The Park Association
In 1994, our neighborhood saw a renewed interest in the creation and maintenance of vest-pocket parks for the community. The Park Association was founded as an unincorporated, nonsectarian community organization on August 17 of that year. Willie Barclay, Edward P. Bowman, Dorothy Morris, James Samuels, and others, working with volunteers in the VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) program known as the domestic “Peace Corps,” incorporated the organization on April 18, 1996. As of that date, The Park Association became a nonprofit, nonsectarian, charitable corporation. We are fully tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
The Rev. Linnette C. Williamson Memorial Park, built in 1965 as the very first vest-pocket park in New York City and the United States, began to be renovated and redesigned by The Park Association in 1994 with the generous support of The Greenacre Foundation, The J.M. Kaplan Fund, The Trust for Public Land, and GreenThumb, a program of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
In 1995, the Rev. Linnette C. Williamson Memorial Park was nearly destroyed by the city as part of an urban renewal plan. The plan would have converted the park, a community haven used by dozens of people, into a private residential yard for a select few. When neighborhood residents heard of the danger, a "Save the Park" campaign was organized that resulted in an outpouring of support from neighbors, business and community leaders, elected officials and the media. We testified before the City Council and petitioned the Mayor to "Save the Park!"
Thanks to the extraordinary effort and commitment of our supporters, an agreement was reached with the City to preserve the site, and it was purchased in 2008 by The Park Association through generous contributions from our Board, membership and The Land Trust Alliance; and with the invaluable assistance of The Trust for Public Land. A restrictive covenant in the deed preserves the property as public, open space.
The community impact of our properties has received positive attention from both the media and city officials, and was cited in a 2002 book by Nancy Berner & Susan Lowry in Garden Guide: New York City (New York: The Little Bookroom 2002): “Up and down West 128th and 129th Streets, buildings are being refurbished and new families are moving into once-derelict housing. The creation of these gardens was one of the first steps the neighborhood took to revive the blocks.”.