NYCHA Open Space: The Next City Park Frontier

New Yorkers have been building parks in the most unexpected places. Popular parks have risen over rotting piers on the waterfront; on an elevated and abandoned rail freight line; and even in the middle of busy traffic intersections in Times Square. Many skeptics doubted that anyone would want to sunbathe along the East River, eat a snack in the middle of Times Square, or walk on a rickety steel structure 30 feet above the streets. The skeptics were wrong. Millions have flocked to new spaces in strange places.

There is an even larger and more accessible reservoir of untapped space for new city parks: the thousands of acres of lawns and trees that surround NYCHA towers. NYCHA developments are often 70 or 80 percent open space; yet much of this open space feels unnecessarily isolated from vibrant avenues and neighborhoods. 

The volume of land available for new parks within NYCHA, if redesigned as “activated” neighborhood parks, could have a transformative impact on the city’s quality of life.

The Regional Plan Association, for instance, in TIme to Act, has highlighted the potential: “There are several places where NYCHA open space and NYC Parks open space could be combined into a larger community asset managed by the Parks Department. This would allow NYCHA to benefit from the City, and the City to benefit from NYCHA.” 

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