By the Numbers: Study Reveals Who, What and Why of BPC Parks Users

In Teardrop Park, kids and caregivers participate in art making, one of many programs and classes that draw people—children and adults, residents and non-residents—to Battery Park City's parks. File photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib  

Jan. 06, 2019

More than half a million people visit Battery Park City’s 38 acres of parks each year. Who they are, where they come from and what they do when they get there was something that the Battery Park City Authority, overseer of the popular green spaces, wanted to know.

A year-long study is giving them some answers.

The detailed, scientific survey, conducted in partnership with sociologists and student researchers from Borough of Manhattan Community College, provides an in-depth look at the users of the neighborhood’s 20 park and other public spaces. From the Lily Pool and Teardrop Park in the north neighborhood, to Liberty Community Garden and Pier A Plaza in the south, the agency now knows more than it ever did about the use of nearly one-third of the neighborhood.

The idea for the study originated in early 2017 from the Authority’s president and CEO B.J. Jones. “He said, ‘You know, we need to find out who’s not coming to the parks,’” said Abby Ehrlich, the authority’s director of community partnerships and engagement, who oversaw the study for the agency. “It was as simple a thought as that.”

The resulting 130-page report, “Battery Park City Authority Parks User Count and Study,” provides a far bigger picture than that. Ehrlich and Michelle Ronda, a BMCC professor and the study's co-investigator, presented the findings last week to Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee.

“We wanted to capture whoever was out there in public spaces,” Ronda said.

And they did, even down to the four-legged ones. Dogs, the survey found, came along with three out of 10 visitors.

Among other insights: About a third of park users came with children. Eleven percent were riding bikes. The greatest number of foreign visitors (at least among the 16 percent who were willing to respond to the researchers questions) came from England, followed by Australia, with 32 countries represented in all.

As for why people visit, “The esplanade and views of the Hudson are the number one attraction for Battery Park City parks visitors,” Ronda said.

The study presents this graph to show the average number of visitors to the park spaces on a busy weekend day.

This is the breakdown of visitors by ethnicity: (The study notes that the Battery Park City residential population as a whole is 67 percent white, 19 percent Asian, 9 percent Latino and 1 percent black.)


Here’s what people were doing on one survey day.

Ehrlich said her biggest surprise from the study was how many people—35 percent of respondents—couldn’t think of a single thing they would change about the parks and other public space. Having been a Battery Park City parks administrator for many years, she said she knows how much people like the parks. Still, she noted, “I guess a little part of me, being a born and bred New Yorker, thought that people might be a little crankier.” (Most of those less cranky ones live outside the neighborhood as it turns out.)

“But of course people are people and we have dislikes,” Ronda said. “So people-based dislikes were the next most common answer.” Those annoyances included cyclists, smokers and crowds. People from outside the neighborhood, especially, complained that they had a hard time finding a restroom.

Then there were the “animal-based” dislikes. “This includes the people who said there were dogs pooping all over the neighborhood but also those who said I don’t like it that you keep my dog off the lawn,” Ronda said.

It is yet to be seen what changes to the parks or their programming might come from the study. But Ehrlich said she hopes the research will inform the Authority's future efforts to serve all its users, whether neighborhood regulars or first-time visitors.

“That’s the balance that we have to always keep striving for,” she said.