New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

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Department of Parks and Recreation
Logo of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.svg
New York City Parks Department flag.png
Flag of the Parks Department
Department overview
Formed 1910 (1910)
Preceding department
  • New York City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Administration
Jurisdiction New York City
Headquarters 830 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10065
Department executive
Key document

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, also called Parks Department and NYC Parks, is the department of the government of New York City[2] responsible for maintaining the city's parks system, preserving and maintaining the ecological diversity of the city's natural areas, and furnishing recreational opportunities for city's residents and visitors.

The total area of the properties maintained by the department is over 30,000 acres (120 km2).[3]

The department maintains more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds and recreation facilities across the five boroughs. It is responsible for over 1,000 playgrounds, 800 playing fields, 550 tennis courts, 35 major recreation centers, 66 pools, 14 miles (23 km) of beaches, and 13 golf courses, as well as seven nature centers, six ice skating rinks, over 2000 greenstreets and four major stadiums. Parks also cares for park flora and fauna, community gardens, 23 historic houses, over 1,200 statues and monuments, and more than 2.5 million trees.[4]

The City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation produces many special events, including concerts and movie premieres. In the summer, the busiest season, the agency organizes free carnivals and concerts, and sends mobile recreation vans to travel throughout the five boroughs providing free rental equipment for skating, baseball, and miniature golf.

The largest single component of parkland maintained by the department is the "forever wild" Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, with an area of 2,765 acres (11.19 km2).[4] The department is also responsible for such "flagship" parks facilities as Central Park, Prospect Park, Van Cortlandt Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and the Staten Island Greenbelt, though many of these parks are maintained by private, non-profit conservancies.

The symbol of the department is a cross between the leaf of the London plane and a maple leaf. It is prominently featured on signs and buildings in public parks across the city. The London plane tree is on the NYC Parks Department's list of restricted use species for street tree planting because it constitutes more than 10% of all street trees.


The department is a mayoral agency. The current Parks Commissioner is Mitchell Silver. The current chair of the New York City Council Committee on Parks & Recreation is Mark D. Levine.[5]

The department is allocated an expense budget and a capital budget. The expense budget covers the total expenses incurred by the agency, including salaries. The capital budget is dedicated solely for new construction projects, as well as major repairs in parks that have a useful life of more than five years and cost at least $35,000.

Its regulations are compiled in Title 56 of the New York City Rules.[6]


  • Commissioner of Parks & Recreation
    • First Deputy Commissioner
      • Deputy Commissioner for Capital Projects
      • Assistant Commissioner for Public Programs
        • Assistant Commissioner for Recreation and Programming
        • Assistant Commissioner for Urban Park Services
      • Deputy Commissioner for Management and Budget
        • Assistant Commissioner for Budget and Fiscal Management
        • Assistant Commissioner for Revenue and Marketing
      • Deputy Commissioner for Community Outreach
      • Assistant Commissioner for Citywide Operations
      • Assistant Commissioner for Community Relations
      • Assistant Commissioner for Forestry and Horticulture
      • Assistant Commissioner for Not-for-Profit Partnerships
      • Assistant Commissioner for Planning and Natural Resources
      • Assistant Commissioner for Strategic Partnerships
      • Borough Commissioners
        • Bronx Commissioner
        • Brooklyn Commissioner
        • Manhattan Commissioner
        • Queens Commissioner
        • Staten Island Commissioner

Park law enforcement

The department maintains an enforcement division, called the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP), responsible for maintaining safety and security within the parks system. Parks Enforcement Patrol officers have peace officer status under NYS Penal Law and are empowered through this status to make arrests and issue tickets. PEP officers patrol land, waterways and buildings under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks and Recreation on foot, bicycle, horseback, boat and marked patrol trucks. PEP officers are also responsible for physical site inspections of NYC park concession facilities to assure the concessionaires compliance with state laws.[7]

Urban Park Rangers

The Urban Park Rangers was founded as a pilot program in 1979 by then Parks Commissioner Gordon J. Davis, with the support and encouragement of Mayor Ed Koch. The program provides many free programs year-round, such as nature walks and activities. They also operate programs such as The Natural Classroom for class trips and the general public alike. "Explorer" programs are available for activities such as canoeing in the city's flagship parks in all five boroughs. NYC Urban Park Rangers are easily identified by their uniforms.[8]

Although NYC Park Rangers possess peace officer status, their primary mission is environmental education, protection of park resources, and visitor safety. Law enforcement in city parks is the responsibility of the New York City Police Department.


Most businesses that operate or generate revenue on New York City parkland are considered concessions and must obtain a permit or license from the Revenue Division of Parks. Pursuant to the City's Concession Rules, these licenses and permits are generally awarded through a public solicitation process, such as a Request for Bids (RFB) or Request for Proposals (RFP).[9]

Approximately 500 concessions currently operate in parks throughout the five boroughs, and they generally fall into two categories: food service and recreation. The food service concessions range from pushcarts selling hot dogs to restaurants such as Tavern on the Green and Terrace on the Park. Recreational concessions include facilities such as ice rinks, stables, marinas, and golf courses. In fiscal year 2009, the Revenue Division of the Parks Department helped collect over $110 million in revenue from various sources including concessions, lease agreements, like those for Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, special events, and dockage.[10]

Wright vs. Stern

In 2001, the department underwent an investigation after the U.S Attorney's Office received complaints from employees that they had suffered employment discrimination. The lawsuit alleged that the Parks Department violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against employees on the basis of their race and/or national origin in making promotion decisions. According to the Complaint, the Parks Department's senior managers sought out and promoted whites to management positions without announcing job openings for those positions or conducting any formal interview process, all in plain disregard of the Parks Department's own stated equal employment opportunity policies. From at least 1995, minorities have been significantly under-represented in the Parks Department's managerial ranks according to the Complaint. The judge had ruled that the plaintiffs had presented substantial evidence to merit a trial on the allegations of class-wide discrimination in pay, promotions and retaliation. In 2008, the City of New York agreed to pay $21 million to settle the federal class action lawsuit. By agreeing to settle the claims, the City avoided a trial on the allegations.[11]

List of Park Commissioners

Since 1934, when New York City Parks Department Commissioners were unified, the directors have been:[12]

Portrait Named individual Start date End date Tenure Mayor(s) served under
Robert Moses head shot.jpg Moses, RobertRobert Moses January 18, 1934 May 23, 1960 26 years, 4 months Fiorello H. La Guardia
William O'Dwyer
Vincent R. Impellitteri
Robert F. Wagner Jr.
Morris, NewboldNewbold Morris May 24, 1960 January 15, 1966 5 years, 8 months Robert F. Wagner Jr.
TomHoving.jpg Hoving, ThomasThomas Hoving January 16, 1966 March 15, 1967 1 year, 3 months John V. Lindsay
Heckscher, AugustAugust Heckscher March 16, 1967 December 31, 1972 5 years, 9 months John V. Lindsay
Clurman, Richard M.Richard M. Clurman January 1, 1973 December 31, 1973 1 year John V. Lindsay
Weisl, Jr., Edwin L.Edwin L. Weisl, Jr. January 1, 1974 September 22, 1975 1 year, 9 months Abraham Beame
Wirin, AlexanderAlexander Wirin September 23, 1975 December 28, 1975 3 months Abraham Beame
Lang, MartinMartin Lang January 1, 1976 June 30, 1977 1 year, 6 months Abraham Beame
Davidson, Joseph P.Joseph P. Davidson July 2, 1977 January 20, 1978 6 months Abraham Beame
Gordon Jamison Davis.png Davis, Gordon J.Gordon J. Davis January 23, 1978 April 1, 1983 5 years, 3 months Ed Koch
NLN Henry Stern.jpg Stern, Henry J.Henry J. Stern April 2, 1983 February 4, 1990 6 years, 10 months Ed Koch
Gotbaum, Elisabeth F.Elisabeth F. Gotbaum February 5, 1990 December 31, 1993 3 years, 11 months David Dinkins
NLN Henry Stern.jpg Stern, Henry J.Henry J. Stern January 1, 1994 February 3, 2002 8 years, 1 month Rudolph Giuliani
Adrian Benepe.jpg Benepe, AdrianAdrian Benepe February 4, 2002 August 29, 2012 10 years, 6 months Michael Bloomberg
White, Veronica M.Veronica M. White August 30, 2012 December 31, 2013 1 year, 4 months Michael Bloomberg
Kavanagh, LiamLiam Kavanagh January 1, 2014 May 12, 2014 5 months (Acting) Bill de Blasio
Silver, MitchellMitchell Silver May 12, 2014 Incumbent Bill de Blasio

See also


  1. ^ Foderaro, Lisa (Mar 20, 2014). "North Carolina Planner Named to Head New York City Parks Dept". NYTimes. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  2. ^ New York City Charter § 531; "There shall be a department of parks and recreation the head of which shall be the commissioner of parks and recreation."
  3. ^ "About Parks : NYC Parks". Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
  4. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions : NYC Parks". Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
  5. ^ Chiwaya, Nigel (Jan 23, 2014). "Ydanis Rodriguez and Mark Levine Tapped to Lead Council Committees". DNAinfo. Archived from the original on 21 February 2014. Retrieved 17 February 2014. 
  6. ^ "Rules & Regulations : NYC Parks". Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
  7. ^ "Park Enforcement Patrol : NYC Parks". Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
  8. ^ "Urban Park Rangers : NYC Parks". Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
  9. ^ "Concessions Opportunities : NYC Parks". Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
  10. ^ "Concessions : NYC Parks". Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
  11. ^ "Wright v. Stern: NYC Parks Case | NAACP LDF". Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
  12. ^ "New York City Parks Commissioners : NYC Parks". New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 29 September 2017. 

External links

  • City of New York Department of Parks & Recreation official site
    • Urban Park Rangers
    • Parks History
    • Interactive Park Map of New York City
  • Department of Parks and Recreation in the Rules of the City of New York

Coordinates: 40°46′3.5″N 73°58′16.7″W / 40.767639°N 73.971306°W / 40.767639; -73.971306

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