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Helmsley Grants $6.5 Million to Support the Health of New Yorkers by Expanding Access to Green Space

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust today announced more than $6.5 million in grants to help improve the health of New Yorkers by expanding access to green spaces across New York City. Grants to the City Parks Foundation, GrowNYC, the Natural Areas Conservancy, and The Nature Conservancy will support greenway planning, tree health, and enhancements to under-resourced parks and trails. These grants will bring the benefits of green space closer to home for more communities, with special attention focused on neighborhoods with less access to parks.

Helmsley also joins a new and growing coalition of NYC-based funders with a commitment of $900,000 to the NYC Green Relief & Recovery Fund. As New York City copes with the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic consequences, the Fund will collectively support various nonprofit organizations and volunteer-led groups in their efforts to keep New York City’s parks open, clean, and green this summer as uncrowded public open spaces take on an increasingly important role.

Truly improving health outcomes, across chronic diseases or any condition, will remain out of reach unless we look for ways to treat the whole person.

David Panzirer, a Helmsley Trustee

Research finds that people living near parks and green spaces have less mental distress, are more physically active, and have extended life spans. “The Helmsley Charitable Trust is dedicated to improving the health of all New Yorkers, particularly those with multiple needs,” said Charlotte Gauthier, Associate Program Officer of the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s New York City Program. “We know that our physical environment is closely intertwined with our health and well-being, which is why we are investing to ensure more New Yorkers can access the many benefits of trees and nature in their own communities.”

“At Helmsley, we know there is no silver bullet for achieving good health,” said David Panzirer, a Trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “Truly improving health outcomes, across chronic diseases or any condition, will remain out of reach unless we look for ways to treat the whole person. Solutions outside the clinic – and that are literally outside, in safe, natural surroundings – are necessary for everyone to have the opportunity to thrive.”

Together, these new Helmsley grants seek to improve green spaces and increase their use by surrounding communities, particularly in often-neglected parts of New York City. To make this a reality, each grantee will engage community members in the planning, implementation, care, and stewardship of these spaces.

City Parks Foundation: Through its Catalyst community building program, the City Parks Foundation will develop park stewardship groups to activate and revitalize eight parks, prioritizing those near NYCHA developments. The funding will additionally develop new health- and wellness-related programming to increase use of the parks, as well as stewardship programs to encourage community participation to sustain them. Finally, funding will help build a new data model that will allow Catalyst to measure and track the strength of stewardship groups and their networks as a means of achieving sustainability in the long term.

GrowNYC: This new multi-year grant will create three vibrant community gardens and 10 school gardens in and surrounding NYCHA developments that will allow residents to experience the environmental and health benefits of open green space. GrowNYC will ensure the success and sustainability of these green spaces through multi-generational programming, technical assistance training, resources for planting, and stewardship best practices, in close collaboration with community gardening groups and participating school administrations.

GrowNYC will also train graduates of the NYCHA Food Business Pathway Program to operate two pop-up fresh food markets near NYCHA facilities that feature locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Residents will be able to shop using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) while also leveraging their food dollars with the federally-funded Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the NYC Health Bucks Program (a $2 coupon for every $5 in SNAP benefits spent).

Natural Areas Conservancy: Continuing on a previous planning grant, this new grant will support the implementation of the NYC Strategic Trails Plan and expand trail improvement work to 20 under-resourced parks and will build a volunteer program to help the Natural Areas Conservancy and NYC Parks maintain them, ensuring that every New Yorker has access to not just a park, but a place where they can connect with wild nature.

The Nature Conservancy: Building on a previous planning grant, this grant will continue to support TNC’s Future Forest NYC with a particular focus on deepening the recently inaugurated New York City Urban Forest Task Force’s work to create a plan of action to protect, grow, and care for trees on public and private land with an emphasis on public health and equity.

About the Helmsley Charitable Trust

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning its active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $2.5 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. Helmsley’s New York City Program works to improve the lives of New Yorkers with multiple, chronic health needs. Since the Program’s first grant in 2014, Helmsley has awarded more than $42 million in grants to organizations across the city.


Laura Fahey, Communications Officer, lfahey@helmsleytrust.org