The Rev. Linnette C. Williamson Memorial Park Association, Inc.
The Rev. Linnette C. Williamson Memorial Park Assoc, Inc., a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization, was inspired by the great strength and spirit of the late Rev. Williamson. Her legacy of hope and inspiration as an African-American woman guides our mission to improve the quality of life for children and families in Central Harlem.
Since our founding in 1994, in partnership with the federal VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) program known as the domestic "Peace Corps," we have recognized the profound effect on children from the quality of the neighborhood, school and home environments. It is these three environments that have the greatest impact in shaping the character and behavior of young people, and in determining how and what they learn. This is why, as our first accomplishments, we chose to improve the inner-city landscape of our Central Harlem community through the renovation and creation of four community parks, and by the establishment of our Art and the Gardens summer youth enrichment program now operated with The Bank Street College of Education.
Land Trust - Creation and Maintenance of Community Parks: As one of a handful of inner-city land trusts in New York City and the United States, The Park Association's work has been praised in a recent book as "one of the first steps the neighborhood took to revive the blocks (of West 128th and 129th Streets in Central Harlem)," Garden Guide: New York City, Nancy Berner & Susan Lowry (The Little Bookroom: 2002).
These first steps began in 1994 with the renovation of an historic vest-pocket park at 65 West 128th Street (circa 1965), and the creation of two new community parks, both now on City parkland, at 52 West 129th Street and 53-55 West 128th Street. Our parks provide a safe haven of peace and serenity from the city streets for children, senior citizens and other residents. All three properties are now designated as permanent open space. All of our parks are so nearly contiguous that New York State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro described them as a "trailway of Harlem parks." In 1998, we purchased a 2,700 sq.ft. vacant lot at 54 West 129th Street and created a new urban meadow park and "open space" playground for children called the "Harlem Village Green."
Art and the Gardens Summer Youth Enrichment Program: Inner-city children are most at risk of jeopardizing their future during the summer months. This is when an abundance of time and opportunities for mischief create temptations for harmful behaviors all too common in ghetto neighborhoods. Art and the Gardens rescues children from the dangers of the streets by using supervised activities to stimulate thought, learning and imagination, improve basic literacy skills, and build self-esteem. Our educational enrichment program, now in its 8th year, is operated in partnership with The Bank Street College of Education.
Neighborhood Agricultural/Horticultural Program: It is common for African-Americans to be transplanted Southerners: many speak with pride of their agricultural roots from such States as Alabama and Virginia; or reminisce about farming in the West Indies, and see growing vegetables and flowers as part of their cultural heritage and not merely a pastime activity. Our parks, three with raised beds, offer gardening opportunities to residents and help meet an ever-growing demand for planting space.