GUIDELINES FOR REVIEWING AND RESPONDING TO POLICY AND ADVOCACY ISSUES
ASLA-NY seeks to raise awareness of the field of landscape architecture and support policies which are aligned with values promoted by ASLA, including good stewardship of the environment, healthy communities, recognition and conservation of historic cultural heritage, greener transportation corridors, and effective, energy and cost-efficient landscape design. We are looking for better, more effective ways to bring our voice to the forefront.
Members are invited to alert the ASLA-NY Advocacy Committee of issues of relevance to the practice, advocacy and public awareness of landscape architecture in NY State. To facilitate the committee understanding the issue, forming an opinion and making a decision to create an ASLA-NY Position Paper, members are requested to provide, whenever possible, a basic outline of the issue and links to current objective information 3 weeks before any public hearing or deadline for filing a statement. The committee will then discuss the relevance to landscape architecture and ASLA-NY’s mission, whether we have enough information/insight into the topic to be credible, and what we think our response should be. If the committee agrees to take on the topic, it will write a draft position paper which is presented to the full board, along with the background information, and the board votes whether to proceed and make it a public statement or not. If the vote is yes, the paper is finalized, sent to the relevant decision makers, and posted on our website.
Our recent advocacy efforts and policies are found below.
ASLA-NY has joined 14 other NYC organizations who wrote a letter to the Mayor regarding improved public space for civil discourse. We are meeting with the DOT Commissioner on March 6 to discuss concrete actions and next steps. Please click here to read the letter (ASLA-NY was not a signatory to the original letter but subsequently joined the initiative).
ASLA-NY has signed on as a signatory to an open letter from Architects Advocate to President Trump regarding climate change. Click here to read the letter, and include your own name if interested.
ASLA-NY will be participating in Lobby Day in Albany on May 17. Please contact Diane Katz at [email protected] if you would like to join.
ASLA-NY is proud to have supported Council Member Mark Levine and Tupper Thomas from New Yorkers for Parks at the May 27th Rally for Parks at City Hall Park. With trees donated by the New York Restoration Project and turf donated from a TPL Playground Program contractor, a pop-up park was created to set the stage for the event. Below is the press release from Levine’s office.
Please join Council Member Mark Levine, New Yorkers for Parks, The New York League of Conservation Voters, El Puente, American Society of Landscape Architects, New York Chapter, advocates, activists, community gardens enthusiasts and elected officials from across the city for a rally to stand up and fight for our parks.
- WHAT: Rally for City Parks
- WHEN: Wednesday, May 27, 11 AM
- WHERE: Steps of City Hall
- RSVP here
Increased funding for parks will:
Provide Capital Funding for DPR’s Green Thumb Program
Community gardens play an important role in the neighborhoods they serve by providing much needed green space to neighborhoods and schools. These gardens help to promote environmental education, encourage local food production and activate unused open space in neighborhoods. Because the budget for supporting the City’s 628 community gardens and 483 school gardens is so small, the Council calls on the Administration to allocate additional capital funding of $5 million in the DPR’s budget in Fiscal 2016 for the Green Thumb program. The funding will provide for infrastructure needs such as fencing, irrigation systems, and other equipment needed for the community gardens.
Increase Funding for the Green Thumb Program
Community gardens play an important role in the neighborhoods they serve by providing much needed green space to neighborhoods and schools. These gardens help to promote environmental education, encourage local food production and activate unused open space in neighborhoods. The Green Thumb program has historically relied on federal block grant funding which has been inadequate. As such, the Council urges the Administration to include additional baseline funding of $1 million in DPR’s budget in Fiscal 2016 for the Green Thumb program to support the City’s more than 600 community gardens.
Increase Funding for DPR’s Trees and Sidewalk Program
DPR’s tree and sidewalk program helps to repair severe sidewalk damage caused by tree and root growth citywide. Currently, DPR’s budget includes annual funding of only $3 million for the tree and sidewalk program. Over the past several years, DPR has experienced significant budget cuts in this area, resulting in a huge backlog of repair orders. As a result, to ensure that DPR has adequate funding to begin to make safe the approximately 25,000 backlogged sites, the Council urges the Administration to include additional baseline funding of $3 million, for a total of $6 million, in DPR’s budget in Fiscal 2016 for the tree and sidewalk program.
Increase Funding for Playground Associates
Playground associates play a vital role in the City’s neighborhood parks by providing supervised recreation in the local parks and playgrounds. Currently, the DPR has only 145 playground associates to serve all of the City’s 680 playgrounds that have comfort stations. Consequently, many City playgrounds lack the services of playground associates. City playgrounds remain a vital source of recreational opportunities for every New Yorker, and supervised recreational activities are crucial in fighting obesity and keeping the City’s kids healthy. The Council calls on the Administration to include additional baseline funding of $5.4 million in DPR’s budget in Fiscal 2016 to hire 204 additional playground associates.
Restore and Baseline Funding for Parks Enforcement Patrol
PEP officers are responsible for enforcing quality of life laws, the New York City Administrative
Code, Parks’ Rules and Regulations, and acting as Parks’ ambassadors. Public safety in parks and playgrounds is one of their most important responsibilities. However, because there are only 182 PEP officers available many City parks are left without any PEP presence. To address the need for additional PEP officers and to ensure that more City parks receive the benefit of having PEP officers present, the Council allocated $5 million in the Fiscal 2015 budget for 80 additional PEP officers. However, because the funding was not base-lined, it is not included in the Fiscal 2016 Preliminary Budget. The Council urges the Administration to increase the baseline funding for PEP officers in Fiscal 2016 by $5 million for 80 additional PEP officers, bringing the total number of PEP officers to 360, including 98 that are privately funded in Fiscal 2016.
Restore and Baseline Funding for Park Maintenance Workers
Last year, the Council successfully negotiated an $8.7 million funding allocation for additional gardeners and City Park Workers (CPWs) including a $3.7 million allocation from the Council to help maintain neighborhood parks citywide. The majority of this funding was later used by the Administration to support the expense component of the Community Parks Initiative (CPI) program. CPI is a new City initiative launched by the Administration to aggressively tackle equity issues in the City’s under-resourced communities by investing $130 million in parks with less than $250,000 of capital investment over the past 20 years. Because the Fiscal 2015 allocation was not base-lined, all workers associated with the funding are in jeopardy of losing their jobs in Fiscal 2016 and in the out-years. For the current year, DPR has a total of 750 CPWs and 150 gardeners including 50 gardeners and 100 CPWs that are paid for with this funding allocation. Increased public spending is needed for the wellbeing of the City’s precious green spaces, especially in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. The Council calls on the Administration to restore and baseline the $8.7 million funding for park maintenance workers in Fiscal 2016.
Restore and Baseline Funding for Parks Equity Initiative
The Fiscal 2015 Adopted Budget includes $750,000 allocated by the Council for the Parks Equity Initiative program. This program supports community programming in smaller neighborhood parks through grants to local community groups. The groups do outreach and programming in neighborhood parks. This initiative was absorbed into the new citywide Community Parks Initiative (CPI) program launched by the Administration after the 2015 Budget was adopted. However, the Council’s allocation was not base-lined and therefore not included in the Fiscal 2016 Preliminary Budget. To help support volunteer stewardship groups in parks in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, the Council recommends that the Administration restore and baseline this funding in Fiscal 2016.
Restore and Baseline Funding for Tree Pruning
The Fiscal 2016 Preliminary Budget does not include $1 million allocated by the Council in the
Fiscal 2015 Adopted Budget to support DPR’s tree pruning efforts. With the Fiscal 2015 Council funding the DPR has experienced the highest level of block-pruning in over 13 years. DPR will prune over 70,000 trees this year, out of 590,000 street and park-perimeter trees that need to be pruned resulting in a pruning cycle closer to the industry standard of seven years if sustained. The failure to restore this funding could hinder the DPR’s efforts to reduce the pruning cycle. Since adequately pruning trees would help minimize the danger posed by falling tree limbs, the Council urges the Administration to restore and baseline this funding in Fiscal 2016. This action will restore total funding for tree pruning to $4.4 million in Fiscal 2016.
Restore and Baseline Funding for Tree Stumps Removal
The Fiscal 2015 Adopted Budget includes a $750,000 allocation provided by the Council for a total of $3 million for tree stump removal citywide. The funding provided in Fiscal 2015 will allow the DPR to remove 6,700 stumps and continue to remove 99 percent of reported dead trees within 30 days. However, the Council’s allocation was not base-lined and therefore not included in the Fiscal 2016 Preliminary Budget. As such, to ensure that DPR will continue to meet its target for tree stump removal, the Council urges the Administration to restore and baseline funding in the amount of $750,000 in Fiscal 2016 for tree stump removal.
Laura Starr, Past-President of ASLA-NY, wrote the following essay regarding the upcoming Mayoral Transition and how crucial it is for the new administration to understand the importance of the design and stewardship of our open spaces.
Parks Make the City
It has often been noted that the Bloomberg administration has seen a major expansion of parks and public spaces in New York. Walk the Highline; meander through the new Brooklyn Bridge park; travel along a bikeway and gardens through the Battery and up the West Side; sit in café seating where there used to be street; go to Williamsburg, Hunter’s Point, the Harlem River: one can scarcely avoid encountering new green space. We must not lose this momentum and the structural underpinnings of this progress as we usher in a new administration with different priorities.
Like no mayor before him, Mayor Bloomberg understood how to bring the genius of the cultural capital of the world to bear on its own future. Using regulatory changes, he altered the contract game to favor the best design, not the lowest bid; as a result, we have world-class talent reshaping our city. He mandated that public works be state-of-the-art exemplars of green design. He broke with tradition to hire talented commissioners based on merit rather than patronage, and they in turn broke bureaucratic barriers, making stormwater gardens and bike lanes. In response to Sandy, some of the world’s best minds are channeling a forced adaptation to climate change into a positive aesthetic, economic, and community transformation. The next mayor should continue to enable New York’s brain power to focus on the green challenges of our century.
Green spaces have been called vanity projects by some, but this is a damaging fallacy that rests on a benighted understanding of the relationship of urban design to the economic and physical welfare of our city. The fact is that the green network of parks, plazas, bioswales, bike lanes, and green roofs constitutes infrastructure, with all the economic, social, and public-health implications of that word. Like other infrastructure, the green network creates jobs and raises revenue, directly and indirectly. It fosters the growth of business by creating oases that people want not only to live near but to travel to—to eat, to shop, to decompress. It raises property values by making the city as a whole, as well as specific locales, more desirable. The green network improves the mental and physical health of the citizenry. Trees and parks filter out air pollution, reducing rates of asthma and cancer; people who live near them have lower blood levels of cortisol, linked to many diseases; those who exercise outdoors do so longer and more often than do those who must rely on a gym; walking through a green space improves mental performance on tests. The green network physically protects the city, diverting storm water from the overburdened combined sewer system. Its pleasant spaces will provide barriers against catastrophic storm surges. The green network provides space for social gatherings, summer programs, gardening, sports, and playgrounds, knitting together our communities as surely as does other infrastructure. Increased social cohesion in turn renders the city more resilient in emergencies, as was shown by Eric Klineberg’s famous study of survival rates during the Chicago heat wave of 1995. These functions reinforce each other. The city makes parks, but in the long run parks remake the city.
Our boroughs desperately need green network infrastructure. It is common in city-planning circles to speak of high-performing buildings. We should come to speak of high-performing green spaces as well. Public spaces exist in the all boroughs, but many are so low-performing as to go unnoticed–wasted through want of intelligent design, programming, and policy. Yet the money exists to bring high-performing green spaces to all areas of the city. Fort Tryon Park and Jamaica Bay are not situated in particularly rich zip codes, but public-private partnerships there have created what are in essence mini-Central Park Conservancies, enabling these areas to employ world-class designers and plan to widen the functions of green space. The next mayor can best serve the city by fostering collaborations of interested parties–the city, the educational and cultural establishments, community leaders, developers, transportation planners and environmental authorities–to create high-performing green infrastructure in every borough.
One hundred and fifty years ago, the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted saw much of this. He created a great park in what was then the “outer borough” of northern Manhattan, and New York flourished around his vision. His first, and still unsurpassed, high-performance green space was the product of a heady collaboration between visionary political leaders and the greatest landscape architect of his century. In our century, too, we have made progress, and it must not stop now: as New York redesigns its shoreline in response to climate change and prepares to absorb a forecast million more residents, we should follow Olmsted’s example, plan intelligently, and lead the world in bringing the benefits of the green network to the people.
Laura Starr is recent past President of the New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a principal of Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners.
ASLA NY Advocacy Update:
Dear ASLA-NY Member,
On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a significant cultural landscape is at risk of demolition.
The Russell Page-designed viewing garden at the Frick Collection (East 70th Street b/w Fifth and Madison Avenues) is threatened with demolition, part of an expansion plan that would replace the garden and complementary elements of the Frick’s landmark-protected architectural ensemble with an 11-story tower. This garden, considered by the New York Times to be one of his “most important works,” is one of the rare surviving Russell Page landscapes in the U.S. and the only one in NYC.
Please take a moment to sign your name to the online petition, (click here) calling upon the Frick to withdraw its ill-conceived plan. It’s important to send a strong message to the Frick’s Board of Trustees and Director that our community of landscape design professionals feels strongly about protecting the legacy of Russell Page and to preserve a masterfully-designed cultural landscape.
IMPORTANT: When signing the petition, please include your professional or academic suffix (ie: ASLA, AIA, etc.) and consider sharing a comment in the optional box, relating why this issue is important from your perspective.
To learn more, visit the website of the Unite to Save the Frick campaign. And read about the Page garden’s recent listing in The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s “Landslide 2014” initiative.
A formal letter of opposition to the Board of Trustees of The Frick Collection. View the letter here
Check out our Advocacy page for more updates and responses to issues of landscape architecture