The 30-acre, Olmsted-designed Morningside Park lies between the residential neighborhoods of Central Harlem and some of the city’s most elite institutions, including Columbia University. In 1999, at the request of a coalition of local groups, PPS put together a proposal, funded by the JM Kaplan Fund, to work with the Morningside Area Alliance and Partnerships for Parks to conduct surveys, workshops and interviews to create a strategy to revitalize both the park and it’s community organization the Friends of Morningside Park, which had been essentially dormant for several years. PPS worked with park users and local groups and institutions to “turn around” what had long been one of New York’s most troubled parks.
Focusing recommendations on new activities scaled to local community uses, the plan has helped the Friends win new respect and forged new partnerships with funders, churches, schools and New York City Parks and Recreation. The Friends of Morningside Park is now considered to be the model of a successful and enterprising citizens group in New York City and has, since 1999, dramatically increased usership, programming, and funding for park improvements, staff and park programs.
With locally-inspired activities that fly in the face of traditional park programs, from bread-baking to puppet shows, Toronto residents created a community place out of a park neglected by locals and city officials alike.