Natural Environment

The Bronx has almost 7,000 acres of parkland – 25% of the borough’s total area. However, this impressive statistic stems from a few large outliers – most notably Pelham Bay Park, the city’s largest park (three times the size of Central Park) and Van Cortland Park, the city’s third largest park, which sits at the Grand Concourse’s northern terminus. Despite the remarkable acreage of the borough’s parkland, green space in the Bronx is not evenly distributed. City Council District 16, for example, containing the South Bronx, Highbridge, Melrose, Morrisania, and West Bronx neighborhoods (and a portion of the Grand Concourse), has a mere 4% of total land area dedicated to parks – only 0.36 acres of parkland per 1,000 area residents – well below the city’s average.(1)

The Bronx’s natural environment is incredibly rich and varied, ranging from the 1.1 mile long sandy Orchard Beach to the 23-mile Bronx River, a winding, peaceful green corridor. The borough’s natural areas host a wide variety of wildlife – the Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary in Pelham Bay Park contains extensive salt marsh, providing habitat for a variety of egrets and herons and breeding and spawning ground for marine fish. There are oysters in the Bronx River Estuary, and the river itself is home to herons, ducks, tree frogs, muskrat, and “Jose”, the borough’s favorite resident beaver.


(1) New Yorkers for Parks City Council District Profiles



salt marsh

Salt marsh in Pelham Bay Park, Earth Day, 2003. Courtesy James Estrin/The New York Times.