From the way city sidewalks are paved to the way parks and buildings are laid out, sustainability projects have changed the way New York City spaces are designed, built, and managed. Parks, in particular, are integral to the New York City landscape and strengthen the social fabric of our city. Established by the City Parks Department in 2010, the New York City Sustainable Parks Task Force is working to advance green initiatives involving 21st century park design and construction.

According to its mission statement, the City’s Sustainable Parks initiative aims to reduce the agency’s carbon footprint as well as “enhance the current and future livability of New York City.” Let’s take a closer look at three New York City parks which are beneficiaries of sustainable projects, some sponsored by the City Parks Department and others in the mold of work the department has accomplished. 

Also, check out Natural Area Conservancy’s interactive map of New York City parkland.

  1.   Hudson Yards

    The area between 30th and 34th Street overlooking the Hudson river is preparing to become a new landmark in NYC’s sustainable urban landscape with the $20 billion Hudson Yards Project emerging in Chelsea. Not only will the Hudson Yards be a huge project resulting in a complex of open spaces and modern buildings, it will also be a milestone in sustainable building in New York City.

    Hudson Yards’ Sustainable Highlights:

    → “Daylight Harvesting” – The installation of automatic dimming technology ensures that artificial lighting in the park complements natural sunlight levels. This not only saves energy, but also creates a more natural lighting environment overall.

    →  Occupancy sensors and timers turn off lights in the park whenever and wherever lighting is unnecessary.

    →  Smart Energy Conversion allows Hudson Yards to utilize its existing resources more efficiently; eventually, buildings in the park will include elevators powered by permanent magnet motors, which can capture energy expended for braking before regenerating that energy back into the building’s electrical system.

  2.   Hunts Point Riverside Park

    Hunts Point Riverside Park, a 1.4-acre speck in the South Bronx, opened a few years ago on what had been a filthy, weedy street end. Hunts Point Riverside Park exemplifies how community activism, supportive partners in local government, and thoughtful landscape design can positively transform a neighborhood. Hunts Point, whose development was spearheaded by Sustainable South Bronx, features the city’s only freshwater river in a neighborhood that has historically lacked parks and green space.


  3.   Bryant Park

    Bryant Park was recently cited as a prime example of urban sustainability by The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Over a century old, Bryant Park began deteriorating as early as the 1900s; further renovation attempts in the 1930s and 1940s failed to bring lasting change. Then, in 1979, the main branch of the New York Public Library (which is adjacent to Bryant Park) announced plans for a significant expansion which would include a renovation of the park. Thanks to this project, Bryant Park became an urban oasis once again. Notably, the park functions as the roof for an underground storage area for the NYPL. The park acts as a green roof, reducing energy costs and greenhouse emissions for the building below.

    Bryant Park’s Sustainable Highlights:

    →   Durable, natural and recycled materials are utilized throughout Bryant Park’s entire design.

    →   Paths in the park are paved with salvaged stones. Statues in the park were constructed with salvaged, sustainable, and recycled materials.

    →   The park uses two 300-foot-long planters with perennials and evergreens. In addition to adding aesthetic value to Bryant Park, the botanicals function as natural insulation for the New York Public Library’s underground storage facility which sits beneath the park.