THE GREENPRINT SUMMARY
On Friday, March 14, 2003, over 300 Parkies and friends of Parks gathered at the U.S. Customs house to hear Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe deliver “The Greeeprint: A Report on the State and Future of Our Parks.” For those who did not attend on Friday morning, what follows is a brief summary of “The Greenprint.”
The Greenprint emphasized major Parks priorities: expansion, beautification, and most importantly, Parks’ commitment to putting children first. Quoting Iris Rodriguez’s now-famous line—“Children are 20% of our population, but 100% of our future,”—Commissioner Benepe spoke at length about the services parks provide for children. These services include the maintenance of clean, safe, play places; fitness and sports opportunities for children; and after-school programming in parks and in Parks recreation centers. As examples of the ways parks will become even more child-friendly, the Commissioner cited drug-free parks legislation; new standards of accessibility; the construction and maintenance of new recreation centers and fitness facilities; the improved maintenance of park amenities; the continuation of the Urban Park Ranger’s award-winning program, “The Natural Classroom”, and future health and fitness programs in our recreation centers and parks.
When discussing Parks beautification efforts, Commissioner Benepe pointed out that beautiful public spaces go a long way in improving the overall quality of life in the city and create positive energy that attracts new people and businesses to the city. Commissioner Benepe committed to improve parks and pointed to our successes with horticultural beautification initiatives such as the Daffodil Project, citywide horticultural training, the gray water system, and greenstreets as areas in which Parks will continue to excel and grow. Specifically, the Commissioner announced that in 2003, Parks would build 50 new greenstreets and playground gardens and, through partnership with the Trust for Public Land and the New York Restoration Project, would welcome 198 community gardens to the Emerald Empire. Commissioner Benepe also emphasized the importance of maintaining and restoring Parks’ vast collection of art and monuments, as well as seeking out modern temporary art installations. Lastly, the Commissioner spoke of new standards in park design—from large park elements such as synthetic fields, to minute details such as benches, lights, and trash receptacles—which would modernize both new and existing parks.
Commissioner Benepe emphasized the needs of children again when discussing Parks third priority—park expansion—saying that “If we do not grow, we will not be able to provide kids places near their homes to play, and adults and seniors with spots of green to relax in on weekends.” The Commissioner affirmed that parks would expand most dramatically by connecting waterfront parks, announcing that in 2003, in anticipation of a huge greenway network, Mayor Bloomberg will cut the ribbon on a 34-mile interim greenway around Manhattan. Commissioner Benepe described several new waterfront park projects including: Barretto Point in the Bronx; Hudson River Park in Manhattan; Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood; and the possible acquisition of shorefront property at Fort Totten in Queens and along the North Shore of Staten Island at Blissenbach Marina.
The Commissioner’s acknowledged the City’s current fiscal crisis, stating, “New Yorkers have grown to expect and appreciate a high standard for parks…we must do everything we can to maintain levels of service…we must change the way we do business.” Citing examples, including the POP/WEP program, “Operation Green Acres,” public-private partnerships, and corporate sponsorships the Commissioner assured the audience that Parks would continue to thrive. Several new cost-saving ideas were also mentioned—renewed lobbying efforts at the state legislature, new efficiencies at the Olmsted center, and increased volunteer efforts through Partnerships for Parks—and the Commissioner encouraged everyone to think creatively to look for more both small and large ways to save money.
Commissioner Benepe concluded his speech by showing his audience two slides: one was a photograph of elms planted in Central Park almost one hundred and forty years ago, and the second was a photograph of those same elms, fully grown with branches spiraling above the path now known as “Literary Walk.” The elms were an illustration of the legacy left behind by our predecessors at Parks. The elms remind everyone that over the course of one hundred years, economic highs and lows are inconsequential; even with limited resources Parks can provide still meaningful services for New Yorkers and leave a legacy for generations to come.
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
“If peace cannot be maintained with honor it is no longer peace.”
Lord John Russell, 1853