Sidewalks to Trails

New York City 2020

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Since COVID-19 started spreading across New York City, more people have been spending time outdoors in nature. With over 19 areas of forests and wetlands across the city, New Yorkers have plenty of natural areas to choose from.

But even though the use of the natural areas has increased, the budget has not kept up. A shift in resources towards COVID-related support caused an $84 million cut to the Parks Department budget.

As a result, natural areas have suffered. Fewer resources has meant reduced capacity for hiking trail maintenance, more discarded trash in hiking areas and public parks, and the suspension of an ongoing effort to improve the ecological health of the Bronx Park and Zoo.

However, the shift towards nature has also had benefits. Since the start of the pandemic, bird watching has become more popular and has attracted a younger crowd in New York City and across the country. More people have reconnected with nature through the local trails and natural areas.

In a series of stories, NYU’s News and Documentary Class of 2021 examines the effects of COVID-19 on New York City’s parks, and local efforts to preserve the health of the natural areas.