The Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) and its parks organization have partnered with the sociology faculty at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) to analyze how many people utilize the open spaces within the community, where they come from, and why.
Formally titled the “Battery Park City Parks Count and User Survey,” the project aims to gauge, “how many people come, and during what kind of weather,” explained Abby Erlich, the director of community partnerships and engagement for the community’s parks, at the March 6 meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1).
To help, Ms. Erlich collaborated with two BMCC sociology professors, Michelle Ronda and Robin Isserles, who brought aboard 42 of their students. This team fanned out through the community’s parks on 12 days, starting in July and concluding in October.
“We spent 48 hours in the field,” explained professor Ronda, at the same meeting, “and spoke to 366 respondents.”
The preliminary results of this survey and count indicate that 41 percent of the people interviewed in local parks were residents of Battery Park City, while 40 percent were visitors, and another 14 percent worked nearby. “The remaining five percent were passing through, on their way to someplace else,” noted Professor Isserles.
“When we asked what brought the person we interviewed to Battery Park City on that day,” elaborated Professor Ronda, “our data showed that 29 percent came specifically to visit Battery Park City, while 14 percent came for a scheduled event. Another 17 percent came to visit a specific destination within Battery Park City, while the same percentage were visiting the parks because they lived here. And another seven percent were commuting to another destination, outside the community.”
“In terms of how people got here,” Professor Isserles continued, “44 percent reached the community by subway, and 33 percent walked.”
Tammy Meltzer, the chair of the Battery Park City Committee asked, “what is the purpose of collecting this data?”
Ms. Erlich answered, “we need to keep pace with the changing needs and interests of people who use our parks. When I first worked here, the idea for classes in chess for children came from parents, who told us they wanted that. And when rollerblading was big, we learned from people in our parks that they needed a class on how to stop. So whatever the interests of our parks users are, we want to remain relevant. And as the number of local residents grows, we need to know more about what people want.”
To that end, the team behind the Parks Count and User Survey plans to host an upcoming series of focus groups, at which residents can share ideas and concerns. To participate in one of these sessions, please call Professor Ronda (212-220-8000, ext. 5338), or email team at firstname.lastname@example.org.