ORIGINS OF THE FRIENDS OF ROOSEVELT PARK

 

The Friends of Roosevelt Park

Across the Mead_small

The Friends of Roosevelt Park is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization that helps to manage and fund Manhattan’s Theodore Roosevelt Park.

Origins of the Friends

In the late 1980’s, a dismayed neighbor of Museum Park surveyed the barren landscape. Years of touch football, combined with minimal sod maintenance and no irrigation, had turned the lawn into bare earth. The rest of the park wasn’t much better, and was visited mainly by the homeless and people walking dogs. The park’s single employee did nothing but collect trash.

The neighbor and his wife decided to fund new sod and irrigation for the lawn. Later, they joined two other residents of the Upper West Side to found Friends of Roosevelt Park, which gained nonprofit status as a 501 (c)(3) organization in 1993.

Partners

In 1997, the American Museum of Natural History started the construction of the Rose Space Center (planetarium) in tandem with a $2 million renovation of Theodore Roosevelt Park. In 2000, at the urging of then parks commissioner Adrian Benepe, the Friends helped to fund the first full time horticulture director for Roosevelt Park. The Museum of Natural History generously provided free office space.

In 2002, The Friends, the parks department, and the Museum of Natural History agreed to co-manage the park under the parks department umbrella. New Yorkers for Parks subsequently conducted surveys of New York City parks’ appearance and management, and Roosevelt Park consistently ranked in the top five of parks under 20 acres, competing against better-funded parks such as City Hall, Damrosch and Bryant.

In 2005, The Friends of Roosevelt Park founded GreenLife, a student internship program, with nearby Brandeis High School, now the Urban Assembly School for Green Careers. This program teaches horticulture and job readiness skills to enthusiastic students. It has expanded from a six-week summer program to a nine-month program.

Roosevelt Park Today

Our restored jewel of a landscape has benefited from the generosity of foundations, corporations, neighbors, the City Council, volunteers from New York Cares, and heightened involvement by the American Museum of Natural History and the New York City Parks Department. In two decades, the Friends have contributed more than $1 million to Roosevelt Park. We currently fund about 40% of its operating budget.

The park has become a delight for neighbors and tourists, including the approximately 5 million people who visit the Museum each year. And thanks to the flowers that now bloom from early spring through late fall, we are now also home to a population of hummingbirds!