One of New York City’s largest volunteer projects has been working for over a decade to make the city brighter one daffodil bulb at a time. Since 2001 New Yorkers for Parks (NY4P) has been planting daffodils every fall and watching them grow in the spring. As of 2017 the project has distributed more than a half a million bulbs citywide and partnered with the NYC Housing Authority and city schools to engage more than 100,000 students and volunteers.
The project began in the aftermath of 9/11 when a Dutch bulb supplier donated one million daffodil bulbs from the City of Rotterdam to the City of New York and New Yorkers for Parks. The idea to plant the bulbs as a memorial to those who were impacted by the 9/11 attacks, resonated widely with other city partners and NY4P has been planting daffodil bulbs annually since the program’s inception.
Mayor Bloomberg recognized the project's success, visibility and impact, by naming the daffodil as the city’s official flower in 2007 and since then the project has further blossomed. Though the project is a living memorial, it also a way to strengthen community ties and inspire change: In reflecting on the Daffodil Project and it’s impact in her neighborhood, Pamela Pettyjohn, President of the Coney Island Beautification Project stated that the flowers have “became a symbol of hope and survival to the Coney Island people. (The daffodils) brought a whole community together.”
The program is an inspiration for how community led volunteer initiatives and inter-city partnerships can transform a city’s visual and emotional landscape. What began as an email exchange between two strangers across the globe during a time of mourning, brought a process of healing and community building to a city in the wake of unprecedented loss.