New York, NY—A coterie of elected officials, community groups and advocates gathered on Monday at Ruppert Park during a press conference led by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-5), who announced nearly $9 million to renovate Ruppert Park on the Upper East Side.
The location of Ruppert Park at East 91st Street and 2nd Avenue has a storied past. It used to be home to the Jacob Brewing Company, which started in 1866. It remained in operation for nearly a century, and then in 1969 the 35 buildings between 90th and 94th Streets and 2nd and 3rd Avenues were levelled to make way for the eventual construction of apartment buildings that housed 1,500 affordable housing units.
Ruppert Park, adjacent to Ruppert Towers, was built in 1979 by the City’s Housing Preservation and Development Administration (HDP). In 1997, the agency transferred the park to NYC Parks. It’s been more than 20 years since Ruppert Park has received significant funding. In 1998, then-Council Member Gifford Miller secured $192,000 in funding for new benches, sidewalk repairs, planting areas and play equipment, so Monday’s announcement is the biggest investment in the park since it was built in 1979.
Back on May 20, 2021, during a public scoping session with NYC Parks, Kallos provided the initial discretionary funding allocation of $2.5 million. In an interview after the press conference, he noted that the rest of the funding will originate from multiple sources: $5.4 million from the City Council thanks to Council Speaker Corey Johnson, $200,000 from Councilman Keith Powers’ (D-4) office, $100,000 from Manhattan Borough President’s office and the rest of the funding from Assembly Member Dan Quart (D-73).
Nearby residents have played an instrumental role in advocating for the park, including the former president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, Nancy Ploeger, and Rita Popper, President of the Knickerbocker Plaza Tenants Association. Also, starting in 2017, the Muslim Volunteers of New York, began hosting quarterly clean-up events at the park, and thanks to modest funding from Kallos’ office, they even host concerts.
During the press conference, they joined with elected officials to express their satisfaction with the funding. First up was Kallos, who said that all his work to secure the funding and the community’s advocacy is really a labor of love.
“The only time this park ever saw real money from the city was back in 1997, when it was transferred to the city from HUD [Housing and Urban Development] and HDP, and Gifford Miller at the time secured $192,000 and that paid for some playground equipment. And after a quarter of a century and really 50 years without any love or investment—this park really needs it—and so we’re here today to announce about $9 million to completely renovate this park from scratch,” said Kallos.