New York City Urban Field Station

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Featured Publication

[image:] cover image of GTR-NRS-156Stewardship mapping and assessment project: a framework for understanding community-based environmental stewardship - This report is intended to be a guide for those who wish to start STEW-MAP in their own city. Published January 2016.

Current Topics

Cover image of Current Topics Issue 3STEW-MAP: Amplifying the Power of Urban Environmental Stewardship Groups

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More on STEW-MAP

Visit OASIS to view stewardship turf alongside open space, demographic, transportation, and built environment layers on a public map.

Or you can use the searchable database to search for stewardship groups by name, type, or geography.

Download the one-page STEW-MAP project summary (pdf - you may download a free pdf reader from Adobe)

Check out the STEW-MAP multi-city portal


Environmental Governance and Civic Engagement

STEW-MAP: The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project

Who, what, where, why and how are urban environmental stewardship groups working in New York City? 

STEW-MAP is a map and searchable database of organizations designed to help understand and strengthen our civic capacity to take care of our neighborhoods. It is based on the idea that civic groups and social networks are a crucial part of the lifeblood of the city.  They are the stewards of our community resources and the local environment.


STEW-MAP is both a study of the New York Area’s stewardship network and a publicly available online tool to help support that network.  This tool highlights existing stewardship gaps and overlaps in order to strengthen organizational capacities, promote broader civic engagement with on-the-ground environmental projects, and build effective partnerships among stakeholders involved in urban sustainability and resilience.


Who is included in the STEW-MAP network?

All those who conserve, manage, monitor, advocate for and educate the public about their local environments – that includes water, land, air, waste, toxics, food and energy issues.

[image:] Map of Stewardship Organization locations in New York City area.How was STEW-MAP developed?

In 2007, we launched STEW-MAP by convening dozens of stakeholders to provide information for the first citywide database of nearly 3,000 civic groups engaging in environmental projects. This resulted in a publicly accessible online map and database of more than 500 groups.

STEW-MAP supported government and civic groups alike to effectively coordinate and collaborate, to identify opportunities to better engage New Yorkers, and to enhance the capacity of the stewards of our communities. This tool can support civic participation, increase neighborhoods’ social cohesion, and support requests for funding and programming. Ten years later, our understanding of the way stewardship supports social resilience and of the importance of cross-sector governance approaches has deepened.  We are eager to engage with many more sectors and growing networks involved in stewardship, caring for our natural resources and strengthening our neighborhoods.


Why is STEW-MAP important?

Research findings have begun to illuminate the transformative power of natural resources stewardship as an activity that naturally cultivates and strengthens civic engagement.  This relationship has powerful implications for individual and community health and well-being, as well as for the health and well-being of our democracy.

  • Stewardship is a form of empowerment.  Stewardship is a means by which individuals and communities contribute to the beauty and health of their environment.  Stewardship can bestow a sense of purpose, and provides an outlet for the natural human instinct to help, nurture, care, and love – both for the natural environment and for the people around us.
  • Stewardship serves as an outward cue of care and concern, and can catalyze change and investment by internal and external forces in a community.
  • Especially in communities that have experienced hardship, economic divestment, or natural disasters, stewardship can be a way that residents discover or re-discover their ability to have an impact and purpose, by connecting, beautifying, and restoring the landscape. The benefits of stewardship in these areas extend beyond those who directly engage: many in the community experience a sense of pride and ownership, even if they were not involved in the initial planning or execution.  And neighborhood-level efforts can catalyze city-wide changes.
  • Stewardship plays a key role in helping communities recover from natural disturbances and human-caused disasters. While stewardship activities help neighborhoods and infrastructure recover physically, the act of coming together, working side-by-side, and creating change and beauty helps individuals and communities recover emotionally, psychologically, and/or spiritually; it often helps communities become stronger than they were before the trauma.
  • We also find that the benefits of engaging in stewardship activities extend into the future.  Just as time spent together can build and strengthen a friendship, communities can be built and strengthened in much the same way.  This creates both individuals and communities that are more resilient to disasters and more civically active.

STEW-MAP is being replicated in multiple cities (ChicagoBaltimore, and Seattle) in support of urban sustainability efforts across the country.

Waterfront Stewards

STEW-MAP was replicated for waterfront-focused stewardship groups in the New York Harbor area, in collaboration with the Hudson River Foundation/Harbor Estuary Project (HRF/HEP). This stewardship assessment identified waterfront areas with higher and lower concentrations of stewardship activity, which was then analyzed alongside data on access and community needs. This work has enabled HRF/HEP to prioritizing grant funding towards increasing public waterfront access and stewardship. Current work by NYC Urban Station Fellow Johan Enqvist will build upon this work to examine engagement by waterfront stewards in relation to place meaning.

More information >>


  • A publicly available, online stewardship map of civic organizations working on environmental stewardship in New York City that can be updated over time
  • A network analysis of the connections among stewards from civil society, business and government
  • Customized downloads and analyses of STEW-MAP data to support local agencies in natural resource management efforts