Press Release

September 9, 2019

Organizations Selected to Participate in the Partnerships Lab Announced by The Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks

New York, N.Y. — Following an open call for submissions, the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks, a thought leader in urban park management and public-private park partnerships, announced today the selection of eight organizations from around New York City and the United States to participate in the inaugural 2019-2020 Partnerships Lab, which will start in September of this year.

The 2019-2020 Partnerships Lab will include two cohorts — one comprising national and one comprising New York City-based organizations. The organizations selected for the national cohort include: Parks & People Foundation in Baltimore, Md.; Forest Park Conservancy in Portland, Ore.; the City of Detroit’s Public Space Planning Unit in Detroit, Mich.; Balboa Park Conservancy in San Diego, Calif.; and the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation in Austin, Tex. The New York City-based organizations selected to participate include: Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens; Gowanus Canal Conservancy in Brooklyn; and Van Cortlandt Park Alliance in The Bronx.

The Partnerships Lab is a new program developed by the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks to leverage the resources and expertise of the Conservancy to help other parks build their capacity to plan, develop, and maintain great public spaces. Strengthening these organizations will ensure that communities around the country receive the social, economic, environmental, and health benefits that urban parks and public spaces provide.

"We are excited to deepen our partnership with parks in New York City and across the country," said Elizabeth W. Smith, President & CEO of the Central Park Conservancy. “This program provides the opportunity to create a knowledge bank by strategically discovering and sharing information, which will have a positive impact on parks across the country and improve the quality of life for people in these communities.”

Earlier this year, the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks solicited applications from nonprofit organizations and city agencies that manage or support the management of urban parks. As part of the application, prospective partners were asked to identify their long-term vision for their park and organization, and to propose a project or challenge that they believe would help them further their efforts to achieve that vision.

"For the inaugural year of the Partnerships Lab, we are partnering with three New York City park organizations and five urban park organizations from around the country,” said Maura Lout, Executive Director of the Institute for Urban Parks. “Through collaborative and creative partnerships with these organizations, we will help to ensure that all communities receive the social, economic, environmental, and health benefits that parks provide when well-planned and well-maintained.”

The selected partners proposed thoughtful and achievable challenges that, if met, would provide a strong foundation for the continued growth of their organizations. They also illustrated clear, ongoing commitments to their communities and made strong cases for their need for assistance. Partners will work collaboratively with the Institute for 6 to 12 months to develop and implement a strategy for achieving their proposed challenge. They will receive access to staff time and experts both from within the Conservancy and from its network of professionals, as well as a capacity-building grant.

Support for the Partnerships Lab at the national level is provided by The JPB Foundation. Support for the Institute for Urban Parks is provided by The JPB Foundation, The Prospect Hill Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Charina Endowment Fund, Donald A. Pels Charitable Trust, Ralph & Ricky Lauren, Sarah Peter, and Mr. & Mrs. Russell L. Carson.

To learn more about the Partnerships Lab, visit

To learn more about the Institute for Urban Parks, visit

2019-2020 New York City Partnerships Lab Partners

  1. Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park
    Flushing Meadows Corona Park (Queens)
    The Alliance for Flushing Meadows Corona Park is a four-year-old organization that supports the management and operation of Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The organization seeks to create a long-term board development plan in order to establish a strong backbone for the organization; strategically grow its fundraising capabilities; and support NYC Parks in providing consistent, ongoing support to the largest park in Queens.
  2. Gowanus Canal Conservancy
    Gowanus Lowlands, a network of parks and public spaces centered on the Gowanus Canal (Brooklyn)
    The Gowanus Canal Conservancy, founded in 2006, advocates and cares for ecologically sustainable parks and public spaces in the Gowanus Lowlands, while empowering a community of stewards. The organization seeks to develop a comprehensive communications strategy to more effectively engage city agencies, elected officials, and the community as they advocate for, build, and maintain an expanded network of parks and open spaces.
  3. Van Cortlandt Park Alliance
    Van Cortlandt Park (The Bronx)
    In 2019, two long-time organizations that supported Van Cortlandt Park merged into one new organization known as the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance. The new nonprofit seeks to create a board development plan that will lay the groundwork for a superior stewardship organization that can preserve, support, and promote the recreational, ecological, and historical value of Van Cortlandt Park, New York City’s third largest park.

2019-2020 National Partnerships Lab Partners

  1. Parks & People Foundation
    Baltimore parks (Baltimore, Md.)
    Parks & People Foundation, founded in 1984, concentrates on improving and activating Baltimore parks in partnership with Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks. The Foundation seeks to study park operations frameworks and create one that determines the optimum staff size and structure for park maintenance; integrates and supports park improvements and maintenance led by nonprofit partners and friend groups; and identifies appropriate standards for maintenance to be used by professional and volunteer stewards.
  2. Forest Park Conservancy
    Forest Park (Portland, Ore.)
    Through volunteer stewardship and park restoration efforts, Forest Park Conservancy — in partnership with the City of Portland — enhances the ecological health and sustainability of the 5,200-acre Forest Park, an urban wilderness experience all within city limits. Forest Park Conservancy seeks to develop a stakeholder engagement strategy in collaboration with communities of color and traditionally underserved communities, and identify physical and cultural barriers and programming needs that are culturally relevant for each community.
  3. Public Space Planning Unit, City of Detroit
    City of Detroit parks (Detroit, Mich.)
    The City of Detroit owns and operates 311 parks, spanning approximately 4,000 acres throughout the park system. A 2013 mayoral mandate closed all but 19 parks. Currently, the Parks and Recreation Division has reopened 261 parks. Over the past three years, the Division enhanced park maintenance services, launched a 10-year capital improvement program, and leveraged philanthropic and grant funding for support. The City is also in the midst of planning for a 31.5 mile majority off-road greenway that will loop around the entire city. The Public Space Planning Unit, a unit within the Parks and Recreation Division, seeks to develop a comprehensive corporate donor strategy, continuing on the heels of recent local stakeholder engagement to increase long-term financial sustainability for the parks and greenways encompassed in its system.
  4. Balboa Park Conservancy
    Balboa Park (San Diego, Calif.)
    Balboa Park Conservancy partners with the City of San Diego to advocate for the greater good of Balboa Park, and provides resources and expertise for park improvement, placemaking, visitor services, and volunteers. The Conservancy currently works on a project-by-project basis with the City of San Diego. After a series of successful initiatives, the Conservancy seeks to strengthen and define this partnership — clarifying roles, authority, and accountability — to better serve Balboa Park and its millions of annual visitors.
  5. Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation
    Republic Square (Austin, Tex.)
    In 2015, after a decade of working to improve the historic Republic Square, the Downtown Austin Alliance — along with the Austin Parks Foundation and the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department — created the city’s first public-private park partnership to renovate Republic Square. As the long-term managing partner of the park, the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation seeks to develop a stakeholder engagement and implementation strategy in order to create a purposefully inclusive, diverse, meaningful, and loved space by all of Austin.

About the Central Park Conservancy
The Central Park Conservancy is a private, not-for-profit organization that manages Central Park and is responsible for raising the Park's annual operating budget. The Conservancy’s staff of more than 300 is responsible for all aspects of the Park’s stewardship, from day-to-day maintenance and operations to continued restoration and rebuilding projects. The Conservancy also operates the Park’s visitor centers, provides public programs, and serves as a resource for other NYC parks and for public-private partnerships around the world. To learn more about the Conservancy, visit Follow the Central Park Conservancy on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @centralparknyc.

About the Institute for Urban Parks
The Institute for Urban Parks, founded in 2013, is the thought leader in urban park management and public-private park partnerships. It provides professional education, capacity building, peer-to-peer exchange, and thought leadership to strengthen the field of urban park management so that all park professionals have the skills, knowledge, and attitudes they need to create and support successful and sustainable parks.