NYC’s Parks Go High Performance

The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation partnered with the Design Trust for Public Space to create the “High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC,” a “comprehensive, municipal manual for the design and construction of sustainable parks and open space.” In launching the new guidelines, New York City Mayor Bloomberg said “parks are a crucial component of the urban infrastructure that will help our city address the challenges of the twenty-first century.” In addition, parks play a key role in preserving the “future quality of life in New York City.”

To play that role well, park design, development, and upkeep can’t have a negative impact on the environment. In fact, the new guidelines are designed to ensure “NYC’s parks clean our air and absorb storm water, reduce the urban heat island effect, provide habitat, and address the challenges of climate change.”

The manual contains hundreds of best practices. Some examples of issues covered include:

  • “Keeping rain water within parks for the use of plantings rather than sending it to sewers
  • Increasing the resiliency of plantings by considering the soil, the effects of climate change, the plant type and future maintenance needs.
  • Designing to save labor, reduce operating expenses and decrease the frequency of capital replacement.”

According to The Architect’s Newspaper, the new guidelines have already won support from the NYC design community. Tricia Martin, president of the New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), said: “It’s an incredibly useful document that takes you step by step through new thinking about parks in a way that doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There’s a new [sustainability] layer, in addition to the beauty, history and culture.” Linda Pollak, a landscape designer, added: “It’s a remarkable document in that it brings the institutional knowledge into one place.”

The Design Trust for Public Space says these guidelines are the first of its kind in the U.S. but were created so other municipal park systems can easily download and apply. Download a free PDF copy of the 275-page document or purchase a hard copy for $35.00.

Image credit: NYC Parks & Recreation Department and Design Trust for Public Space

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