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 $100,000 investment encourages physical activity and healthy living in the Health Department’s Neighborhood Health Action Center areas

December 12, 2017 – The Health Department, in partnership with NYC Parks, today announced the installation of eight new public artworks in parks in the South Bronx, East Harlem and Central Brooklyn. The “Art in the Parks: Active Open Space” initiative awarded $100,000 to eight community-based organizations to install public art that promotes physical activity and community connectivity in neighborhoods with disproportionately high rates of chronic diseases. The artworks, which range from murals to interactive sculpture, were developed with the participation of community members. These installations may reach 400,000 New Yorkers who live within a 10-minute walk (0.5 mile radius) of the eight neighborhood parks. Artworks were installed in early fall, in connection with the Art in the Parks 50th Anniversary, and will remain up for one year. Art in the Parks: Active Open Space was an effort in partnership with the Fund for Public Health in New York City and made possible with funding provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The Active Open Space initiative encourages residents of East Harlem, the South Bronx, and Central Brooklyn to be physically active in their local parks,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “By supporting public art, community engagement and opportunities for physical activity in parks located in traditionally underserved neighborhoods, this initiative helps to advance our goal of creating a more equitable city for all New Yorkers.”

“For the past half century, NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks program has transformed public spaces with creative expression. By partnering with the Health Department on these eight new artworks, we’re brings even more beauty and vibrancy to neighborhood parks – and now, with a focus on inspiring healthy physical activity,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP.

East Harlem, the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn all have disproportionately poor health outcomes with regards to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Obesity can lead to serious health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.

  • East Harlem: One in three adults (33 percent) in East Harlem are obese – the fifth-highest neighborhood citywide – and 13 percent of residents have diabetes. Heart disease is also the most common cause of death, at a rate of 206.3 per 100,000 people.
  • South Bronx: One in three adults (35 percent) in the South Bronx are obese, the highest neighborhood citywide, and 16 percent of residents have diabetes, ranking third citywide. Heart disease is the most common cause of death, at a rate of 208.7 per 100,000 people.
  • Central Brooklyn: One in three adults (32 percent) in Central Brooklyn are obese, the eleventh-highest neighborhood citywide. Central Brooklyn residents have the sixth-highest rate of diabetes (15 percent), and the neighborhood ranks first in hospitalizations for avoidable clinical care for diabetes. Heart disease is the most common cause of death, at a rate of 272.9 per 100,000 people.
  • “Public art is an important feature of safe places to raise healthy children and families,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “I encourage Brooklynites to get active and enjoy open spaces like Brower Park, Howard Park, and Lincoln Terrace Park, which will feature great artistic pieces in the year ahead.”

    “The Bronx is the bbirthplaceof hip-hop, doo-wop and salsa, and has maintained a vibrant music and arts scene throughout the decades,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “The ‘Art in the Parks: Active Open Space’ initiative perfectly complements our ‘#Not62’ initiative in that we are not only showcasing our borough’s artistic talents, letting the world know that The Bronx is also the home to some of our city’s most vibrant artists, but also finding creative ways to emphasize the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. I would like to thank the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for launching this initiative that promotes the importance of physical activity.”

    “As anyone who has quit a gym membership after three weeks can tell you, if a place isn’t fun, people won’t go,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Health Committee. “These new public artworks in parks will inspire countless New Yorkers to visit our City’s incredible parks and enjoy everything they have to offer. I’d like to thank Commissioner Bassett, Commissioner Silver, and all of the artists contributing their time and skill to this project.”

    “Art does not just stimulate our minds and souls but can lead to our residents engaging in more physical activity for a healthier community,” said Assembly Member Michael Blake. “Communities in the South Bronx, East Harlem and Central Brooklyn will now have a heightened sense of connectivity, community and creativity thanks to the Art in the Parks initiative hopefully leading to greater access to physical activity. Along with Mayor de Blasio, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the New York City Parks Department, we are #BuildingABetterBronx.”

    “The sculpture has activated a new location in Brower Park and become a source of pride, delight, and curiosity.  It sparks conversation and play. Thank you to all our partners in government and in the neighborhood who helped bring this art to the park,” said Amy Ellenbogen, Project Director for the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center.

    “This was a wonderful opportunity to feature local artists and connect neighborhoods. Public art creates destinations encouraging people to walkthrough a park rather than walk past it,” said Connie Lee, President, Marcus Garvey Park Alliance.

    “Through the Faces of Railroad Park portraits, we hope that the community will feel a sense of pride in the park and their healthy habits, and to see their stories celebrated and made visible,” said Keith Kaminski, Director of School Programs & Partnerships for the DreamYard Project.

    About the Center for Health Equity

    Founded in 2014, the Health Department’s Center for Health Equity amplifies the agency’s work to eliminate health disparities and improve health outcomes in neighborhoods with disproportionately high rates of chronic disease and premature death. The division takes a number of approaches to invest in key neighborhoods, eliminate the social barriers to good health and advance health equity throughout New York City. The Neighborhood Health Action Centers link residents with local primary care and community services. The Action Centers also provide space for community-based organizations and Health Department staff to work together to advance neighborhood health. For more information on the Center for Health Equity, visit