In 1996, Diane Brownstone read an article in Better Homes & Gardens about an organization that was transforming abandoned, vacant lots into vibrant community gardens. “I was so taken by the magic of it,” she said. “I just had to get involved!” That organization was the Parks Council, now known as New Yorkers for Parks.
The then Parks Council provided the opportunity for our founding members to meet and rally together around the lack of green, public spaces. It is there they created NYC’s only city-wide conservancy, New York Restoration Project (NYRP).
Ever since, Diane and her husband, Clyde, have helped NYRP grow from a small clean-up crew of like-minded individuals to an over 75-person operation. “I’m surprised by what a mammoth organization it has turned into. It’s no longer just green, community gardens. There is community outreach, public programming, education… we are even re-doing a waterfront! It has grown into something I would have never dreamed of.”
When the Brownstones first adopted Maggie’s Garden in 1999 – NYRP’s very first renovation – it took two years to complete. “It was a large, difficult site for a new organization,” she recalled. But by the time the Brownstones adopted their second garden, Los Amigos in East Harlem, it took only four months to complete. “Its been amazing to see the growth over the years.”
This past year, Diane and Clyde helped transform six lots into community gardens through NYRP’s Gardens for the City program. “It is a quick, wonderful fix. You see change for the better. At a lot of other organizations you don’t see anything happen so quickly...it’s magic, it really is.”
At NYRP, we always say we work to make New York City a more livable place. Diane and Clyde help do this...with a Brownstone twist! Diane fell in love with books at a very young age and has worked tirelessly ever since to bring the same joy to children across New York. She donates children’s books to 100 different local libraries annually - sometimes providing budget relief for up to three years. Without Diane’s great generosity and passion, many children would not have the oppotunity to explore new worlds, stretch their minds, or escape into their imagination. One of her most impactful projects has been the Diane Yukon Brownstone children’s Library in her hometown of Kansas City.
Through their philanthropy, Diane and Clyde have made a mark on the beautiful, oftentimes frenetic, New York City landscape. From public libraries, to The New York City Police Foundation, to community parks and gardens, Diane and Clyde have helped create spaces and opportunities for people to learn, grow, and connect.
At the end of our conversation, I asked Diane why she chooses to give so generously to NYRP and she simply replied, “I like to see change and see people’s lives changing for the better.”