Friends of Chelsea Green’s Grant Guarantees Music in the Air at W. 20th St. Park

On July 25, 2019, Chelsea Green Park opened with a festive ribbon-cutting by members of The Friends of Chelsea Green, CB4, the Parks Dept., and elected officials. | File photo by Kristen Ancillotti
Chelsea Green Park, as seen from above. | File photo by Michael Moran

BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Whether business, education, or recreation in nature, new arrivals to a neighborhood will come to find that the likelihood of sustained success accelerates by leaps and bounds if you’ve got some steadfast friends in your corner—or on your block (or around the corner, as the case may be).

That’s certainly been the case for Chelsea Green Park (142 W. 20th St. btw. 6th & 7th Aves.). The micro but mighty, multi-sectioned recreation and relaxation destination built on a former NYC Dept. of Sanitation site came together over a nearly decade-long period thanks to the coordinated efforts of local electeds, NYC Departments, and, most importantly, residents eager to address the area’s lack of public greenspace.

Before its opening day of July 25, 2019, Chelsea ranked last, citywide, in open space and parks within a half-mile of residents. It was the first new park built in Chelsea in 40 years. But that’s not the only entry in the history books claimed by Chelsea Green Park: “We were part of the first participatory budgeting (PB) event held in District 3, and we won by a landslide,” recalled Sally Greenspan, who got Chelsea Green on the ballot. As a winning item, the park received $200,000 from $1 million in discretionary funds set aside by Corey Johnson, District 3’s NYC Council Member at the time. Johnson also saw to it that the park was fully funded, with the City ultimately putting in $5.8 million.

From 2019: Community members gathered at Chelsea Green to greet the start of District 3’s latest Participatory Budgeting process. | File photo by Mark Nimar

It was constructed by the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (Parks). Although Parks ensures its upkeep, Chelsea Green is watched over (“doted on” might be the more apt phrase) by Friends of Chelsea Green (Friends). Founded in part by those who’d been involved since the park’s design phase, the all-volunteer group’s regular programming and special event ambitions have only been limited by the means with which to achieve them. Some of those ambitions were able to come to fruition recently, when Friends of Chelsea Green became one of 21 worthy initiatives to receive a Spring 2023 grant from the West Side Community Fund (WSCF).

Founded in 2018, WSCF rebooted last year after some pandemic-era downtime. Since then, it’s conducted two rounds of grant programs, with each of them funded at $100,000 via corporate donors including Amazon, Cooley, Google, Jamestown, KKR, Pfizer, Related, RXR, Tapestry Foundation, and Third Point.

As grant recipients, the Friends find themselves in good company. Notes WSCF promotional material, winning initiatives (all of them based in Chelsea, Hudson Yards, and Hell’s Kitchen) all have “critical services” to offer and “range from food pantry expansions to entrepreneurship programming in NYCHA complexes, and from art workshops for children living in shelters to support for newly arrived migrants.” For more info, including when/how to apply for the next grant cycle, click here to visit the WSCF website.

From left, Friends of Chelsea Green’s Heather Kuh (board member), Eneliana Gjini (board member), Tamara McCarthy (volunteer), Anita Kohli (board member), Sandy Chin (board member), and Dianna Maeruer (volunteer). Missing are Michael Walsh (board member) and Joanna Weiss (board member). | Photo courtesy of the Friends

So what does all of this mean, in terms of what will be seen, on the ground? We asked Friends of Chelsea Green leadership just that:

Scott Stiffler, for Chelsea Community News (CCNews): What is the WSCF grant money being used for?

Michael Walsh, current president of Friends of Chelsea Green (Walsh): We put together a free, all-ages summer music series in Chelsea Green Park. We hope to schedule a concert every month through September and possibly October. [Editor’s Note: Click here for info on the Friends-presented jazz concert scheduled for Sunday, August 13, at 6pm in Chelsea Green Park.]

No nightmares here, just good memories of the Friends’ 2022 “Haunted Circus”-themed Halloween event. | Image courtesy of the Friends

CCNews: What plans are there for fall events/activities in the park?

Walsh: Halloween is scheduled for Sunday, October 22. There are some other possibilities for the fall as well. We hope the NYPL will be back with story time and our 20th Street neighbor, Kids at Work, might do some music for little ones in the park.

CCNews: The Parks Department was an important partner as the project was planned and acted upon. What role does Parks play these days? 

Walsh: We work with the NYC Parks Dept on every project we do. We rely on them for our activity permits. Chelsea Green Park is a city park, and our role is to promote and support this gem of city space. We also communicate with our local elected officials on a regular basis. Council Member Bottcher has led our Halloween Parade in the past, and NY State Senator Krueger is going to host a constituent services day this fall. So these conversations are ongoing, and we always look forward to seeing them at our events.

The view from the sidewalk on Chelsea Green Park’s opening day drives home how the popular park got its middle name. | File photo by Kristen Ancillotti

CCNews: “They work to create community in the park,” reads the WSCF press material. How have you observed the building of community?

Walsh: We hear positive feedback after our events, and we know that people in the community really appreciate the park. We continue to try and expand our reach to more park users, especially our senior audience.

CCNews: What does the vote of confidence, and financial support, from WSCF mean to the Friends?

Walsh: This grant has helped us to plan for these summer music shows. July’s Pilobolus Dance show came together easily because we knew we had funds to support the artists. We have always thought we were doing important work for the community, but it is nice that others think so as well.

CCNews: How can people find out about programming and events, i.e., how do they sign up for your email alert?

Walsh: Email us at and we can add you to our list. Follow us on Instagram: @chelseagreennyc.

Rain delayed, but did not cancel, a July 2023 performance in Chelsea Green Park that was made possible by Friends of Chelsea Green’s WSCF grant. | Poster courtesy of the Friends.
CCNews file photo of a “Making Music Sing-Along on the Green” event. A West Side Community Fund grant ensures Friends of Chelsea Green will be able to bring more music to Chelsea Green Park.
Sally Greenspan’s bird’s eye view of Chelsea Green’s 2022 Halloween event.
File photo by Pamela Wolff
Spring Fling event organizers and friends. | File photo courtesy of Friends of Chelsea Green
Seen at the July 2019 opening, Board members from The Friends of Chelsea Green, L to R: Matt Weiss, Sally Greenspan, Michael Walsh, Dan O’Sullivan. | File photo by Kristen Ancillotti
A young park visitor jams out to the music of The Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps. | File photo by Kristen Ancillotti
The pocket park is nestled among buildings on W. 20th St. (btw. 6th & 7th Aves.), providing shade for the park and a lovely view for the neighbors. | File photo by Kristen Ancillotti


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