NYRP: Haven Project aims to improve residents’ health

Crain’s New York
The Greening of the Bronx
Haven Project aims to improve residents’ health
Daniel Geiger By Daniel Geiger

Sept 15, 2015


For Deborah Marton, green space isn’t just nice–it’s necessary.

To prove it, the executive director of the nonprofit New York Restoration Project recently unveiled a plan to create a collection of park spaces, tree-lined streets, beautified underpasses and a waterfront promenade in the South Bronx neighborhoods of Mott Haven and Port Morris. Ms. Marton, 52, is leading the effort to raise millions of dollars from public and private partners.

“We realized the need is greatest in the South Bronx,” Ms. Marton said. “It’s the poorest [city neighborhood], with the highest asthma, diabetes and obesity [rates] in the city.”

Called the Haven Project, the plan is the culmination of a career that took an early turn. A graduate of NYU Law School, Ms. Marton lasted three years as a corporate litigator before leaving to pursue landscape architecture. “I need to feel emotionally engaged with work,” she said.

After stints with the Parks Department and the Design Trust for Public Space, she joined NYRP in 2011. She now manages 75 acres of park space for the group, which was founded two decades ago by Bette Midler.

Breaking ground by 2017, the Haven Project will include a park at East 132nd Street along the East River and the planting of thousands of trees in the area.

Ms. Marton is hoping it will establish a new financial model for park development in which government and private groups–such as insurers, which stand to save on health care costs–both contribute.

“Science is showing us more and more that the connection to nature impacts our lives so profoundly,” she explained, noting studies illustrating the health benefits of being outdoors. “Our future is cities, so finding ways to weave nature into the urban environment is really important.”

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