Conservancies will pitch in to help smaller parks

Photo by Yannic Rack A volunteer doing horticultural work on the High Line this past summer.
Photo by Yannic Rack
A volunteer doing horticultural work on the High Line this past summer.

BY YANNIC RACK  |  The grass soon won’t be “greener on the other side” anymore — at least not in the city’s biggest parks compared to its smallest ones.

Some of the largest parks conservancies in New York City extended a helping hand to smaller parks this month, with the announcement that they will donate $15 million worth of resources to historically underfunded green spaces throughout the five boroughs.

“Every child deserves bright, green space right in their neighborhood — and this essential support from our city’s conservancies will help us make this a reality,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement announcing the plan.

Over the next three years, eight of the largest conservancies — including Friends of the High Line and the Madison Square Park Conservancy — will donate some of their expertise, workers and funds to help out smaller parks in less-wealthy neighborhoods.

Friends of the High Line will take its experience in horticulture and art installations to help out with renovation projects at a handful of community gardens in the South Bronx, while the team from Madison Square Park is fostering a “sister park” by sharing its know-how in stewardship and programming with the Herbert Von King Park in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“We were mentored long ago, and feel it is so important to share our experiences with other parks,” said Keats Meyer, executive director of the Madison Square Park Conservancy.

Shortly after being elected, the mayor endorsed the idea of getting the well-endowed conservancies to pony up some of their money. But some conservancies balked, and critics initially slammed the plan as “wealth redistribution,” saying it would alienate donors.

The original plan, proposed by state Senator Daniel Squadron, would have forced the major conservancies to contribute 20 percent of their operating budgets to a new “neighborhood parks” alliance.

Last year, the mayor changed tack and launched the Community Parks Initiative instead, another parks-equity plan that dispensed $285 million in capital funds to some of the city’s more run-down greenswards, without conservancy support.

Under C.P.I., 67 parks will eventually be rebuilt entirely, and 60 of them have already received improvements, with another 25 slated for the coming year, according to the Mayor’s Office.

Now that the big fish are on board, the mayor commended Squadron for sowing the seeds that sparked “a critical conversation around how to better maintain and improve smaller parks in less-wealthy neighborhoods.”

“My proposal was always about linking the biggest conservancies to the entire system,” Squadron said in a statement. “The fact that they’re stepping up voluntarily is great news.”