According to the World Health Organization, green spaces such as parks, sports fields, woods, and meadows represent a “fundamental component of any urban ecosystem.”1 In metropolitan areas like New York City, green space plays a crucial role in encouraging both physical and mental health, as well as providing a refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The Importance of Green Space in NYC
Researchers from the University of Aarhus in Denmark shared that while they are still discovering exactly why green space is so beneficial, it clearly provides health benefits across the population. The team of researchers reported that access to green space, “provides spaces for socializing, decreases noise and air pollution, and improves immune function by providing exposure to beneficial microbiota. It also can help with psychological restoration; that is, green space provides a respite for over-stimulated minds.”
In addition to the health benefits, green space provides residents with safer areas to walk or cycle to and from everyday activities. Not only does this create safe spaces, but it also encourages exercise and increased levels of physical activity. Furthermore, family areas like playgrounds and swimming pools are often located in green spaces.
To increase access to green space, groups like the City Parks Foundation, The New York Restoration Project and The Trust for Public Land have worked to transform barren asphalt schoolyards and available space in under-resourced communities in NYC into parks and playgrounds. New Yorkers can volunteer or get involved with both organizations and help create healthier, more sustainable communities. But, advocacy doesn’t have to stop there.
The Importance of Advocating for Green Space in NYC
In a study by researchers at the University of British Columbia, they examined 10 U.S. metropolitan areas, including NYC, and found that access to green space reflects broader class and racial divides. According to their research, they concluded that “the biggest lines of cleavage are income and higher education (which the study measures as the share of college graduates), both of which are positively and significantly associated with access to green space.”2
This conclusion is supported by 2019 winner of the Greene Prize for Environmental Writing, Zoe Parker, whose award-winning academic piece discusses how urban green space reflects persistent racial and socioeconomic hierarchies in the U.S.3 Parker determined several primary causes of disparate green space accessibility, with geographic and financial reasons being the first two.
In regards to geographic factors, Parker noted how low income and minority residents tend to live in the inner-city core, where the dense space doesn’t allow for green space to flourish. Additionally, low-income communities don’t have easy access to transportation in order to reach areas with public green spaces.
Financially, low-income neighborhoods are at a major disadvantage. Public parks and green spaces are often funded by tax dollars. Lower-income areas tend to have less public funding available for green space construction and upkeep. Additionally, the chances of having private green space such as a backyard is significantly slimmer.
Nature, and accessibility to it, is crucial to enhancing an individual’s quality of life. This holds especially true in condensed spaces, like NYC. Access to life-giving green space should not be limited to people in affluent areas. Advocating for green space in all areas of NYC not only provides city residents with a safe space to relax and be active, it ensures all residents, regardless of income or ethnicity, can benefit from what nature has to offer.
Partner with NYC Green Space Advocates
If you’re looking to get involved in local efforts to protect NYC green spaces, check out the following organizations:
- New York Restoration Project (NYRP): The NYRP works to promote New York resident’s right to nature by partnering with local communities, public agencies, and the private sector on a daily basis.
- The Trust for Public Land: The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuing healthy, livable communities for generations to come.
- City Parks Foundation: City Parks Foundation transforms parks into vibrant centers of community through sports, arts, community building, and environmental education programs for New Yorkers across all five boroughs.
- Prospect Park Alliance: Prospect Park Alliance sustains, restores, and advances Prospect Park to benefit the diverse communities that call Brooklyn home.
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