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View of the Long Island Sound as seen from Pelham Bay Park.

This year, New York City was recognized as one of American Forests’ 10 Best Cities for Urban Forests. To those in disbelief, the urban jungle flaunts green space galore with all its grit and bricks. More impressively, the Bronx not only has among the greatest number of parks in all the five boroughs, but it is also home to some of the largest parklands within the city.

All in all, our glorious city is dotted with over 1,700 parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities. The Bronx, which is the second smallest borough in size and the second most densely populated, claims a large share of these parks in both numbers and acreage. 

5. Pelham Bay Park

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The Bronx Victory Memorial Column at the Victory Memorial Grove in Pelham Bay Park.

Among the plains of the Bronx, one can find New York City’s largest recreational woodland: Pelham Bay Park. Nestled in the East Bronx and bordered by the neighborhood of the same name, Pelham Bay Park is more than three times the size of Manhattan’s Central Park. Pelham Bay contains multiple attractions from the Bartow-Pell Mansion, to its own riviera containing Orchard Beach. Even more, Pelham Bay Park pampers its visitors with miles of bridle paths and hiking trails, two golf courses and a 13-mile shoreline encircling the Long Island Sound. It gets no better than this for nature lovers in New York City.

The Bartow Pell Mansion

4. Van Cortlandt Park 

bronx-parks-van cortlandt park-pelham bay park-bronx park-new york-untapped cities-brennan ortizThe Van Cortlandt Park Lake.

Securing its ground at third place as New York City’s largest park is Van Cortlandt Park. This green oasis holds plenty of splendors for just about anyone. Located between the neighborhoods of Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Woodlawn and the city of Yonkers in Westchester County, Van Cortlandt serves the majority of northwest Bronx residents with its expanses. Van Cortlandt boasts a number of trails, and features the Van Cortlandt House Museum. The park is also the site of the nation’s first municipal golf course and even contains one of a small number of equestrian centers in the city: the Riverdale Equestrian Centre. With so many options at hand, Van Cortlandt Park is an ideal choice in satiating any cravings for recreational activities in the city and it will only get better with the recently announced master plan for renovating the park.

3. Bronx Park

bronx-parks-van cortlandt park-pelham bay park-bronx park-new york city-untapped cities-cities-brennan ortizThe Enid A. Haupt Conservatory in The New York Botanical Garden.

Last but definitely not least, is the popular Bronx Park. Bronx Park is New York City’s seventh largest park. Centered almost in the exact middle of the borough, Bronx Park is widely known as the home of two of the most beloved institutions in not just the Bronx, but the city in general. These are The New York Botanical Garden and The Bronx Zoo. Both are among the largest organizations of their kind in any municipality. The former is currently hosting the annual Holiday Train Show, featuring the architectural gems of the city.

2. Woodlawn Cemetery

Woodlawn Cemetery is nearly half the size of Central Park, and has the population of a small city – of dead people. Located at the northern terminus of the #4 line, it offers miles of twisting, tree lined paths that wind over hills and through meadows, passing architecture by the likes of McKim Mead & White, Cass Gilbert and Carrère and Hastings. These architectural monuments are the centerpieces of the landscape. One of the most magnificent in the cemetery is the Belmont Mausoleum, the final resting place of Alva Erskine and Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont.

1. Wave Hill

Wave Hill House, the scenic villa perched up in Riverdale, was built in 1843 by William Lewis Morris, grandnephew of Lewis Morris, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Amazingly enough, the panoramas of the Hudson River that the Morris family enjoyed in the 1800s are still undisturbed today. Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and Arturo Toscanini all resided at Wave Hill. Today the villa serves as a cultural center with art exhibitions, garden parties and other special events.

Let’s not forget that these are just the grandest of the borough’s parks. The Bronx has a plethora of green spaces spread throughout. Although many of these parks have been receiving better attention from the New York Parks and Recreation department due in part to necessary renovation, there are still plenty of them in need of work.

Programs like the Bronx Parks for the 21st Century project will help address these issues with more than $200 million promised for the improvement of over seventy-five Bronx parks during the next five years.

Despite the number and size of these parks, we must also work to continue greening the borough. The Bronx is still home to some of the more industrial areas in the city. Hunt’s Point and Port Morris for example, can greatly benefit from more trees, community gardens and urban redesigns, given the lack of tapestry throughout their residential blocks.

With the right direction and work, we can start paving the way for an even greener and completely tree-lined borough. For volunteering opportunities and more information in contributing to the Bronx’s green future please continue to Sustainable South Bronx.

Get in touch with the author @Bronxiite