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Park City: NYC ranks second in U.S., says survey of parks systems

Park goers enjoy a beautiful afternoon in Central

Park goers enjoy a beautiful afternoon in Central Park Photo Credit: Park goers enjoy a beautiful afternoon in Central Park. (Charles Eckert)

New York City ranks No. 2 on a list of the nation’s cities with the best parks, a new survey says.

The Big Apple gives more people access to parks and invests more dollars in improvements, moving the city up from last year’s third place finish in the annual ParkScore survey conducted by the Trust for Public Land, which judged 50 cities.

“New York City was the only city to move up the ranks. It is ahead of San Francisco, Sacramento and Boston,” said Adrian Benepe, Trust for Public Land senior vice president and former New York City parks commissioner.

Minneapolis was No. 1, scoring higher than New York City by providing more average size parks that offer paths for bike riding and long walks. Nationally, the average size of a park is 5.1 acres.

New York, however, ranked high in the category of access.

According to the survey, 96% of city residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park, which is “one of the highest access ratings in the country,” Benepe said. Twenty percent of city land is dedicated to parks, which is “one of the highest in the nation.”

“The latest ParkScore rankings are further evidence that New York City is the Queen of Green,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Investing in parks “pays off for city residents and visitors alike, making New York City a great place to live, work and visit,” Bloomberg said.

Still, some New Yorkers said the city focuses too much on Manhattan at the expense of the outer boroughs.

“There are two or three parks in my neighborhood. I don’t know their names, but they’re really overcrowded,” said Gil Palacios, 29, of Sunnyside.

“In comparison to the facilities in Manhattan, the parks in Queens have really been left behind. They need investment: more equipment and more space,” Palacios added.

Ani Cordero, 24, of Harlem agrees: “I’m surprised. If you told me that Central Park was the best, I wouldn’t be surprised. But this ranking includes the Bronx and I’ve seen some of those parks — they’re dirty.”

He added that though most of Manhattan’s parks are beautiful the city needs “a lot more investment in the outer boroughs.”

The city is working with the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that conserves land for public use, to convert its asphalt school yards into green playgrounds with trees, shrubbery and flowers.

About 300 school yards have been converted into neighborhood parks.

In an attempt to bring more monies to smaller parks, state Sen. Daniel Squadron of Brooklyn is proposing legislation this week to require the city’s wealthier park conservancy groups, such as Central Park, to give 20% of their donations to smaller parks.

“Large conservancies get millions every year from private donors,” Squadron said. “But the parks that find it hardest to get that support are the ones that need it the most.'”

Jean Silva, president of the Flushing Meadow Corona Park Conservancy, said they have not received any city funding for two years and rely on grants from local elected officials.

“Our bicycle paths have a lot of drainage problems and have cracks and holes. We need more permanent park rangers and park enforcement officers,” said Silva, who supports Squadron’s proposal.

Among the survey’s lowest ranking were Houston, Miami and Nashville, which tied for 38th place, and Fresno, which came in at 50.

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Top 5 in U.S.

The top 5 city park systems, according to the annual ParkScore survey conducted by the Trust for Public Land, which measures
“access,” “size” and “services and investment.”
1 -- Minneapolis
2 -- New York
3 -- Boston (tie)
3 -- Sacramento (tie)
3 -- San Francisco (tie)
 

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