A seed is planted…

In 1995, New York City experienced a revolution that would change its landscape – quite literally – forever… and for the better. Returning to the city that helped launch her celebrated career, famed entertainer Bette Midler found many of its streets, neighborhoods and parks consumed by a sea of litter and years of neglect.

"I was so upset; I didn't sleep for weeks... People were throwing their garbage out the window, leaving their lunches on the ground. Finally, I realized I needed to actually do something – even if it meant picking up trash with my own two hands."
                                 Bette Midler, from an interview with Good Housekeeping Magazine

And, that she did. A figurative force of nature in the entertainment world, The Divine Miss M also proved to be a literal force of nature in protecting and preserving New York City’s public spaces and parks. Initially recruiting friends and family, Bette set about removing garbage from Fort Tryon Park and Fort Washington Park in Upper Manhattan. What began as a grass roots effort led to her founding the non-profit New York Restoration Project (NYRP). The organization soon established itself not only by making a visual difference, but also a social impact – particularly in under-resourced neighborhoods located throughout the city’s five boroughs. In addition, NYRP set the standard for greening efforts in New York City as a key player and partner with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and others in what was, at that time, the very beginning of a greening “ecolution.”

Our roots expand…

In 1999, then-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced plans to sell 114 community gardens to developers in order to help fund city budget shortfalls. Bette and NYRP quickly rallied and raised the money necessary to save these precious plots from destruction – working with the Trust for Public Land and other like-minded non-profits to ensure these community treasures would remain public gardens in perpetuity.

This additional act of intervention by The Divine Miss M heralded a new era in NYRP’s commitment to the belief that clean, green neighborhoods are fundamental to our quality of life and that every community in New York City deserves an oasis of natural beauty. An investment that has since changed the face of the city, NYRP now owns and manages 52 community gardens throughout the five boroughs and works every day to promote the revitalized health of the neighborhoods these gardens serve.

Working in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, NYRP staff, AmeriCorps members and countless corporate and community volunteers have planted hundreds of thousands of trees, shrubs and flowers to support the restoration and maintenance of NYRP’s community gardens, as well as four New York City parks – resulting in the removal of nearly 133,000 bags of trash removed from the city’s green spaces. NYRP also continues to effectively engage New York City residents in the long-term stewardship of their open spaces, instilling in them – and generations to come – a desire to ensure that all the beautiful green gains made since our founding do not fall into new neglect.

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