City Hall Park launches into a new era

Design by Placescape – rendering by N.Goodin

I wanted to understand the volunteer landscape (get it?) at City Hall Park since I was getting email missives from two separate organizations these past months, and it turns out there is news. The new(ish)ly formed City Hall Park Conservancy has just received its 501(c)(3) status, and the group is ramping up now for spring planting, new events and fundraising. See more on the events here, if you want to cut to the chase, or read on for the background.

(Also it’s long been a quixotic hope of mine to see the steps of City Hall open to the public again and I thought maybe there’s some shared sentiment here.)

Design by Placescape – rendering by N.Goodin

The Friends of City Hall Park was founded in 1992 by neighbor Skip Blumberg with the mission to assure public access to the park (the park is nine acres but only one is publicly accessible), run volunteer events, and advocate for more funds. The organization pushed for the 1999 renovation and the reopening of the northern section of the park in 2006. The group keeps a running list of maintenance issues and compiles them in a regular “state of the park” report and hosts gardening events throughout the year. But Blumberg never wanted to fundraise.

Enter the City Hall Park Conservancy, which was founded in 2021 by five former members of the Friends — Suellen Epstein, Leah Singer, Alessandra Galletti, Ellen Kahn and April Bovet Krishnan. Like the Friends, the conservancy runs public programming, but it is also raising money for the park to support some new initiatives, such as public seating on the southern tip of the park, enhanced gardens and additional events. They recently completed a $25,000 initiative.

Friends of City Hall Park

I emailed both groups simultaneously and both replied, with Blumberg noting that there has been “overt hostility” between the groups, and that the conservancy was started prematurely, but more recently, the two groups seem to be working in concert. They clearly have shared interests, just different approaches.

The conservancy is mobilizing on both immediate and future plans. They are partnering with the Horticultural Society of New York to make improvements to the landscaped areas of the park (see the renderings above) with the intention to complete a master plan. Next month the group will re-plant the parterre by the fountain with the Horticultural Society; other areas are still under consideration.

City Hall Park Conservancy

They are also looking to grow their board, so if you are interested, get in touch.

Between the two groups, there are also tons of events. From the conservancy, there are upcoming volunteer Second Saturdays set for May 11, June 8 and July 13; and an Earth Day event is Saturday, April 20, from 10a to 1p. Earth Day will have two live bands, planting opportunities and chess games hosted by Chess NY, who will be doing more chess events in the park this season. Register here for the chess game.

For its part, the Friends of City Hall Park will host It’s My Park Day on Sunday, May 19, from 9a to noon. And its gardening group meets next on Wednesday, April 24, from 10a to noon.

And more events to come from both groups. So maybe two is better than one?

In the meantime, here’s the history section:

City Hall Park was first set aside as a public commons in the late 17th century and it became a public park at the turn of the next century. It was built over the course of nine years, from 1803 to 1812. Since then, comprehensive plans for the park were proposed but never built; in 1939, some capital renovations were completed when the Federal Post Office there was demolished. But it wasn’t until 1999 that the park was renovated during the Giuliani administration.

At that time the park’s fence was installed — a replica of the 1820s perimeter fence removed in 1865 to accommodate the Federal Post Office. And the Jacob Wrey Mould Fountain, originally designed for the park in 1871 but removed from City Hall Park and transported to the Bronx’s Crotona Park in 1920, was restored and returned. The four gas bronze candelabras were also added, replicas of gas lamps dating back to the 1850s. A walkway was also created leading to the City Hall plaza.



  1. Seems to be an uptick in people bringing dogs into grass to pee and poop – even though area is cordoned off.

    The entitlement is astounding

    • Agreed. It has coincided with the new buildings on the park. I literally had to yell at a mature woman letting her dog pee on the No Pets sign on the south east corner.

      • Definitely more dogs there now.
        Demographically have observed mostly younger rather than older people bringing in dogs.
        The low chain links make it clear that the area is not to be accessed but we all now “do whatever we want”

  2. It’s sad the condition City Hall Park has been allowed to deteriorate to. In little more than 20 years the hardscape is in horrible condition and it appears little effort is exerted to maintain it. And the landscape…well, it’s pathetic. It’s admirable these two groups want to make a difference but it’s going to require a great deal more money and commitment than either of then can likely bring to bear.

  3. Would there be any support to reopen the grassy area near chambers and Broadway as a dog area? It was open for several years and was nice to have a green space.

  4. start with not allowing government vehicles parked on the bluestone sidewalk and not on roadway. Then have regular volunteer monthly cleanup events. Finally, how about getting a bunch of black paint and paintbrushes and painting the whole fence around city hall park?

  5. Are there any plans to turn on the gas lights that surround the fountain? It was beautiful to see at night.

  6. The lights seem to have been replaced with VERY dim LED’s that throw off no real light, and worse, they dont even have these bulbs in all of the lamps! Bulbs and power are so cheap- so it’s crazy that they cant be brighter and in every lamp. It would make a world of dfference and make the park safer to be properly lit!