Greenacre Park Fights for Light Against Current Version of East Side Rezoning Plan

Greenacre Park, East Midtown

The Greenacre Foundation has mobilized the “Fight for Light” on behalf of Greenacre Park to preserve the park’s sunlight. The goal is to prevent the onset of shadows that would darken the space in the afternoon if development of several taller buildings is permitted, to the south, through adoption of the proposed Midtown East Side Rezoning plan.

Greenacre Park is situated on 51st Street between Second and Third Avenues and is one of only three “vest-pocket” parks in New York City. The singular outdoor space – about the size of a tennis court – was designed for maximum beauty and function by internationally acclaimed landscape architects Sasaki Associates. It has become a beloved haven for those who live and work in Turtle Bay.

First opened in 1971 through the efforts of the late Mrs. Jean Mauzé, the former Abby Rockefeller, the park features a 25-foot-high waterfall sculpted from huge granite blocks, honey locust trees, lush plantings, sunny seating areas with moveable tables and chairs, and an outdoor cafe. The space even accommodates nature; the sight of sparrows indulging in a daily bath where water runs into a granite basin is a delight. Today, the care of the park remains “in the family” in that Ms. Mauze’s granddaughter, Gail Caulkins, oversees its operations as the
President of the Greenacre Foundation. “Greenacre Park has provided innumerable moments of welcome serenity and escape for residents, families, visitors, and local workers,” says Ms. Caulkins. “The sunshine makes an indispensable contribution to the park’s unique appeal.” Fight for Light is focusing on building public awareness of the issue, and includes the launch of a website, the unveiling of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels, outreach to local media, and ongoing communications with city officials.

The campaign is making an impact. Through the efforts of park supporters, Community Board 6 adopted a resolution on March 8 calling upon the City Council to modify the rezoning plan so that the park’s sunlight could be preserved. Advocates also attracted the support of a prominent ally when they were joined by the Municipal Arts Society in pushing for mitigating measures. In a March 7 letter to Community Board 6, the Society said that the neighborhood “cannot afford to allow development under the East Midtown rezoning proposal to cast such an important resource as Greenacre Park in additional shadow.”

And while it is premature to predict the final outcome of the rezoning plan, the message seems to be getting through.

More information about Greenacre Park and the Fight for Light is available at GreenacrePark.org, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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