New York City is home to an extensive park system that covers more than 48,000 acres of land, making up 14 percent of the city. This park and open space system encompasses 1,942 sites in all five boroughs, including Central Park, Prospect Park, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and Forest Park. The largest is Pelham Bay Park, followed by the Staten Island Green Belt and Van Cortlandt Park. There are also many smaller but historically significant parks in New York City, such as Battery Park, Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, Union Square Park, and Washington Square Park.
As summer temperatures peak, New Yorkers flock to city parks for swimming, sunbathing and sports. New York is home to the oldest, busiest and most expansive parks in the country, including seven of the 25 oldest in the country and six of the 25 most visited. In total, the Parks Department maintains more than 29,000 acres of property, covering 14 percent of the city and encompassing more than 1,000 playgrounds, 800 athletic fields, 550 tennis courts, 14 miles of beaches, 13 golf courses and four zoos. These facilities are not evenly distributed in neighborhoods and districts of the city.
In a summary of data looking at the per capita distribution of park facilities across the five boroughs, it was found that Manhattan is home to the highest number of swimming pools per capita, Queens has the highest number of tennis and baseball courts per capita, and the Bronx has the highest number of handball courts per capita. On the other hand, Staten Island has the lowest number of tennis and handball courts per capita, Queens has the lowest number of public swimming pools per capita, and Brooklyn has the lowest number of baseball diamonds per capita. New York State also maintains important recreational assets such as Shirley Chisholm State Park; the National Park Service oversees iconic places such as Liberty Island and Grant's Tomb; and there are many multi-jurisdictional parks such as Governors Island and Hudson River Park. Research reveals that in New York City communities of color have 33.5% less park space per person within a 10-minute walk compared to white communities; low-income communities have 21.2% less park space per person on a 10-minute walk compared to high-income communities.
To publish The Economic Benefits of Parks in New York City a team of economists used geographic information system (GIS) technology to measure the fiscal impacts of New York City's municipal, state and federal parks. In response to this report Mayor Eric Adams pledged to dedicate one percent of the city's budget to funding public parks and began construction in March on 104 park projects that were on hold. The Trust for Public Land released a report that analyzes the economic benefits that parks and open spaces provide to New York City residents; this was the first report that valued the entire park system including municipal state and federal parks. Currently 99 percent of New York City's nearly 8.5 million residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.
This effort led to an equity plan for New York's parks that provides for the creation of 70 new parks in the Bronx Queens South Brooklyn and Staten Island to ensure that all New Yorkers are within a 10-minute walk of a park.