BEH has been studying the geographic distribution of parks and playgrounds in NYC and whether park or playground access is associated with BMI, physical activity and physical fitness. The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation oversees ~29,000 acres of land (14% of NYC) including more than 4,000 park properties. The map below shows public parks in NYC.
Our analyses of the distribution of parks in NYC shows that lower income and minority neighborhoods have greater access to park space than higher income and majority race/ethnicity neighborhoods . However, after accounting for crime, pedestrian safety, and noxious land uses near parks, factors that might affect park use, the apparent advantage in park access seen for lower income and minority neighborhoods is diminished.
In our analyses of the NY Cancer Cohort data we found that neighborhood access to large parks (> 6 acres) was significantly associated with lower BMI, however neighborhood access to small parks was not . Park cleanliness and the availability of physical activity facilities in parks was not associated with BMI. Our analyses of data from the NYC Community Health Survey show that access to large parks is also associated with significantly higher engagement in physical activity and lower BMI . We also find that the presence of graffiti in parks is associated with significantly lower levels of physical activity and poorer overall park quality is associated with higher BMI.
We are currently investigating whether the presence of playgrounds and the quality of the playgrounds is associated with lower BMI and higher fitness levels in public school children in NYC. This work is being done as part of our NYCFITNESSGRAM project.
We have also worked with community groups to map trails and physical activity resources in parks. To the right is one of the maps we created of exercise trials for the Fort Tryon Park Trust as part of our Partnerships for Environmental Public Health project. The full set of maps can be seen at the Trust’s web site.