How New York City can do its part to save and protect precious parkland

July 5, 2023 Adam Ganser, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks, and Julie Tighe, President of New York League of Conservation Voters
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This year, our city will spend more money on the NYPD’s overtime budget than our entire 30,000-acre park system. And the Parks Department continues to be outpaced by other city agencies. New York City’s parks should be the best in the world, but we invest in what we prioritize — this budget once again showed that the administration is not prioritizing the Mayor’s promise to provide adequate funding for critical parks maintenance and operations.

Recognizing our greenspaces are essential to the economic vitality and environmental resiliency of our city, and the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers, the City Council pushed against the administration’s proposed budget cuts, seeking 1,000 new, permanent jobs that are urgently needed to keep our parks clean, safe and accessible.

We thank the Council for its negotiations to secure 100 new positions and funding an additional 50 temporary staff, while also emphasizing that park staffing still remains lower than pre-pandemic levels. Knowing the Council’s commitment and hopeful that the ‘Get Stuff Done’ Mayor will follow through on the commitment he reiterated this year to dedicate 1% of the city budget to NYC Parks, greenspace advocates, and those seeking a more equitable and just city will continue the work to hold our leaders accountable.”

A pin oak tree in Fort Greene Park, excellent for picnicking.

FACTS & FIGURES to ponder:

Due to decades of disinvestment, NYC Parks are underfunded

  • NYC Parks manages more than 30,000 acres of parks and natural areas — one of the largest parks systems in the country;
  • Yet over the past two decades, the Parks Department has received an average of 0.57% of the city’s budget annually — short of the 1% that would be needed to properly fund NYC Parks.
    • The agency employed 11,000 full-time equivalent employees in the late 1960s, but only 8,200 in Fiscal Year 2023, of which 4,830 are full-time, permanent employees.
  • Other major cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago allocate 1.5%-4.0% of their budgets to parks

And this consistent underfunding of Parks has an outsized effect on lower-income neighborhoods

  • Parks in lower-income neighborhoods depend solely on public funding, while parks in more affluent neighborhoods benefit from private investment and conservancies; 
    • Manhattan (the borough with the most conservancies) recorded a 1% uptick in overall conditions ratings between 2019 and 2020. By comparison, the Bronx saw a 5% dip in overall cleanliness between 2019 and 2020 and was still 4% below 2019 rating averages by 2022.

Funding 1% for Parks — as Mayor Adams has continuously promised — would have an immensely positive impact on the physical and mental well-being of every New Yorker, as well as the resiliency of our beloved City

  • We’d see parks — which play a huge role in people’s physical and mental health– become increasingly accessible in a multitude of ways; from the hiring of direly-needed staff– which would lead our parks to be cleaner, safer and better-maintained– to the doubling of city-wide programming and events;
  • We’d have the necessary funds to preserve and protect our greenspaces, which help cool temperatures and alleviate the effects of extreme heat waves, absorb and filter stormwater runoff, improve air quality and generally mitigate the effects of climate change and extreme weather events.
This dawn redwood at 151 Willow St. in Brooklyn Heights is one of the “Great Trees” of New York.

Sources

1% for Parks Impact Report – NYC (New Yorkers for Parks)

NYC FY24 Executive Budget Summary (Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget)

How NYC Parks Fights Climate Change: Cleaning Our Air (New York City Department of Parks & Recreation)

 


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