Saturday, July 31

Even access to parks has a racial and economic weight in New York

Extreme closures in the pandemic.

Photo: Andrés Correa Guatarasma / Courtesy

Inequalities in many aspects of life in New York were exposed during the pandemic: one of them is access to green areas, that became more necessary when in the buildings and areas of lower socioeconomic level – generally the most inhabited ones -, the residents were confined, with few entertainment options.

So again worst hit were low-income New Yorkers and / or people of color. Those groups have significantly less available park space close to home than residents of predominantly white and wealthy neighborhoods, according to findings recently published by “Trust for Public Land” (TPL), a conservation group that helps create public green areas across the country.

According to the report, In NYC’s poorest neighborhoods, residents have access to 21% less park space than those who live in high-income areas. The disparity runs deeper along racial lines: areas with the most people of color have access to 33% fewer gardens than in predominantly white population areas.

Still, access gaps in NYC were less dramatic than national averages, highlighted The New York Times. In the ranking of the 100 most populous cities in the country, New York was ranked 11th, considering several factors, including the public investment in parks, services and access to green areas in 10 minutes on foot.

During the worst months of the pandemic the urban network of more than 2,300 parks became essential to maintain the physical and mental well-being of many New Yorkers. But the analysis found that the average size of the park was 7.9 acres in predominantly black neighborhoods, much smaller than the average of 29.8 acres in mostly white areas.

City officials have said that access to parks has expanded significantly in recent years, with small green space renovations and changes to make larger ones into community anchors in several low-income neighborhoods, along with new landscaping in some public housing complexes.

Research further shows that access to green spaces and time spent in nature are correlated with positive health outcomes such as less stress and obesity, better respiration and lower overall mortality. Also healthy recreation and sports help prevent domestic and street violence.

The parks also contribute to reduce neighborhood temperatures, which differ markedly in New York, particularly in the summer.

“Closing the equity gap in parks is helping to close the gap in health outcomes, climate vulnerability and unequal access to economic opportunities “stressed Diane Regas, president and CEO of TPL.

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