Five New York City parks—one in each borough—are going to get a $30 million facelift as part of a Parks Department project Mayor de Blasio is calling Anchor Parks, which he says is intended to upgrade large parks in under-served neighborhoods. "This is about fairness," the mayor said at a press conference in the Bronx on Thursday, adding, "For a lot of New Yorkers this is where they spend their summer vacation. For a lot of people who can't afford to travel, a park is everything to them."
Rather than spread $150 million in funding across NYC's nearly-2,000 public parks, Commissioner Michael Silver told WSJ this week that the idea is to upgrade a few, dramatically. "Spending $30 million in each park really gives you the kind of transformation where the neighborhood sees the difference," he said.
Saint Mary's Park in Mott Haven—the largest park in the South Bronx—has been chosen, along with Betsy Head Park in Brownsville, Freshkills Park on Staten Island, Highbridge Park in Washington Heights, and Astoria Park in Queens. Upgrades will include new soccer fields, bathrooms, hiking trails, sprinklers, and baseball fields and tracks. According to the city, close to a tenth of NYC's population lives within walking distance of one of these parks.
Asked on Thursday if he also had plans to build new parks in NYC—former mayor Michael Bloomberg got a lot of credit for that sort of thing, although not every green space he promised has come to fruition—de Blasio said, "absolutely." A significant amount of the new park land will be part of the mayor's controversial neighborhood rezoning plan. Often, a developer will incorporate green space as part of a large-scale residential project.
Geoffrey Croft of New York City Park Advocates said Thursday that while "any funds to Parks is welcomed," he's concerned about how these improvements will impact parks that are lacking in general maintenance. At Highbridge Park, he said, there are ongoing issues with erosion and invasive tree species. "It's a drop in the bucket for what's actually needed," he said, of the $150 million commitment.
Parks stressed Thursday that it is also investing in smaller parks in low-income neighborhoods. Eight NYC parks are also slotted for renovations around their perimeters.
Each of the five selected parks is expected to be under construction for three to four years with partial closures, according to WSJ. Parks spokesman Sam Biederman said Thursday that the next step is to meet with each community to field suggestions. To discuss any specific improvements for any one park would be "premature," he said.