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Park Maintenance Proves To Be a Problem for NYC

"Currently in its greatest period of park expansion since the 1930s," New York City has shown a remarkable commitment to expanding its open spaces, but finding the resources to maintain them is another issue entirely, explains Caitlin Blanchfield.
June 15, 2012, 6am PDT | Akemi Leung
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The number of public parks has grown rapidly in New York City in recent years, providing restored ecosystems and incredible amenities for the residents of the city to utilize. However, maintenance for these green spaces require help from resources outside of the Parks Department.

"Cutting the ribbon is one thing," notes Blanchfield. "Keeping a park usable, healthy, and engaging for decades to come, quite another."

"With city and state funding providing just under 65 percent of current maintenance and operation budgets, ensuring that parks are properly maintained has fallen to strategic alliances of privately interested citizens and varying models of public/private partnerships committed to overseeing long-term sustainability and funding."

Perpetually underfunded maintenance budgets mean that each park would greatly benefit from its own conservancy or trust, but no one conservancy model works for all parks. The Central Park Conservancy president, Douglas Blonsky, notes that most of their funding comes from wealthy patrons who live around Central Park. Not all parks have the luxury of being located in affluent areas, where the residents can provide financial assistance.

Blanchfield observes that, "many other organizations, like friends groups working in small community parks, are entirely voluntary, leaving the places they steward at the whim of charitable resources." She goes on to examine several recent projects in the city to catalog how different parks plan to meet the maintenance challenges.

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Published on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 in The Architect's Newspaper
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