Emily Putnam

Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2017


John van Buren

Second Advisor

Mark Naison


This thesis focuses on the issue of public green space in an urban environment and the politics surrounding such access in New York City. It turns out that the otherwise affluent Upper East Side and Midtown East actually report the least amount of public green space in the city in Community Boards 6 and 8. Against the backdrop of an investigation of the environmental history of New York City, I focus on a small park in Sutton Place that has been exclusively used by residents of an elite apartment building for decades despite being legally owned by the city of New York. Following a lawsuit, this land has finally been returned to the city. This study follows the legacy of this land dispute from a historical perspective as well as the politics and power of wealth. I utilize the surveys, focus groups, and work with local boards from my internship with the Sutton Place Parks Conservancy as we create a vision plan with Partnership for Parks. I also serve as their budget delegate in participatory budgeting meetings and am able to use these to create a case study. I utilize environmental ethics to discuss the importance and health benefits of public green space and waterfront access in the city. I question who has a right to green space in the city and who has the power to make these decisions. The study then moves on with environmental politics into the case study’s future as it becomes integrated into Sutton Place’s other pocket parks along the East River. The study pays special attention to funding and how proposals align with examples of similar development in other cities and recommendations from urbanists working toward improving quality of life. These studies come together to reveal a fuller picture of how access to green space is controlled and how it may better be managed.