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Investments in Green Spaces Will Lead to a More Equitable New York

Reflections from Former Associate Program Officer Charlotte Gauthier

The power of accessible, high-quality green spaces has become undeniable during the last year. At a time when being inside with more than a few others is still unsafe for most, these spaces are crucial to our physical, mental, and social well-being.

The need for adequate green spaces that are close by, clean, and safe is greater than ever in places like New York City, where parks in underserved neighborhoods are smaller and struggle to serve far more people than parks in wealthier areas. New Yorkers living in these neighborhoods are also typically underserved by other essential services like groceries and plentiful public transit. The result is often poorer health outcomes. As we strive to build a healthier, more equitable city, building and revitalizing green spaces must be a priority.

With this in mind, over the past year the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s New York City Program increased funding throughout the City to enhance green spaces in neighborhoods with limited access. In July of last year, we announced more than $6.5 million in grants to expand access to green spaces throughout New York. These grants to the City Parks Foundation, GrowNYC, Fund for Public Housing, the Natural Areas Conservancy, and the Nature Conservancy are supporting critical projects that will revitalize parks close to NYCHA developments, improve trails citywide, plant and better manage trees, and help connect every New Yorker to nature. Each of these grantees are engaging directly with community members to help with the planning, implementation, care, and stewardship of these new or revitalized spaces.

We are by no means alone in our fight to create a greener New York. In addition to our own grantmaking, we joined a new and growing coalition of NYC-based funders with a commitment of nearly $1 million to the NYC Green Relief & Recovery Fund. Together, the Fund supports nonprofits and volunteer-led groups dedicated to keeping New York City’s parks and open spaces clean, accessible, and safe for events, gatherings, and simply enjoying time in nature – now and in the future.

Research continually demonstrates a clear link between proximity to green spaces and overall mental and physical health, and the health and well-being of New Yorkers matters now more than ever. This Earth Day, we are thankful for the work of our grantees to make green spaces accessible to all, and we are optimistic that this meaningful work will improve the mental, physical, and emotional health of our neighbors around New York. We are proud to do our part to make our city a little greener.