Central Park, New York City’s Green Intersector

Guest Post by Frank Weil, Chairman of The Intersector Project

blogimage_centralparkIn the early 1990s, at my doctor’s orders, I took daily walks in Central Park. I had barely been in the park since the mid-1970s, and the contrast I noticed was amazing.

Back in the 1970s, Central Park was in deep trouble. The Parks Department employment had fallen from 70,000 to 5,000 in just a few years; graffiti was everywhere, fallen trees lay across unmarked footpaths. Serious crimes were reported daily.

But by the 1990s, Olmsted’s dream from the 1850s was again alive, and beginning to thrive. What had happened? The fortunate people who lived on Central Park West and Fifth Avenue had come together around their shared appreciation of the Park and said “Lets’ do something”!

They formed a Parks Conservancy – raised money, encouraged volunteers, and went to work. Then they met with a sympathetic Parks Department Commissioner, who agreed on a plan to collaborate in restoring the park’s glory. Their long-term, contractual arrangement to share resources – financial, human, and administrative – contributed to one of New York City’s greatest comeback stories.

Learning just how the park was restored sparked my interest in the process of intersector collaboration, and gives me confidence that similar revitalization can occur across the country with the help of The Intersector Project’s Cases and Toolkit.