On Earth Day, Coalition Calls on NYC Parks Department to Set Up Demonstration Sites

Action Comes One Year Since Passage of NYC Law Banning Toxic Pesticides

New York City, April 20, 2022—A year after the passage of a landmark New York City law banning the use of toxic pesticides in city parks, playing fields, playgrounds, and open space, the Eco-Friendly Parks for All coalition is calling on the Parks Department to establish organic demonstration sites across the city. The coalition is underwriting the cost of the demonstration sites which are intended to show how advances in soil technology and modified horticultural techniques can produce lush and resilient landscapes without the use of chemical pesticides. 

This call for action comes seven months before a law, passed unanimously by the City Council on Earth Day last year, requires that all public parks in the City are managed only with organic compatible materials defined by federal law. The coalition is urging immediate action so that demonstration sites can be up and running before the fall when the law goes into effect. The professional consulting services required to manage the sites are funded through a donation from Stonyfield Organic, the national yogurt company which has been a pioneer and leader in organic practices since 1983.

 Eco-Friendly Parks for All is a coalition of local organizations that seek to protect all those who use the park (especially children, pets, older people, those with underlying health conditions and disproportionately at risk, and workers) and ensure the sustainability of New York City’s ecosystem. Members include Beyond Pesticides, Grassroots Environmental Education, The Black Institute, Children’s Environmental Health Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Voters for Animal Rights.

 “To further the impact of our program, we are thrilled to support Bill #1524 in New York City, by donating $60,000 toward transitioning NYC parks to organic maintenance,” said Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield co-founder and Chief Organic Optimist. “Our StonyFIELDS PlayFree initiative, launched in 2018, strives to help keep families free from harmful pesticides in parks and playing fields across the country.”

"Children are uniquely vulnerable to the harmful effects of chemical exposures. All NYC children deserve access to healthy parks free of synthetic pesticides," says Dr. Sarah Evans, Assistant Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

“This law is a long time coming after the many lives spent in engaging with toxic air and land in parks, most of who are disproportionately black and brown people”, said Adeel Ahmed, Community Organizer of The Black Institute, a Brooklyn-based non-profit. “As grateful as we are for this law after the energy spent on organizing for it, we are calling on the parks department now to implement this law with urgency through moving towards organic maintenance of the parks while emphasizing racial equity as the center of this law’s implementation.”

“The NYC parks law banning toxic pesticides ensures a legacy of safe public places for people to gather, play, and bring their pets, while at the same time contributing to the safety of NYC air and waterways,” said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC.

“This law to ban pesticides also addresses the city’s stated goals of reducing fossil fuel-based products in an effort to become more sustainable. New York City is leading the way for municipalities all over the world who are seeking to reduce their carbon footprint,” says Patti Wood, Executive Director of NY non-profit Grassroots Environmental Education. “ Petroleum and gas are feedstock for pesticides and fertilizers.”

“This law fulfills a dream of my former kindergarten students who, while learning about how foods in the school cafeteria are grown, learned about the dangers of pesticides,” said Paula Rogovin, NYC public school teacher, now retired, who launched the original effort with her students, parents, and then-NYC Councilmember Ben Kallos. “Then, they learned about pesticide use in the parks. The bill was introduced into the City Council on their behalf. It took a team of individuals and organizations working together to ensure this important legislation was passed. Pesticide-free parks will benefit millions of New Yorkers, visitors, and their pets.”