Catalyst

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					                                                                 Catalyst
                                                            for Neighborhood Parks


         “This model acts as a sparkplug –
  spurring neighborhood involvement, attracting
  private donations, leveraging public funds, and
  empowering communities to take ownership of
               neighborhood parks.”

            Commissioner Adrian Benepe
         NYC Department of Parks & Recreation




    “This is a truly innovative idea – partnering
      government with the people it serves to
  develop a vision for a park and then work hand-
  in-hand with community members to make that
                   vision a reality.”

             David Rivel, Executive Director,
                 City Parks Foundation




                                                                    Step One: BUILD

For more information, visit www.PartnershipsforParks.org.
“When you volunteer, the feeling is different from working;
         you do it because you want to see a change.
And it’s energizing leading groups of volunteers because we
                all feel the same dedication.”
                                    Albert Davis, Marcus Garvey Park Alliance




         Catalyst for Neighborhood Parks is managed by Partnerships for Parks, which is a joint program of City                                                                           Getting Started
                                                                                                                                                                                          In 1996, Partnerships for Parks pioneered the Catalyst approach on the Bronx
         Parks Foundation and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Throughout this report, the                                                                             River; the next year, we launched the initiative at five additional parks to
         term “Catalyst” will be used to refer to the collective efforts and resources of all divisions, departments, and                                                                 achieve significant and lasting change in diverse communities. On the Bronx
                                                                                                                                                                                          River and other parks, we mobilized volunteers, added programs, leveraged
         staff at both organizations. Catalyst builds local excitement, practical action, and dynamic partnerships for
                                                                                                                                                            Bronx                         funds, and strengthened local leaders so they could lead a unified effort to
         immediate results and sustained change in neighborhood parks and waterfronts. Parks that thrive, rather                                                                          restore and care for their parkland. At the end of five years, Partnerships had
                                                                                                                                                        1                                 helped hundreds of community stakeholders come together to form park advo-
         than simply survive, are those that have active communities caring and fighting for them.
                                                                                                                                                    2                                     cacy groups, like the Bronx River Alliance, and raise more than $130 million in
                                                                                                                                  Manhattan                                               federal, state, city and private dollars for restoration and education.
                                                                                                                                                      3
                                                                                                                                                               Queens                     Catalyst Neighborhoods: Round Two
              Neighborhood change is a complicated and long-term process. By telling the story of Catalyst’s suc-                                                                         Each of the four Catalyst projects described in these reports (see map at left)
                                                                                                                                                                                          was considered and selected based on relationships our staff had already
              cesses and challenges in four New York City neighborhoods, we document how parks and waterfronts                              4                                             established with local partners, potential for community and funding support,
              can flourish with care and leadership from their communities. We hope that this story helps to guide the
              efforts of other agencies, nonprofits and neighborhood leaders.                                                                 Brooklyn                                     and long-term priorities of the Department of Parks & Recreation and
                                                                                                                                                                                          City Parks Foundation.
              We’ve distilled this series of reports into three steps: Build, Connect, and Sustain. Each step represents
              approximately one and a half years of work with communities, but we expect stages to overlap and timing                                                                     Strategies & Approaches
              to vary in each neighborhood due to the history of local participation, when staff is hired, and the success                                                                Though each neighborhood has its own distinct ingredients for success, we
              of different project strategies.                                                                                                                                            offer some consistent resources to help the Catalyst projects move forward,
                                                                                                                                                                                          including:
              This first report, Step One: Build, covers from April 2003 to April 2005, and chronicles how we work with       The High Bridge & Highbridge Parks 1                               Full time staff to help coordinate each project
              partners to increase participation, local pride, and leadership in the neighborhood parks. In Step Two:                                                                           Arts, sports, and educational programming
                                                                                                                             Historic Harlem Parks 2                                            Strategic improvements to park facilities and staffing
              Connect, we link people, ideas and networks around parks and waterfronts. In Step Three: Sustain, we
              document how we strengthen the capacity and influence of community leaders, while evaluating the                Astoria/Long Island City Waterfront Parks 3                        Volunteer planting, painting, and maintenance projects
              sustainability of our efforts.                                                                                                                                                    Small grants to support community-led park projects
                                                                                                                             Red Hook Parks & Recreation 4
                                                                                                                                                                                                Outreach brochures, flyers, and calendars
                                                                                                                                                                                                Training and consultations
                                                                                                                                                                                                Visioning workshops, group development, and meeting facilitation



Page 1                                                                                                                       Above: Paddling the Bronx River. Photo: Benjamin C. Swett.                                                                                Page 2
                                                                                                                                      During the BUILD phase, we learned that these strategies are also integral to a
                                                                                                                                      successful project:
   To BUILD the foundation of our program, Catalyst starts with the following strategies:

                                                                                                                                      Understand community history and context
   Bring people into parks through programming and outreach                                                                           We draw on a community’s civic experiences to help us plan our approach and
   At the start of Catalyst, neighborhood attitudes towards local parks and waterfronts range widely, from people who have            set expectations and timeline. For example, in neighborhoods that have a his-
   been alienated by negative activity in the area to those who can see their potential. One of the first things Catalyst does is      tory of public organizing and debate, we expect large turnouts for community
   (re)introduce people to their parks and waterfronts by building excitement around them. Paired with extensive outreach, free       meetings; in others, we are proud if we convene a handful of people. Context
   arts, sports, and education programs help more residents see the parks as active, safe spaces and inspire community groups         can determine if a small success in one area is a huge victory in another.
   to start organizing their own events.

                                                                                                                                      Connect parks to community priorities
   Make strategic improvements to facilities and programs                                                                             The neighborhoods we work in are often struggling with long term economic
   From our work on the Bronx River, we learned that strategic improvements can make a big difference in local park pride. Catalyst
                                                                                                                                      and social challenges, creating a context in which community-based
   helps facilitate immediate improvements that symbolize a new life for neighborhood parks – from small changes like new benches
                                                                                                                                      organizations may perceive parks as low priority. We strive to find creative
   and plantings to more significant improvements like playground renovations and increased staff. At the same time, we work with
                                                                                                                                      ways to connect parks to other neighborhood goals. For collaborations to be
   community and City leadership to leverage additional capital funding for more ambitious needs. The sound of construction is
                                                                                                                                      meaningful and productive, parks must matter to local partners in terms of the
   one tangible sign of public commitment and helps advance community trust and partnership.
                                                                                                                                      issues they care about most.

   Provide training and resources to support park leadership                                                                          Acknowledge that change can be perceived
   With new improvements and programming, neighbors start to see possibilities for the future of their parks, and Catalyst is there
                                                                                                                                      differently by different people
   to help transform community ideas into action. Catalyst staff build trust by arranging tours, organizing meetings, listening to
                                                                                                                                      Because neighborhoods are not homogeneous, residents view change in
   concerns, and sharing ideas about how parks can be a resource to support community efforts. Once interest is sparked, we
                                                                                                                                      different ways. A new playground looks like a positive improvement to many,
   encourage volunteers to start with small tangible projects that result in immediate success, before challenging groups to move
                                                                                                                                      but for others may trigger fears that property values will increase and lead to
   forward and think bigger. Catalyst provides direct support through workshops, small grants, outreach materials, and volunteer
                                                                                                                                      displacement. By working closely with community partners, we are able to
   projects. On It’s My Park! Day, our signature semi-annual event, we encourage new volunteers to connect their local efforts to a
                                                                                                                                      identify concerns and strategize together about how to address them.
   citywide network of volunteers so they can learn from and inspire each other.

                                                                                                                                      Help neighbors become allies
                                                                                                                                      Neighborhood groups are often either unaware of like-minded efforts nearby
                                                                                                                                      or pitted against each other in competition for scarce resources. We encour-
                                                                                                                                      age neighbors and peers to work together on programs and projects. Creating
                                                                                                                                      opportunities for collaboration allows people to see their shared interests, build
                                            During Step One: BUILD, Catalyst:
                                                                                                                                      trust, and make a greater impact.

   ● Presented programs that drew more than 30,000                     ● Distributed $38,900 in small grants to 15
     people to Catalyst parks                                            community partners                                           Use incentives to encourage collaboration
                                                                                                                                      Because community building is a long-term undertaking, it is important to
   ● Met with representatives from more than 75 different              ● Helped community groups produce brochures,                   establish a strong foundation for ongoing collaboration. We found that offering
     community based organizations                                       signs and educational materials                              incentives like small grants, promotional material, and staff time to neighbor-
   ● Secured $11.5 million for physical improvements                   ● Supported 175 volunteer projects with staff, tools           hood residents and groups helped increase responsiveness and action.
                                                                         and supplies, contributing more than 41,460                  Successful outcomes built the trust and connections among participants
   ● Offered 20 workshops on topics ranging from event                   volunteer hours                                              needed for future partnership.
     production to working with elected officials




Page 3                                                                                                                                 Left: Pickup basketball game in Rainey Park (Queens). Photo: Benjamin C. Swett.
                                                                     The High Bridge & Highbridge Parks
                                                                       Manhattan                      ●   The Bronx




                                                                                                                                                             A Fresh Perspective                                                   months later, they testified at a public hearing to support re-
                                                                                                                                                             Despite years of park restoration efforts by the Parks Depart-        opening the High Bridge. The health fair showcased what the
                                                                                                                                                             ment and volunteers, many neighbors had only negative associ-         park could do for the community if used creatively. The small
                                                                                                                                                             ations with the parks. To give local community members a new          park has since become a popular spot for community festivals
                                                                                                                                                             view of their parks, Catalyst staff led dozens of tours on foot, on   and celebrations.
                                                                                                                                                             bikes, and to the top of the historic High Bridge Water Tower.
                                                                 Did you know the High Bridge is New York City’s oldest                                      Visitors clambered up the winding iron staircase for a rare 360-      How to Put a Bridge in a Box
                                                                                                                                                             degree aerial view of their neighborhood. The walking and bike        Unfortunately, great ideas and interest are not always enough.
                                                                 standing bridge?                                                                            hikes brought children from local schools through wooded trails        Working with the High Bridge Coalition – a regional bridge
                                                                                                                                                             rarely found in the middle of the city. By exciting neighboring        advocacy group – Catalyst helped develop “High Bridge in
                                                                 Catalyst is building local ownership and activity on the Manhattan and Bronx                families and children with a new sense of discovery and pride         a Box,” a curriculum to deepen understanding of the bridge
                                                                                                                                                             in their environment, Catalyst started to change long-standing        and water system. Local teachers responded enthusiastically
                                                                 sides of the High Bridge. By building and connecting a diverse coalition of                 attitudes and set the foundation for future partnerships.              to the program’s fun, hands-on educational activities. As
                                                                 public agencies, citywide organizations, and local residents, we are leverag-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   interest grew, however, we were unable to manage demand
                                                                 ing resources to reopen the High Bridge and improve the parks on either                     The 3 R’s:                                                             for materials and training. With no one partner able to take
                                                                 side.                                                                                                                                                              ownership, we had to take a step back and re-evaluate the
                                                                                                                                                             Reintroduction, Reinvention, Rediscovery
                                                                                                                                                             We struggled at first to engage local groups. Many organizations        project. Ultimately partners agreed that it was more practical
                                                                 Part of the Old Croton Aqueduct, the High Bridge fed the City’s northern ex-                near the High Bridge were set up to address chronic neighbor-         to re-develop the curriculum for web access where it could
                                                                                                                                                             hood issues like safety, education and employment, and did not         be readily available but require less administrative oversight.
                                                                 pansion in the 1800s by channeling fresh water to meet population growth.
                                                                                                                                                             see the relevance of the parks or bridge. To connect the project       Though defining roles and responsibilities is not always as
                                                                 Today the bridge can only be admired from afar – its gates have been locked                                                                                        engaging as developing the creative product, it is equally as
                                                                                                                                                             to local priorities, Catalyst staff attended dozens of community
BUILD High Bridge                                                for over 30 years. While old timers recall when the bridge connected neighbors                                                                                     important.
                                                                                                                                                             meetings. We pitched the parks and bridge as resources that
                                                                 in the Bronx and Manhattan, many newer residents have never even heard of                   could be used to address the pressing community issues that
Context
                                                                 it. When it re-opens, the High Bridge will connect the Bronx’s one-acre park                local organizations cared about most.
•   Population of 280,000
•   71% of local popularion is Hispanic compared to              and future waterfront greenway to Manhattan’s 119 acres and the biggest
    27% of NYC as a whole                                        swimming pool in the borough.                                                               Samaritan Village, a drug rehabilitation center directly bordering
•   30% of Manhattan and 40% of Bronx individuals                                                                                                            Highbridge Park in the Bronx, heard the message and became            HIGH BRIDGE: CONNECTING PARKS TO
    live below the poverty line (21% for NYC)                                                                                                                a key partner. In the past, Samaritan Village had sealed itself off   COMMUNITY PRIORITIES
                                                                                                                                                             from the community, fearful of the negative activity their            Given the long term social and economic issues in the
                                                                                                                                                             participants might find outside the center’s doors. After the          neighborhoods near the High Bridge, Catalyst was challenged
Assets                                                                                                                                                       center’s leadership met with Catalyst staff, they agreed to take
•   Bronx and Manhattan parks comprising 120 acres               “As we rebuild communities we recognize                                                     a new approach. By working together to organize a health fair,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   by local groups to demonstrate why the parks should be
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   considered a priority. After listening carefully to community
    of woods, athletic fields and recreational facilities;
    Bronx park recently restored.                                 the power of people helping people. Our                                                    they could bring hundreds of residents to the park for fun,           concerns in the Bronx, we helped local leaders connect the
•   Parks adjacent to dozens of schools and                                                                                                                  positive activities.                                                  park to organizational goals, including community health and
    community based organizations                               health fair and street festival educates com-                                                                                                                      safety. The results were greater than a few successful events;
                                                                                                                                                             As festival host, Samaritan Village not only led the event, but
•   Unique historical features and natural resources               munity members about healthy living.”                                                     altered its relationship to the community in the process. Several
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   the events helped spark long term park collaboration and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   leadership.
Challenges                                                                          Fred Cohen, Samaritan Village
•   Landmark High Bridge connecting parks was
    closed in 1970s
•   Little local awareness of or interest in High Bridge
•   Highways, railroad tracks and rocky cliffs cutting
    off access to waterfront
•   History of crime and neglect in parks and around
    bridge


Strategies
•   Meetings with 20 community organizations
•   Supported new events by park neighbors
•   Led 36 park hikes and historic water tower tours
    for 200 children from six local schools
•   Developed creative educational tools to connect
    local schools to their history
                                                            Left: View of the High Bridge Water Tower and Harlem River. Photo: Benjamin C. Swett
                                                            Right: Taking a rest during a bike tour of Highbridge Park (Manhattan). Photo: Joseph Sanchez.
          Historic Harlem Parks                   ●
          Jackie Robinson Marcus Garvey Morningside                                 ●                             ●   St. Nicholas



BUILD Harlem                                                                                                                                 Meeting Partners Where They Are                                         Finding Shared Interests
                                                                                                                                             Harlem’s community advocates, and advocates elsewhere, often            In 1999, park volunteers convened a meeting among repre-
Context                                                                                                                                      need support getting started, reaching out, and building a strong       sentatives of the four parks to discuss common challenges
•   Population of 244,000                                                                                                                    foundation for cooperation. When this round of Catalyst began,          and shared solutions. The discussions led to the formation of
•   60% Black, 14% White, and 23% multiple and/or       For more than 100 years, Harlem’s parks have been centers                            some of Harlem’s park groups, like Friends of Morningside Park,         the Historic Harlem Parks Coalition. After working together to
    other racial background
•   Median household income of $21,500, less than       for cultural, social, and political activities.                                      had been working well for years; others, like Friends of St. Nicholas   produce a concert series, the collaboration stalled as leader-
    half that of Manhattan’s overall
                                                                                                                                             Park, had only recently gotten on their feet. All were run completely   ship shifted in the member groups. Catalyst helped Coalition
                                                                                                                                             by volunteers. To help them be effective partners, Catalyst provided    members to reconnect and successfully apply for a grant for
                                                                                                                                             tailored assistance to meet each group’s unique needs.                  a unified film festival. Members were worried about demands
Assets                                                  Catalyst is developing community involvement and leadership in the four Historic                                                                             on their scarce time and resources. To build trust and help
•   Four historic parks that comprise 40% of                                                                                                                                                                         the group see what was possible, Catalyst took responsibility
    Harlem’s open space
                                                        Harlem Parks to promote partnerships that maximize resources and sustainability.     New Friends
                                                                                                                                             The Friends of St. Nicholas Park was originally founded in 1994,        for convening the meetings and establishing clear channels
•   Over 85 acres of natural landscape side by side     Neglect and criminal activity devastated the neighborhood parks in the 1970s and                                                                             of communication.
    with monuments, bandshells, and recreation                                                                                               but their membership and activity dropped off after several mem-
                                                        80s; years of community-led advocacy and government investment have since
    facilities                                                                                                                               bers moved away. As Catalyst got started in Harlem, a few com-
•   Recent history of community leadership and stra-
                                                        reversed much of the damage. To spur further change, Catalyst started working in     mitted neighbors re-convened the group. To help the new leaders         Once they produced the first film festival, Coalition leaders
    tegic improvements to parkland                      Marcus Garvey Park in 1999. Over four years, Catalyst staff worked closely with      strengthen the group’s membership base, Catalyst provided coach-        agreed it was in their shared interest to improve and expand
•   Emerging coalition of Harlem park groups            community based organizations to form the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, attract       ing, helped design and print a new guide to promote the park, and       their partnership. Group goals included establishing the film
                                                                                                                                             facilitated partnerships.                                               festival as an annual event, exploring new ideas for joint
                                                        more than $3 million in public and private funding, and fill the park with cultural                                                                           outreach, and strengthening member organizations so each
Challenges                                              and educational programming.                                                                                                                                 could be a better partner.
                                                                                                                                             One outcome was a new collaboration between the Friends and the
•   Volunteer groups struggling with leadership
    transitions and sustainability
                                                                                                                                             youth program of the neighboring St. James Presbyterian Church.
•   Negative community perceptions about park
                                                        Extending this work to support volunteer organizations in three other parks nearby   With Catalyst’s help, the new partners produced a successful teen
    safety despite major improvements                   seemed like an ideal fit for the next round of Catalyst. Despite impressive suc-      basketball tournament. The Friends secured sponsorship from a
•   Investment needed in overgrown paths, rocky         cesses, park leadership has ebbed and flowed, so Catalyst is helping expand           major athletic company, while St James organized logistics and
    terrain and crumbling infrastructure                                                                                                     recruited teenagers. Catalyst awarded St. James a small grant and
                                                        the network of support around each park. At the same time, we are helping to
                                                                                                                                             encouraged the Recreation Program to lend equipment. The tourna-
                                                        develop and strengthen the Historic Harlem Parks Coalition, unifying efforts of      ment was a hit, attracting hundreds of spectators and positive local
Strategies
                                                        park leaders to leverage programming and resources that they might not be able       attention for the park. More importantly, heartened by their success,   HISTORIC HARLEM PARKS:
•   Offered coaching, facilitation, and support to
    volunteer leadership around each park               to secure on their own.                                                              the partners began working together regularly to plan events.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     HELPING NEIGHBORS BECOME ALLIES
•   Provided $10,000 in small grants to support local                                                                                                                                                                With so much great community work already taking place
    events & publications                                                                                                                    Moving to the Next Level                                                in Harlem, neighborhood groups can vie against each other
•   Re-established regular meetings of Harlem parks
                                                                                                                                             The Friends of Morningside Park had already successfully                for scarce resources. By bringing different kinds of groups
    coalition to plan shared projects
                                                                                                                                             organized events, and were looking for support to strengthen their      together, like park advocates and religious organizations in
                                                                                                                                             base. Catalyst helped the group navigate a significant leadership        St. Nicholas Park, new stakeholders become involved to
                                                                                                                                             transition and establish new financial oversights to accommodate         support individual parks. Similarly, we encouraged Harlem’s
                                                                                                                                             growth. Catalyst also provided a grant to print new membership          park groups to take a regional approach, collaborating on
                                                                                                                                             brochures to better appeal to local businesses and residents for        tangible projects towards shared goals that would attract new
                                                                                                                                             financial contributions. With resources, coaching and training to        resources and make a greater impact in the neighborhood at
                                                                                                                                             help expand and stabilize their groups, community partners were         large.
                                                                                                                                             better able to meet their goals.




                                                                                                                                                              “Before we started working together, each group was doing its
                                                                                                                                                              own thing and trying to find money, many times pulling against
                                                                                                                                                                  the same resource. As a coalition, we share resources.”

                                                                                                                                                                                        Doug Robinson, Historic Harlem Parks Coalition




                                                                                                                                             Left: Kids enjoying a free festival at Jackie Robinson Park.                                                                      Page 8
                                       Astoria/Long Island City Waterfront Parks
                                          Astoria ● Hallets Cove ● Queensbridge
                                                 Rainey ● Ralph DeMarco
                                        Socrates Sculpture Park ● Whitey Ford Field
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Investing in New Ideas
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  To encourage more locally produced activity, Catalyst
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  distributed almost $5,000 in mini-grants for an Earth Day
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  and Arbor Day celebration. While a few long-time groups
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  applied, most participants were new to parks. Capped at
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  $500 per group, the small grants could be pooled to fund
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  larger, collaborative activities. With this simple incentive,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  three groups collaborated for a $1,500 award to plant a new
                                         Catalyst is developing a common voice for waterfront access                                                                                                                              garden and host a community celebration. Another group
BUILD Astoria                                                                                                                                                                                                                     created a new website about the waterfront parks. And for
                                         in Astoria/Long Island City.                                                                                                                                                             the first time, the LIC Community Boathouse provided free
Context
•   Population of 147,000                                                                                                                                                                                                         canoe rides in Hallets Cove, giving local families a new way
•   48% of local population foreign-                                                                                                                                                                                              to experience their neighborhood – from the water.
    born compared to 36% of NYC’s        In collaboration with local leaders, we are organizing support for park enrich-
    population overall                   ment in a string of seven parks along the East River in Northern Queens. Astoria
•   Several large public housing                                                                                                                                                                                                  Small Steps, Long Term Success
                                         and Long Island City residents are just blocks away from parks with refreshing
    projects adjacent to waterfront                                                                                                                                                                                               When Catalyst started, there were a few committed
    parks                                breezes and extraordinary views of the East River and Manhattan skyline. How-                                                                                                            advocates around individual parks, but little coordinated
                                         ever, decades of industrial development left behind factories, power plants, and                                                                                                         effort around the waterfront as a whole. The grants
Assets                                                                                                                                                                                                                            encouraged new partners to test their ideas to improve
•   Seven waterfront parks with
                                         deteriorating infrastructure that are often a physical barrier between residents
                                         and their waterfront. By creating waterfront attractions and offering incentives                                                                                                         waterfront parks. More importantly, though, the grants and
    great views of East River and
    Manhattan                                                                                                                                                                                                                     unified Earth Day events brought neighbors together to set
                                         for involvement and collaboration, Catalyst is helping neighbors take ownership                                                                                                          and achieve shared goals. Catalyst convened regular
•   121 acres of lawn, esplanades,
    and sports amenities                 of their parks and establish a foundation for ongoing collaboration. In Astoria/                                                                                                         meetings to encourage mini-grant recipients to plan together,
•   History of cultural activity in      Long Island City, Catalyst helps people literally and figuratively test the waters.                                                                                                       coordinate logistics, and share responsibility for promotion.
    many of the parks                                                                                                                                                                                                             Bolstered by the success of Earth Day, community partners
•   Recently acquired beachfront                                                                                                                                                                                                  continued meeting regularly to discuss their concerns about
    property added to Socrates                                                                                                                                                                                                    the waterfront and ideas to improve the parks. The consis-
    Sculpture Park
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  tency of the meetings and other opportunities for positive,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  feel-good interaction established a strong base for ongoing
Challenges                                                                                                                                                                                                                        collaboration.
•   Minimal use of waterfront parks
•   Extensive capital needs, ranging                                                                                                                                                                                              With this foundation, the group took on a more ambitious
    from new playgrounds to a                                                                                                                                                                                                     project: a shoreline cleanup along Socrates Sculpture Park,
    collapsing seawall                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hallets Cove, and Astoria Park. The results were impressive:
•   Little coordinated community                                                                                                                                                                                                  120 volunteers helped collect 130 bags of garbage and large
    leadership for waterfront
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  debris. With regular meetings and a few shared wins under
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  the belt, Astoria waterfront advocates were ready to tackle
Strategies                                                                                                                                                                                                                        even bigger projects.
•   Doubled cultural and sports
    programs in parks
                                                                                                                                                              Free Show Tonight!
•   Extensive outreach for concert      “We want to bring people down to the waterfront.                                                                      Activating parks through programming is one effective way to
    series, attracting 3,300 people
•   $5,000 in small grants to             This is our community. This is our backyard;                                                                        engage communities in their parks. Before Catalyst started,
    support local programming                                                                                                                                 we worked with Socrates Sculpture Park to develop a summer          ASTORIA/LONG ISLAND CITY:
•   Earth Day and shoreline clean-                     it’s where we live.”                                                                                   film series. The program was a hit, drawing local and citywide
    up events that established base
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  PROVIDING INCENTIVES FOR ONGOING
                                                                                                                                                              audiences to the park on a weekly basis. The Friends of Queens-
    for ongoing collaboration                                                                                                                                 bridge Park also presented an intimate jazz series at their park    COLLABORATION
•   Participation by 300 volunteers             Yolanda Odio-Tasso, Friends of Rainey Park                                                                    for many years. Catalyst decided to build on existing programs      With so many demands on people’s time, they often need
    in beautification projects                                                                                                                                                                                                     compelling incentives to step out of their daily routine and
                                                                                                                                                              to establish the Astoria waterfront as a local summer hotspot.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  get involved in community change. By offering small grants
                                                                                                                                                              First, we doubled programming at Queensbridge Park, adding          and easy opportunities for participation, we provided direct
                                                                                                                                                              high profile concerts, as well as theater and sports programs for    support to community groups to create meaningful pro-
                                                                                                                                                              children. Next, Catalyst worked with young volunteers from the      gramming in Astoria/LIC’s parks and waterfront. The grants
                                                                                                                                                              Jacob Riis Community Center to flyer thousands of apartments         encouraged partnerships by increasing the amount available
                                                                                                                                                              in the neighboring housing projects. In one year, audiences for     for shared projects. More importantly, the success of the
                                                                                                                                                              the concerts grew from 520 to 3,300 people, while attendance        Earth Day and shoreline clean-up events showed participants
                                                                                                                                                              at all of our events in Astoria and Long Island City parks topped   the value of working together, building trust and a foundation
                                                                                                                                                              5,400.                                                              for ongoing collaboration.


                                                      Right: Spectators enjoying the summer film series at Socrates Sculpture Park. Photo: Benjamin C. Swett                                                                                                                             Page 10
                                                            Red Hook Parks & Recreation
                                                            Bush-Clinton                 ●    Coffey           ●   Red Hook Community Farm                                   ●   Red Hook Park & Recreation Center                                        ●   Valentino Pier



                                                                                                                                                        Keeping Promises                                                         To pull in new participants, we launched Hook Productions, an
                                                                                                                                                        In Red Hook, Catalyst took immediate action to improve park              exciting year-round youth media program. These efforts paid
                                                                                                                                                        conditions before we convened neighborhood leaders. This strategy        off when more than 50 teens participated in the first year. And
                                                                                                                                                        was notably different than our approach in other areas. We have          the program’s success encouraged further investment. The roof
                                                                                                                                                        generally found parks and playgrounds are better used and cared for      was fixed, the interior painted, and lighting was added to the
                                                                                                                                                        when they result from the efforts of active communities fighting for      outside of the building to increase safety. Although just a start,
                                                                                                                                                        them to be built. However, in Red Hook, we felt a meaningful             the Recreation Center and nearby Bush-Clinton Playground
                                                                                                                                                        demonstration of commitment was needed to counter resident               upgrades were cited by residents as top neighborhood
                                                                                                                                                        frustration with decades of planning and promises by outside experts.    improvements in a local community health survey.

                                                                                                                                                        To direct resources effectively, Catalyst convened an historic public/
                                                                                                                                                        private visioning with 12 divisions from the Department of Parks &
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 It’s My Park
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 For many years, a core volunteer group led park clean-ups
                                                                                                                                                        Recreation and City Parks Foundation. The partners decided on long
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 at Coffey Park. Unfortunately, just after Catalyst began, the
                                                                                                                                                        term goals – enhanced park use, neighborhood greening, increased
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 group’s leader moved. Many members were still interested in
                                                                                                                                                        waterfront access and greenway connections – as well as some
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 the park, but were unwilling to take her place. Instead of
                                                                                                                                                        immediate and visible actions to build community trust. Local
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 supporting one central volunteer group, Catalyst staff worked
                                                                                                                                                        residents agreed at a follow-up community meeting, prioritizing
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 to keep the network of interested individuals and organizations
                                                                                                                                                        improvements to programming, facilities, and safety conditions.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 connected to the park by maintaining some of the group’s
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 traditional park clean-up activities, while linking them to
                                                                                                                                                        Have You Seen All the Construction                                       additional volunteers. In one year, 650 local and citywide
                                                                                                                                                        Following up on the visioning session, a committee met to plan           volunteers came out to clean, paint, and weed at events like
BUILD Red Hook                                                                                                                                          immediate improvements to Red Hook’s parks. By creatively                It’s My Park Day. Though the disbanding of the volunteer group
Context                                                                                                                                                 matching existing resources with capital needs, three projects           was an unexpected setback, Catalyst was able to keep our
•   Population of 10,200                                                                                                                                                                                                         core partners connected as active park stewards.
                                                                                                                                                        totaling $1.6 million quickly broke ground. Bush-Clinton Playground
•   35% are under 18 compared to 24% for NYC
•   71% of residents live in one public housing          If a neighborhood’s history can be read in its physical                                        was converted from a fenced-off eyesore to an active and colorful
    complex                                                                                                                                             playground. Valentino Pier & Park gained new life with landscaping
•   Unemployment rate is triple that of Brooklyn’s
                                                         features, then Red Hook’s hint at an epic.                                                     improvements and the addition of a beach and public launch site.
    as a whole                                                                                                                                          And small, symbolic changes like new benches and barbecue grills         RED HOOK: UNDERSTANDING
                                                         In Red Hook, we are working together with local groups to develop a vision                     were added to Coffey Park at the request of local park users.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 COMMUNITY HISTORY AND CONTEXT
Assets                                                   for the neighborhood’s open space and to transform the parks and Recreation
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Because each community is distinct and shaped by its past,
•   70 acres of parkland including sports fields,         Center into a nexus of community activity.                                                     Lights, Camera, Action                                                   local context should set expectations and timeline. In Red
    playgrounds, a public pier, recreation center                                                                                                       Reconnecting the community to the Red Hook Recreation Center             Hook, we adjusted our approach to the neighborhood by call-
    and pool
                                                         Red Hook’s maritime location played a pivotal role in the American Revolution,                 – also a top priority at the visioning – required a coordinated effort   ing for immediate and substantive physical improvements by
•   Historic waterfront neighborhood shaped by
    maritime industry                                    and its busy piers once hosted over 20,000 longshoremen. With the decline                      by public and private partners. Before Catalyst started, few residents   public and private partners. Since community demands for
•   Strong neighborhood identity and vibrant arts                                                                                                       knew the recreation center offered more than a summer swimming           change had been ignored for so long, Catalyst did not wait to
                                                         of the shipping industry, Red Hook lost its economic engine and most of its                                                                                             make immediate physical improvements. As a result, we believe
    community                                                                                                                                           pool. There weren’t many enticements to draw residents during
                                                         jobs. Public housing construction in the 1930s brought thousands of residents,                 winter months: the building was in poor repair, and the computer         we helped attract new partners and establish the credibility we
                                                         while new highways cut the neighborhood off from the rest of Brooklyn. Until                   center had been padlocked after equipment was stolen several             needed to go forward with established leaders.
Challenges                                               recently, Red Hook’s parks and waterfront reflected this physical and economic                  years earlier.
•   Elevated highway cutting neighborhood off from
    rest of Brooklyn                                     isolation. With Catalyst’s help, neighborhood residents are working together
•   Parks and recreation center neglected and poorly     with public and community partners to build the first rate public spaces the
    used by residents
                                                         community deserves.
•   History of failed neighborhood planning efforts
•   Chronic social and economic issues


Strategies
•   Public/private brainstorming to create an exciting
    new vision for Red Hook’s parks, recreation and
    waterfront
•   $1.6 million in capital investments in parks,
    playgrounds, and piers
•   Partnerships that opened up new opportunities
    for programming in the Recreation Center
•   Cultivated network of committed community
    residents and organizations
•   3,300 volunteer hours planting, painting and
    cleaning local parks

                                                                              Top: Participant in Hook Productions youth program. Photo: Ofronama Biu
Page 11
                                                                   Catalyst for Neighborhood Parks
                                                                           Theory of Change



     We believe that three things contribute to healthy parks: community involvement, programs and park use, and
     physical conditions. The Catalyst program model, or “Theory of Change,” brings multiple partners together to
     achieve long term change in neighborhood parks and along waterfronts while building communities’ social and
     political capital. Because we believe that community involvement is the most important ingredient in sustaining
     improvements to parks and neighborhoods, we prioritize this in our program model and work.


     This report documents the first step in the process, as Catalyst builds community participation and pride. We
     hope you will follow us through the next two steps as we help connect and sustain community leadership.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Above: Key stakeholder overseeing improvement efforts at the Marcus Garvey Park dog run.




                                        Strategies
           Inputs                                                                                     Outcomes
                                      & Approaches
                                                                             BUILD                    CONNECT                       SUSTAIN                                 Catalyst for Neighborhood Parks is managed by Partnerships for Parks, which is a joint program of City Parks Foundation
                                                                                                                                                        LONG TERM
                                                                                                                                                                            and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.
                                   Community Involvement             New leaders and              New opportunities for          Ongoing and
                                   Convene local                     partners; park               collaboration;                 effective partner
          Parkland
                                   partners and develop              stewardship                  stronger relationships         involvement in parks                       Catalyst is only as good as the work of all our partners. We are grateful to the devoted park stewards and community
                                   leadership skills and                                          among partners                 and community
          Community                networks                                                                                                                                 organizations who have generously contributed their time, creativity and commitment to this effort.
          stakeholders                                                                                                                                    Sustainable
                                                                                                                                                        stewardship of
                                                                                                                                                        neighborhood
          Partner                                                                                                                                          parks and
          organizations                                                                                                                                   waterfronts
                                     o
                                   Programs & Park Use                New park events            Diversity of presenters         Actively programmed
                                   Provide programs                   and increased              and more park use               and well-used parks                              This report was prepared for the New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources with funds provided
          City Parks               and promote parks                  attendance
                                                                                                                                                           Increased
                                                                                                                                                                                  under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund.
          Foundation
          (CPF)                                                                                                                                          political and            Additional support for the Catalyst Program has been provided by: the Altman Foundation; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation;
                                                                                                                                                        social capital in
                                                                                                                                                          community
                                                                                                                                                                                  Independence Community Foundation; The J.M. Kaplan Fund; Merck Family Fund; National Fish & Wildlife Foundation; New York
          NYC Dept.
                                   Physical Conditions
                                                                                                                                                                                  Community Trust; New York City Environmental Fund; New York State Department of State Local Waterfront Revitalization
          of Parks &                                                 Small scale,                More resources for              Accessible, safe,                                Program; New York State Department of State Quality Communities Program; The Scherman Foundation; The Starr Foundation;
                                   Increase resources                                            ongoing physical                clean conditions and
          Recreation                                                 symbolic physical
          (DPR)
                                   and investment in                                             improvements,                   resources for long-
                                                                                                                                                                                  The Timberland Company; New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, Adrian Benepe, Commissioner; Hon. George
                                   park facilities and               improvements
                                                                                                 maintenance, and                term improvements                                Onorato, NYS Senator, 12th District; Hon. Velmanette Montgomery, NYS Senator, 18th District; Hon. Nydia Velazquez, Member of
                                   programs                                                      repair                                                                           Congress, 12th District; Hon. Carolyn Maloney, Member of Congress, 14th District; Hon. Gregory Meeks, Member of Congress, 6th
                                                                                                                                                                                  District; Hon. Jose Serrano, Member of Congress, 16th District; City of New York, Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor; and the New York
          Key                                                                                                                                                                     City Council under the leadership of Christine C. Quinn.
                1st Priority: Community Involvement      2nd Priority: Programs & Park Use   3rd Priority: Physical Conditions

                                                                                                                                                                                  Concept: Hillary Angelo and Tamara Greenfield. Text: Tamara Greenfield and Neerja Vashishta. Design: Anne LaFond




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