What We Do
- Programming – over 250 free public programs each year for all ages – education, art, dance, music, history, horticulture, fitness, wildlife
- Fund Supplemental Gardening Staff and Supplies – to assist in the upkeep and beautification
- Support Special Projects in the Park – to retain and improve the park’s usability
The Fort Tryon Park Trust is the not-for-profit organization dedicated to the care, maintenance, and enrichment of Fort Tryon Park. The Trust partners with NYC Parks to secure dedicated funding for park restoration efforts, ongoing horticultural maintenance and free public programming. The Trust’s mission is to preserve and enhance the historic and scenic landmark park.
Fort Tryon Park Founders
During his tenure as the Manhattan Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe had an idea to forge a group that was committed to protecting and preserving the Heather Garden so that the investment that had been made in the Heather Garden would be protected irrespective of a fluctuating economy. He pulled together some key people and started the Heather Garden Committee.
Ruth Westheimer and Tom Kissinger were involved from this point. Dr. Ruth, a longtime resident of Washington Heights, took Commissioner Benepe for a walk through Fort Tryon Park, showing him its strengths but also encouraging him to make it better. Tom Kissinger’s grandparents lived in the area, and he had taken many walks in the park with them; he wanted to dedicate a bench in the park in their honor. Benepe tapped Joseph Pierson, whose great-grandfather’s brother had given the park to the City of New York, and Edith Kean, public garden designer, to lead the committee.
Nicholas Quennell and Jane Schachat were the park’s experts and provided a vision for what the garden and the park could become. Benepe also enlisted help from David Gmach, Pierre de Vegh, and Stan Michels, the former New York City Council member for the area.
The Heather Garden Committee secured a challenge grant from the Rhodebeck Charitable Trust and then raised $200,000 for the endowment. That success gave birth to others, and over time, the Heather Garden Committee evolved into the Fort Tryon Park Trust, a nonprofit entity with a commitment to revitalizing and preserving all areas of Fort Tryon Park.
The steadfast support of the Greenacre Foundation has provided for stellar horticultural care throughout these decades. Many park improvements are fueled by private funds raised by the Fort Tryon Park Trust, including an investment of $750,000 in the Broadway side of the park for the Alpine Garden’s restoration, water service, drinking fountains, staffing, and 40,000 plants, trees and shrubs. Critical funding for the Alpine Garden has been provided by the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation and the Cleveland Dodge Foundation. The design of the grotto has been led by Quennell Rothschild and Partners, working with Walter B. Melvin Architects.
Private support in the amount of $250,000 funded the Heather Garden Framework Plan by public garden designer Lynden R. Miller and her associate Ronda M. Brands. The plan has given the garden year-round horticultural interest and informs the ongoing care and educational impact of the garden.
New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez recently allocated $1.5 million and Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer $100,000 towards the reconstruction of Jacob K. Javits Playground. The Fort Tryon Park Trust contributed $350,000. Last reconstructed over 27 years ago, their generous support will transform this playground, which is heavily used and appreciated by families with children as well as by basketball, volleyball, and Ping-Pong players. The Fort Tryon Park Trust is excited to work with NYC Parks and the community on a master plan for all areas of Javits on both sides of Fort Washington Avenue, and as of spring 2017, has identified a Phase I project for construction that will provide the maximum benefit to the community and not preclude future improvements.
Continuing to Care for the Park
The Fort Tryon Park Trust continues to coordinate tens of thousands of volunteer hours in the park each year. Community residents, neighborhood alumni, horticultural organizations, philanthropists, and others continue to support the Fort Tryon Park Trust and Fort Tryon Park through their donations, in-kind services, partnerships and volunteerism. Contined support from individuals, foundations and our government are key to protecting the investments made to date and for sustaining the park for generations to come.