New York Restoration Project will develop a shareable model for community revitalization

Resilience in the Public Realm project to transform public spaces in a disinvested New York City neighborhood and chart impact on quality of life

New York – May 22, 2014 – New York Restoration Project, the nonprofit dedicated to transforming open space in underserved communities, is launching the first phase of a multi-year project that will bring together civic organizations and innovators to build a model for neighborhood development. Supported by $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Resilience in the Public Realm Project aims to restore all open spaces – vacant lots, parks, sidewalks and playgrounds – in one low-income New York community and share these lessons with other cities beginning with Charlotte, N.C., a Knight community.  


Knight funding will support the one-year planning and development phase of the project. To this end, the project will bring together professionals from public health, architecture and design, urban planning, economic development, community engagement and related disciplines. The group will work to identify a community, develop initial design concepts and discover new ways to measure the impact of public space improvements on quality of life. TreesCharlotte, an environmental nonprofit based in Charlotte, will shadow the team throughout this process to gather and share insights, and work with local groups to apply these lessons to their community.


The team will develop a detailed timeline, budget and funding plan, and collect baseline data. To measure impact, they will use a range of public health indicators, such as asthma and obesity. New York Restoration Project will also track outcomes that are not typically associated with public space revitalization—examining the potential effects of such improvements on tax revenue from local businesses, costs per patient to community health providers, participation in civic organizations, crime rates and more.


“Research has shown a correlation between well cared for public spaces and an increase in community engagement, public health, and other quality-of-life factors,” said Deborah Marton, executive director of New York Restoration Project. “We have witnessed this phenomenon on a very local level through our work with community gardens, but we’re eager to replicate it on a much larger, neighborhood scale. By optimizing the network of public spaces in one high-need community, we hope to foster social and environmental resilience.”


“This project will allow us to develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between place and neighborhood progress by providing a multidimensional look into the impact of public space improvements on quality of life,” said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president of community and national initiatives. “Starting in Charlotte, the hope is that civic organizations and public agencies across the country will be able to use these lessons to collaborate and advance new innovations, grounded in practical experience and solid research.”


To kick off the planning phase, New York Restoration Project will bring together the cross-disciplinary project team on June 11, 2014, at a workshop co-sponsored by the Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School. Prominent participants include Fred Dust, partner at IDEO; Natalie Jeremijenko, associate professor of art at NYU Steinhardt School and director of the Environmental Health Clinic; Bill Solecki, professor and director of CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities at Hunter College; and Holly Leicht, administrator of the New York and New Jersey region for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Charlotte team will attend the workshop to advance cross-city learning.


About New York Restoration Project (NYRP)

Founded in 1995 by Bette Midler to clean and green underserved neighborhoods in all five boroughs of New York City, NYRP is driven by the conviction that all New Yorkers deserve beautiful, high-quality public open space. NYRP is uniquely situated to plan and execute a holistic, neighborhood-scale public realm project. For nearly 20 years, we have invested in community engagement in New York City’s highest need neighborhoods, bringing private resources to spaces lacking adequate support. We work in public parks, housing projects, community gardens, vacant lots, schools, on sidewalks, rights-of-way, and the waterfront. To learn more, please visit


About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.



Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Anne Tan, PR Officer, New York Restoration Project, 212-333-2552, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)