Bringing Community and Greenery to Our City’s Parks

by Maya Vesneske
Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: City Parks Foundation

What they do: The City Parks Foundation provides sports, arts, and environmental education programs to New Yorkers across all five boroughs.

How they do it: Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, the City Parks Foundation offers programs in more than 400 parks, recreation centers and public schools that reach 300,000 people each year.

  • Cityparks Learn plays a central role in activating the foundation’s mission to create vibrant and healthy urban communities through dynamic outdoor programming for all New Yorkers. Their environmental education programs help over 5,000 students experience the fun of science, while learning about their relationship to the natural world and the ways in which they can protect the natural environment.
  • Cityparks Play offers sports programming that transforms New York’s neighborhood parks into centers for recreation by providing free instruction, coaching and equipment to more than 12,000 kids, ages 6 to 17, in nearly 70 locations citywide. The goal of these programs is to help kids stay active and healthy, discover new sports, and make new friends.
  • Cityparks Shows brings hundreds of live music, dance and theater performances to over 250,000 audiences throughout the five boroughs. The SummerStage festival presents more than 100 free performances and benefit concerts each year in 16 parks throughout the city. These  range from American pop, Latin and world music to dance, spoken word and theater. The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre in Central Park, home to one of the last public marionette companies in the US, presents modern takes on classic fairy tales, and the traveling PuppetMobile presents free, family-friendly outdoor puppet shows and workshops at locations throughout  the city.

Mission: The City Parks Foundation is dedicated to invigorating and transforming parks into dynamic, vibrant centers of urban life through sports, arts, community building and education programs for all New Yorkers. Their ethos is simple: thriving parks mean thriving communities.

Highlight campaign: The Foundation’s Learning Gardens program, which has been evolving over the past twenty years, provides hands-on lessons given in their four community gardens to elementary and middle school kids during the school year, and offers group programs during the summer. There is also a program geared to high school students who live or attend school near one of the gardens. The purpose of the programs is to teach the fun of community gardening, growing food, understanding the biodiversity of our urban environment, and more.

Major Funding: For the Learning Gardens program only:  private support is provided by Con Edison, The Levitt Foundation, The Linda B. and Howard S. Stern Family Foundation, Rose Badgeley Charitable Trust, Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation, Jane and Frances Stein Foundation, Michael Tuch Foundation, and The Barker Welfare Foundation. This program is funded, in part, by ExpandED Schools through funds administered by the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development in partnership with the City Council. Public support is provided by the NYC Council under the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson. In partnership with NYC Parks.

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: N/A

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: The City Parks Foundation harvested nearly 600 pounds of produce and served more than 1,225 students in 2018.


Location: 830 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10065

Core Programs: SummerStage, Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, PuppetMobile, Learning Gardens, Seeds to Trees, Green Girls, Teaching Training, Coastal Classroom, Tennis, Golf, Track & Field, Soccer, Family Adventure Races, Youth and Seniors Fitness, Partnership for Parks.

Number of staff: 75

Number of volunteers: 200

Areas served: Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens

Year Started: 1989

Director: Heather Lubov

Contact Information:

(212) 360-1399

Photo credit City Parks Foundation Facebook

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