North Park Initiative

North Park Initiative

Riverside Park north of 120th Street has seen years of neglect and disinvestment, which has led to great disparities in amenities, cleanliness, and overall conditions between the Park’s northern and southern tiers.

We are determined to address that – so in 2009, we created our North Park Initiative to focus time, advocacy, and resources on the part of the Park serving West Harlem from 120th to 155th Streets, as well as the shoreline portion of Fort Washington Park through 181st Street, which serves Washington Heights. Those areas are home to communities that are predominantly Black or Latinx, who experience poverty rates three times greater than the Upper West Side.

We are determined to address the way that systemic lack of investment in non-white and low-income neighborhoods has impacted our public parks. As part of our North Park Initiative, and our overall mission, we continue improving conditions in Riverside Park to provide all of our neighbors with the benefits that come along with living in close proximity to top quality parkland.

But we need to do so much more. Rather than hold a traditional gala in 2020, we are asked our neighbors to step up to do something meaningful to address this serious park equity issue, and to help us bridge the gap. We set a goal of 400 donors toward our North Park Initiative in 2020 – one for each acre of parkland we care for – and exceeded the goal by several hundred supporters.

Of course, our work is nowhere near finished, and we continue focusing staff time and resources north of 120th Street – and advocating for more City investment into structural improvements.

Conditions at 148th Street compared to conditions at 99th Street.
“The Riverside Park Conservancy has replaced its annual spring gala with a two-month fund-raising campaign for programs and activities in the north end of the park, which draws nearby residents of lower-income communities, including Harlem and Washington Heights. The park also recently hired an outreach coordinator to work with those communities.”

-The New York Times, July 15, 2020


  • Added professional staff
  • Worked alongside a neighborhood volunteer user group to secure funding for the City to formalize the 142nd Street Dog Run
  • Partnered with the West Harlem Development Corporation and engaged young people from Community District 9 in urban park management as part of our Teen Corps Program
  • Successfully advocated for the City to invest $4.1 million in repaving funds, which will include the areas around 148th Street
  • Delivered public programs to West Harlem Piers Park
  • Hosted public programming at 148th Street waterfront, the 172nd Street waterfront, and the Little Red Lighthouse at 181st Street
  • Partnered with Natural Areas Conservancy to conduct assessments and develop management plans for the forested areas at 146th–151st Streets, and around 181st Street
  • Began managing the concession to teach tennis at the 172nd Street courts, and revenues generated will be invested back into the area
  • Provided sustained care and support to the volunteer-lead Riverside Valley Community Garden (“Jenny’s Garden”)
  • Improved the Park entrances at 120th, 125th, 138th, 148th, and 151st Streets


  • Increase professional gardening staff north of 120th Street
  • Further improve the park entrances at 148th, 151st, and 158th Street
  • Repair and ongoing maintenance of 148th Street baseball fields
  • Concession at 151st Street entrance
  • Complete renovation and add comfort station at 10 Mile River Playground at 148th Street
  • 158th Street basketball court resurfacing and solution for drainage issues
  • Ongoing forest restoration and care in the woodlands at 146th–151st Streets, and 181st Streets
  • Add comfort station at Discovery Playground
  • Deliver adult exercise equipment, additional picnic tables, and a bicycle education center
  • Resurface tennis courts at 172nd Street
  • Repair or replace broken benches on Riverside Drive
  • Complete a world class dog run at 142nd Street
  • Replace the fence and repair dangerous paving conditions from 120th Street to 125th Street
  • Address dangerous bicycle/pedestrian conflicts
  • Repair drainage infrastructure on Riverside Drive at 138th Street
  • Deliver 3 years of new free public programming to North Park


Join us out in the Park. Volunteering is a cornerstone of how the Conservancy cares for Riverside Park.