City Outlines Plans to Open More of Teddy Roosevelt Park to the Public

This fenced-off lawn along the North edge of Teddy Roosevelt Park could be opened up to the public.

By Alex Israel

The city is looking to open up some of Theodore Roosevelt Park’s fenced off lawn areas, and has been studying the options for the past few months. The park stretches from 77th to 81st Street, surrounding the Museum of Natural History.

The city is considering opening up the North and South lawns in the park along 81st and 77th Streets. (In a separate project, the museum has also discussed ways to open more of Margaret Mead Lawn, located on the Columbus Avenue side of the park, to visitors as part of its expansion project that will take away about one-quarter acre of the park.)

At a Community Board 7 Parks & Environment Committee meeting this week, the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation presented its preliminary findings.

Following studies of the fencing and shade, as well as a lawn tree inventory, NYC Parks proposed a ‘Managed Access Lawn Pilot’ that would open between one and three of the four existing lawns for passive recreation.

The lawns up for consideration are West 77th & Central Park West (SE), West 77th & Columbus Ave (SW), and West 81st & Columbus Ave (NW). The lawn at West 81st & Central Park West (NE) is not being considered due to sloping, a small drainage issue, and the Museum’s active driveway.

An image from the parks department of the four lawn areas they surveyed. We’ll post a clearer image when the city posts the presentation.

This 3-month program would be managed by NYC Parks Maintenance & Operations staff, who would open and close the lawns taking weather, activity, and lawn condition into consideration. Following the conclusion of the program, NYC Parks would re-evaluate their data to determine whether or not to move forward with a more permanent approach to opening up the lawns.

The Parks Department did not interview park visitors or local residents as part of their preliminary findings, which was a concern for many who attended the meeting. Committee Co-Chair Klari Neuwelt described this approach to outreach as “upside down and backwards,” a sentiment that was echoed by fellow Committee members and community members alike.

Another community concern was the additional budget required to maintain the anticipated increase in recreational activity. “Where will the money come from?” asked Peter Wright, president of Friends of Roosevelt Park. While he commended the Parks Department on a “good start,” he and others cited lawn maintenance, tree care, rodent control, Park Enforcement Patrol officers, and Bull Moose Dog Run visitors as key elements requiring additional resources that still need to be addressed.

Operational concerns aside, some expressed excitement for the opportunity to access spaces that have been previously off limits. “Public parks are not places that have gates all around them … We are about accessing green space. We are about recognizing the value of recreation and health,” said Steve Anderson, president of the West 81st St Block Association. “We need to figure out a way to have more [accessible] park space, not less.”

Timing and details are still being determined. Following the discussion and debate, NYC Parks Chief of Policy and Long-Range Planning, Sarah Neilson, agreed to share the community’s feedback with her team and return to update the Committee with a more defined plan before launching the pilot program.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 18 comments | permalink
    1. Rob G. says:

      Cary Goodman and members of Community United should be barred from the expanded areas of the park since they were so against it in the first place.

      • SockPuppet says:

        Whoops, I’ve been on holiday and forgot to get my conspicuously specific attack in on the locals on the first line, so I’ll just leave this here.
        Go Musuem!
        Boo Publicly Owned Parkland!

    2. Wijmlet says:

      Leave all as itr is

    3. Dr. Cary Goodman says:

      Opening the lawns is another diversion to re-focus attention from the museum’s proposed land grab.

      CB7 got a taste of what it means to be left out of the planning, just like the UWS was ignored as the expansion proposal was developed.

      The expansion costs would suck up all the maintenance money and an influx of 800,000 more visitors makes this initiative absurd.

      • Jay says:

        You lost Cary. Get over it. Devote your time to something that’s not a lost cause, like volunteering at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen.

        The people of the UWS are quite happy with the museum expansion and the reopening of the park.

        • allie says:

          No, Jay.
          The people of the UWS are NOT happy about the expansion.
          YOU are; WE are not!

          • Jay says:

            allie, How many people voted for Cary in the election? If you don’t remember it was 4% of the votes cast, which was a very small proportion of the UWS population in itself.

            If people are so upset, why did Cary get so few votes?

          • Paul says:

            Allie, is that why the opponent of expansion lost in a landslide? Because the people of the UWS oppose the expansion?

          • Bob Lamm says:

            Wow,this is fascinating! Both Jay and Allie obviously feel empowered to speak for “the people of the UWS.” And yet they say diametrically opposite things about how “the people” (thousands of residents) feel. How curious! Is it possible that their testimony is unreliable? 🙂

          • jsc says:

            Who is this “WE”? I’m delighted with the plans as are many of my neighbors who frequent the museum with our children almost weekly. I look forward to the new expansion knowing that more people will attend every year with or without the facilities being upgraded to accommodate them and appreciating that the more people who believe in facts, science, and knowledge, the better for our world.

        • Bob Lamm says:

          Cary Goodman: 805 votes in the primary, FOUR percent.

      • Paul says:

        What nonsense.
        Anyone walking by or in the park knows that there is more unusable space now than the small piece needed for the museum expansion.

        This park exists for one reason, to enclose the museum. The notion that the museum was an intrusion on the park is absurd.

    4. Sam says:

      It doesn’t make up for the fact that the city let the museum steal parkland from the taxpayers. Or that the greenspace in question should have always been available to the public. Or that rhe neighborjood is losing the Columbus Ave side of the museum to falafel trucks and tourists.

    5. Billy Amato says:

      It is about time!!! – I only be fighting for this since the renovation of the park in 1997. This is a public park (I PAY TAX’S) and this should be open to all to enjoy. I came from Pelham Manor NY and we have all open parks in our little town for all to enjoy. I know who was stopping this to happen and thank god he died two years ago! (West 77th Street Block Assoc.) This was so stupid closeting this up.

    6. West 80th Street Block Assoc. says:


    7. Mark Koppel says:


      If you really lived in Pelham Manor, you’d know that the only waterfront park, Glen Island in neighboring New Rochelle is reserved for Westchester County residents.

      This was done decades ago to keep the city “riff-raff” out.

      The removal of the AMNH fences should have been done long ago, but was opposed for the same reason, keeping the Uptown riff-raff out. As to who should pay for the upkeep, since AMNH is obviously rolling in Gilder money, they should pay for it.

      Ever notice how perfect those lawns are? You don’t get that look without artificial fertilizer and pesticides. How about coming clean, AMNH

    8. Brain says:

      Oh no!!!!! Is this not a deliberate slap in the face to the loudest complainers of the new project? That perfect, pristine, people and dog free lawn in front of their buildings. Oh, the noise….oh, the horror!

      OPEN THE GATES!!!!!!

    9. Sean says:

      Will we be able to BBQ?