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Preserving our Green Upper East Side

You know FRIENDS speaks up for our historic architecture, and the preservation and zoning mechanisms in place to maintain the scale and character of our community. But our built city is not just bricks and mortar – it’s the people, small shops and restaurants, places to sit, parks, and green spaces that make up the texture and vitality of the Upper East Side.

Through nearly 40 years of FRIENDS’ “eyes on the street” approach to neighborhood preservation, recognition, and advocacy on behalf of our green city has been central to our work.

The Annual Awards this year included three that highlight the importance of what is “green” in New York. We honored the Central Park Conservancy for the restoration of the Belvedere Castle; we recognized Cynthia Brenwall for her remarkable and beautiful book on the original designs for Central Park; and we congratulated the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation for its program of street tree planting, including 200 new trees in our Community Board! Last year, we recognized the Carl Schurz Park Conservancy for its long stewardship of that essential park on the far East Side, and have highlighted numerous projects that have contributed to improved and expanded open spaces in our area, including the park-like Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.

We fought hard for POPS, the privately owned public places, also known as bonus plazas, of which there are 73 on the Upper East Side. This network of open spaces, built by developers in exchange for floor area bonuses, often provides a critical respite from the dense city. In response to continued neglect and the closing of many POPS, FRIENDS led an effort with Council Member Ben Kallos to require owners to bring POPS to the required standard, and we are seeing results.

Our ongoing fight for Marx Brothers Playground, where the City plans to turn parkland over to a private developer to construct a massive residential building, raises the notion of public parkland as an essential resource protected by the public trust doctrine. It has implications for 260+ other similar parks citywide and the park provides critical recreation space in a park-starved neighborhood.

FRIENDS’ work on behalf of our green city is part of our vision of a richly layered, human-scaled New York, guided by zoning standards that have been developed collaboratively among community partners, elected officials, and agency staff. With your support, we have been able to sustain that vision while welcoming appropriate growth on the Upper East Side.

Please join us in supporting this vision of New York, with a year-end gift of $100, $1,000, or more to FRIENDS. Your generous donation makes our work possible – fighting to protect the bricks and mortar, but also the green spaces that make this the multifaceted neighborhood we all cherish