ADVOCACY ALERT: We need your support to save Marx Brothers Playground

We need your help to tell the City that OUR PARKS ARE NOT FOR SALE.

Dear Friend,

When the City agrees to give away the public’s parkland to a private developer with deep pockets, you know we’re in trouble.

And when that precious open space is smack in the center of the park-starved Upper East Side and East Harlem, you know we need to fight back. Because here’s what we’re getting in exchange: a massive, 1.3 million square foot private development that will rise over 700-feet … the tallest building between the Upper East Side and Boston. Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts is leading the fight against this alarming taking of public land and we are asking for your help.

We have filed a lawsuit to prevent the City from alienating the much-loved Marx Brothers Playground at 96th Street between First and Second Avenues, to facilitate this development. For over 70 years, this park has been the site of Little League baseball games, adult soccer matches and countless recreational uses by countless individuals and families living within a five-minute walk.

The City claims that this is a “playground,” rather than a park, and therefore contains valuable air rights subject to transfer. But in fact, Adrian Benepe, former Parks Commissioner under Mayor Bloomberg has supported our lawsuit with an affidavit stating unequivocally “that it is indisputable that the Marx Brothers Playground is a park with no development rights.”

By allowing this development, the City is setting a dangerous precedent that puts more than 250 playgrounds citywide at risk of being mined for their air rights. This is why three other organizations – CIVITAS, Carnegie Hill Neighbors and the Municipal Art Society of New York – have joined our lawsuit.

Please make a generous donation of $100, $1,000 or more to help FRIENDS stop this attack on our public parks. Designate your contribution toward “Marx Brothers Playground” in our online portal at NY Charities, or write it in the memo of your check.

Our open spaces are not a luxury; they are critical to our well-being and to the quality of life of our communities. Once the Marx Brothers Playground is “demapped” we can never get it back.  Please act today to support this effort.

With thanks,

Rachel Levy
Executive Director

P.S. Please designate your contribution toward “Marx Brothers Playground” in our online donation portal via NY Charities, or write it in the memo of your check payable to FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Historic Districts.  Additional information about this project is available here.

rendering: Marx Brothers Playground

Rendering of Marx Brothers Playground development, known as 321 East 96th Street, seen from Park Avenue and 96th Street. (Image by George M. Janes & Associates)

Avalon East 96th Street

Rendering of Marx Brothers Playground development, known as 321 East 96th Street, which will tower over the rest of the neighborhood. (Image via