New York, NY (January 18, 2007)- Renowned entertainer Bette Midler founded the nonprofit New York Restoration Project (NYRP) in 1995 with the belief that clean and green neighborhoods are fundamental to the quality of life and that every community in New York City deserves an oasis of natural beauty. Modeled on the Central Park Conservancy and other successful public-private partnerships, NYRP partners with individuals, community-based groups, and public agencies to reclaim, restore, and develop under-resourced parks, community gardens, and open space in New York City, primarily in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Although New York City has the largest urban park system in the nation, it is woefully under-resourced. Its modest budget is inadequate to maintain the more than 28,000 acres of parkland, gardens, playgrounds, recreation areas, trails, and protected waterfront in the city. New York ranks last out of 19 major U.S. cities in the percentage of the municipal budget spent on parks and recreation, currently less than one-half of one percent. Since the late 1980s, the workforce of the City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation has been reduced by over one-third.
In just over a decade, and in partnership with city, state, and federal agencies- notably the AmeriCorps program- NYRP has accomplished a great deal. They have removed over 875 tons of garbage from project sites; reclaimed more than 400 acres of under-resourced and abandoned parkland along the banks of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers; rescued scores of community gardens from commercial development, served over 8,000 at-risk urban youngsters with free recreational and environmental education programs, which take place in the open spaces we have restored; and created the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse and Swindler Cove Park, a magnificent five-acre public park on the site of what was once an illegal dumping ground.
Their core initiatives include:
* Swindler Cove Park: Riley-Levin Children’s Garden and Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse. This 5-acre park, located on the Harlem River at the east end of Dyckman Street, opened to the public in August 2003. It features a children’s garden/outdoor classroom with flower and vegetable beds and teaching area, boathouse with rowing instruction and storage, and environmental education and recreation programs.
* Community Gardens. NYRP retains title to over 50 community gardens and other open spaces in New York City to ensure their vitality in perpetuity. NYRP protects, acquires, and supports New York City’s diverse community gardens and provides neighborhood groups with resources to develop and maintain them.
* Upper Manhattan/Harlem River Waterfront Comprehensive Planning. NYRP is putting forward a vision for how nature and neighborhoods can become more integrated in the future. The goal is for thoughtful land use planning to guide development in northern Manhattan for the first time in more than a century.
* Environmental Education and Recreational Programs. As children and adults develop an appreciation for the natural environment, they’re more willing to care for and value the parks in their neighborhoods, and insist that they be kept clean, safe and accessible. Since its founding, NYRP’s programs have served more than 8,000 at-risk youth with in-school and after-school programs that take place in the sites they’ve restored. Program curricula and activities include park, garden, and aquatic sciences, boatbuilding, and rowing.
* Park Restoration. NYRP has partnered with city, state, and federal agencies and community groups to redevelop Highbridge Park, Fort Washington Park, Fort Tryon Park, and Roberto Clemente State Park.
* New Leaf Cafe. NYRP will operate the cafe in Fort Tryon Park for the period of 2001-2008. To provide a quality dining experience at a reasonable price for residents and tourists alike, NYRP undertook major capital improvements to the 1930s stone structure, including new kitchen, woodwork, and patio. The end result was a profitable venture that brought value to the park, provided income to the City of New York, and created jobs within the community.
For more information, visit New York Restoration Project.