NEW YORK—Approximately 200 protesters spanning all ages gathered at the Ruppert Playground on the Upper East Side on Sunday to rally against developer Related Companies’ plan to build a 40-story high rise tower on the property.
The land was sold to Related Co. in 1983, and under the 1968 Ruppert Urban Renewal Project Plan, had to maintain the property as a park for 25 years because the community was severely lacking open space. The agreement ended last June. The protesters want the property to be transferred back to the city as official park space.
Ruppert Playground, between East 92nd and 93rd Streets and 2nd and 3rd Avenues, is located in a community ranking last in the amount of parks and open space in the city.
Geoffrey Croft, president of the NYC Park Advocates, said the park must be preserved exclusively for park and recreational uses.
“The city sold the property to a developer and the city can negotiate a deal to get it back,” he said “This community board has the least amount of parks and open space available, With more than 217,000 residents, it’s also one of the densest.”
He encouraged neighbors to speak out to elected officials who weren’t already supportive of the cause. City Council Member Daniel Garodnick and New York State Assembly Members Jonathan Bing and Micah Kellner were supportive of the cause and present at the rally.
“In a neighborhood that is starved for open space, it is very difficult to justify taking it away,” Garodnick said. “This park has been a fixture of the community for a generation, and we will review all our options for protecting it. We’ll take any legal action that looks promising.”
Assembly Member Bing said the new residential tower was unwanted and unaffordable.
“This is an active park space; not just for children, but for adults, for seniors, for everybody else, for the community,” he said. We need that; we need not to have to spend a hundred dollars to be able to play for an hour in rubble that’s 40 blocks away. We need to do what we can to preserve this park and keep the park space this community deserves.”
“Society is judged by its open spaces. It brings the community together,” Kellner said. “There is no reason why this shouldn’t have been made official park space years ago.”
“New York should be about people,” he continued. “We need to make sure this stays park space for the next hundred years.
Many of the park goers were nearby residents who use the park at least once a week.
“I think it’s very useful for us to have somewhere we can go in this neighborhood, to just play or hang out,” said Sarah Williams. “I really don’t believe we need another high-rise in this neighborhood.”
“You take all these things away; the city loses all its flavor, all its color. Otherwise we might as well live in tenements,” said John Billow.
Carole and Richard Lavin said they had moved nearby because of the open space, before it had even become a playground full of trees and bushes and still frequent it a couple times a week.
“It’s sad because in the city, we all need green, we all need nature,” she said. “There’s going to be another apartment building—where are the people that are going to fill it? There’re so many young families with children; they’re not going to have anywhere to go.”