Focusing on ‘kids, dogs, flowers’ and funds for park | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Focusing on ‘kids, dogs, flowers’ and funds for park

Blake Beatty, at Pier 40 at W. Houston St., plots a better park through neighborhood participation.  Photo by Ann Clark, courtesy Friends of Hudson River Park
 BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |  For Blake Beatty, Dec. 12 was a good time of the year — and the right time in her life — to begin work as director of development for Friends of Hudson River Park.

With the lion’s share of the park’s 17 million annual visitors in hibernation, Beatty had a few months to plot a new public outreach initiative, while getting down to the business of securing private funding for the park’s ongoing revitalization. As spring approaches and that first day on the job grows more distant, Beatty’s plans are beginning to take shape.

The Friends are the park’s primary private fundraising organization, and Beatty comes to them with experience. One week before joining the Friends, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum’s senior development officer was looking back upon the successful implementation of a $350 fundraising campaign, and wondering what project could rival the scope and challenge of the one she’d just completed.

“After fundraising for the 9/11 memorial,” Beatty said, “I had a very good sense of Downtown. The people I met, and the changes I saw, gave me an edge. I wanted to take that knowledge and enthusiasm and spread it north. I saw the park and thought, there’s overlap there. It made perfect sense.”

A New York resident for the past 15 years, Beatty witnessed the steady growth and development of Hudson River Park.

“I spent time there, and enjoyed it…but I still don’t think a lot of people know about it,” she said of the Lower West Side’s “Gold Coast,” which snakes its way from Battery Park City to 59th St.

“I took the job,” Beatty said, “because this park hasn’t been exposed the way it should be. I think it needs a structure, in the sense of dividing the park into regions.”

Separating the long and winding, 5-mile park into four distinct zones — Tribeca, Greenwich Village, Chelsea and Clinton — Beatty said confidently, will help “bring more emphasis to the neighborhoods, so the people in Chelsea, for example, will know they own that area of the park.”

The best part of her job, so far, she said, has been meeting “the overwhelming amount of people who want to get involved, and just don’t know how.” They’re about to find out how — as Beatty anticipates the spring launch of a Neighborhood Cultivation Program that will allow people with specific interests to further develop the section of the park they use the most.

“We’re hoping to have a major event to kick it off in June,” she said of the enrichment program. “This is definitely the beginning of a new phase for Hudson River Park. The [Fourth of July] fireworks are, tentatively, coming to the West Side Highway this summer, and I hope to do something big around that. There will also be several neighborhood enrichment events before the year ends.”

Beatty’s vision for hyperlocal participation, in phase one at least, is threefold: dogs, kids and beautification.

“A lot of people are very interested in developing the flowers in different regions of the park,” she said, noting that only parents and dog owners rival horticulturalists as frequent park visitors who would welcome a greater variety of amenities and social events.

“People who use the playground in Tribeca,” Beatty said, “would love to have an opportunity to get to know more of the parents living in their region, and use the park as a way to have their children meet new friends. Dog owners would love more opportunity to get together and talk about their dogs. We would host events on the piers, for people who are members of these groups.”

Those groups would also assist in funding the expansion and upkeep of the park.

“A community could give a low level of money to increase or improve the things they care about, and that area might be named after their neighborhood group,” Beatty explained.

And although much of her job involves securing the large donations necessary to realize the Friends’ ambitious plans for growth, Beatty said of her outreach efforts, “This is as much about getting people involved as it is about raising money. They go hand in hand.”

For information on Friends of Hudson River Park’s programs or to volunteer, call 212-757-0981 or visit fohrp.org. To contact Blake Beatty, e-mail bbeatty@fohrp.org. Also visit hudsonriverpark.org .