million fundraising campaign

The Central Park Conservancy is embarking on a big fundraising campaign: The nonprofit is seeking $300 million for the care and upkeep of Manhattan’s largest park. The Central Park Conservancy receives only about a quarter of its funding from taxpayers, leaving the other 75 percent to be funded by private donations. Even with a yearly budget of $65 million, many necessary repairs are now long overdue. Its crews must maintain a 693 acres of parkland filled with 20,000 trees. The program is called “Forever Green: Ensuring the Future of Central Park,” and the money it raises will go towards improvements like replacing the pipes in the Conservatory Garden fountain, a new facade for the Naumburg Bandshell, and the restoration of Belvedere Castle. It also seeks to restore Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's original vision for the space, and will focus on on historic features like The Ramble and the North Woods. While upkeep is costly, the Conservancy claims they help generate over $1 billion in economic activity yearly. The park now gets 42 million visitors, compared to 12 million a few decades ago. That booming number of guests has been hard on the park’s infrastructure. Luckily the conservation effort has no lack of donations from residents who have benefited from having the park in their backyard, including $100 million from hedge fund manager John A. Paulson and $25 million from the Thompson Family Foundation. The fundraising effort, having raised $112 million so far, is already more than a third complete.