Dear Friends of the Randall’s Island Park Alliance,
As 2023 nears, I ask for a moment of your lime lo reflect upon the past year al our special park and an opportunity to share what is on the horizon.
This year, RIPA was elated lo once again offer a full roster of in-person activities – over 16,000 people attended over 360 free public programming events! These included the return of our popular annual Cherry Blossom, Waterfront, and Harvest Festivals. Additionally, this year we introduced our free Children’s Book Festival, which allowed participants to interact with local authors, and stories were offered in both English and Spanish. We also introduced Big Truck Day, which highlighted vehicles from various NYC agencies lo the delight of children and adults. Over the summer, 5,000 children from our neighboring communities in East Harlem and the South Bronx enjoyed our free camp. It is always a delight lo hear the sounds of children running and having fun at the park!
Coming to learn from the park’s amazing natural resources, 1,819 NYC public school students participated in our free STEM education classes – through our Waterfront Stewardship and the Urban Farm Edible Education programs. Our Park-As-Lab program, which facilitates environmental research by local students and community members, received a grant toward a new paid apprenticeship program, financed by the NYS Environmental Protection Fund through the NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program. The grant will enable local high school and college students to create and implement an estuarine research project while gaining valuable professional skills and mentoring!
Icahn Stadium was bustling with track meets throughout the spring. Thousands of spectators came to watch the many high level track and field events we hosted this year including NYC Elite Grand Prix, USATF Youth Outdoor Nationals, and Colgate Women’s Games Semi Finals and Finals. The stadium was also host to events and practices for thousands of schoolchildren who call NYC home. Likewise, the park’s 60+ fields were in full use with athletes of all ages playing a variety of sports, often cheered on by friends and family.
For those who prefer to stroll the park’s beautiful gardens and pathways, you may have noticed new signage. We installed trl-panel signage at key entry points highlighting seasonal events and directing visitors to our website, available in multiple languages.The welcome signs found throughout the park emphasize that the island is an inclusive space for all who visit – including the asylum seekers who found refuge in the humanitarian facilities al the park this fall.
Our 330-acre park would not be the beautiful respite it is without consistent care and maintenance by staff and our incredible volunteers. I want to give a special thanks to those who freely give us their time and talent – nearly 1,800 volunteers, coming both individually and in groups, spent over 5,100 hours on 120 volunteer projects at the park. Their incredibly valuable contributions included planting 190 trees and removing almost 2,000 pounds of garbage. I invite you to get involved and volunteer in 2023 – check our social media and website to sign up!
Enough reflecting. Onward.
Next year you will see a number of capital projects begin to come to life with construction commencing on the island. These projects are the product of years of hard work and strategic planning by RIPA and our partners. The Sunken Garden Connector is in design in partnership with NYC Parks to provide added pedestrian connections to the popular Water’s Edge Pathway and Central Road; next up will be new routes connecting the southern waterfront pathways to the Urban Farm and the Scylla Playground up the hill. Also in 2023, the MTA Bridges & Tunnels will begin work on new vehicular and pedestrian ramps to the park from the RFK bridge; we are especially excited to welcome the more visible and accessible pedestrian ramps planned along the Manhattan span, bringing visitors to appealing waterfront park sites. Other changes to come include moving the Discus Thrower statue to a new location In the park; stay tuned to see where and when. Also, we continue to develop plans and gather support for the upcoming Randall’s Island Park Nature Center; the visible, inviting facility, at the center of the park, will provide restrooms, classrooms, and flexible indoor/outdoor spaces, serving as a hub for our free park programs. Finally, in 2023, the Sportime Tennis Center is on track to finish construction of its 30-court premier facility and the Drive Shack Golf Center plans to break ground. From new pathways to recreational facilities, meaningful park improvements will be underway.
Lastly, I want to thank RIPA’s dedicated staff of 80+ individuals and our Board of Trustees, who work to fulfill RIPA’s mission each and every day. And, of course, many thanks to you – your continued support of the park and the Alliance affirms the importance of our mission and motivates the RIPA team every day.
Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!
Deborah Maher President