Riverside Park Conservancy is the non-profit support organization for Riverside Park. Community groups with specific interests have found a common voice in the Conservancy; a wide range of needs of the diverse community are met with strong support. The relationship between the Conservancy and NYC Department of Parks & Recreation is one of mutual support and respect with common goals.
History of Riverside Park Conservancy
In the 1980s conditions in Riverside Park had deteriorated, and it had become a haven for vandalism, drug dealing and homelessness. Playgrounds were shabby; recreation areas were abandoned; benches were deteriorating; stairs and pathways were crumbling.
In 1986, a small group of community activists on Manhattan’s Upper West Side banded together to address these issues. They saw an important community resource for relaxation and recreation: 316 acres hugging the Hudson River for four miles from 72nd to 155th Street. They recognized the diverse population served by the park; they appreciated its historic character and valued its inherent beauty.
Riverside Park was suffering from a lack of adequate funding from New York City; funding which was necessary to rehabilitate its infrastructure and to properly maintain its facilities and horticultural treasures. With grants from a couple of foundation sources, and donations from several Upper West Side co-ops, that small group of concerned citizens became the first board of directors of Riverside Park Fund, and were able to use the funds raised to hire an executive director for the fledgling organization.
As Riverside Park Fund grew, it raised funds to renovate the playgrounds and the dog runs in the park, restored the bird sanctuary, completed the Ralph Ellison Memorial at 150th Street, and helped raise public and private funds to restore the 103rd and 107th Street ball fields, and created the Peter Jay Sharp Volunteer House.
The Conservancy Today
Today, Riverside Park is larger than it was in 1986; 330 acres of parkland from 59th to 155th Street. In November 2012, the organization’s membership adopted the name Riverside Park Conservancy in recognition of the important role it plays in protecting and maintaining Riverside Park. As the Conservancy, the organization has expanded its staff and manages a team of skilled gardeners who maintain specific zones throughout park. In addition, the Conservancy continues to support dog runs, tennis courts, and playgrounds yet also supplies and maintains equipment and vehicles, invests heavily in tree care and Dutch elm disease inoculations, and maintains fountains, and monuments.