By Bob Harris
I ate some fruit with Audrey Lucas, an old friend who is a vice president of the Queens Civic Congress via the Baisley Park Coalition and the Open Space Coalition. I also talked to Wajeedah Anderson-Beyah, who is active in the farmers' market at PS. 42 in Far Rockaway. She is pushing for more parks, gardens and recreation facilities. The event was sponsored by New Yorkers For Parks coordinated by their community affairs manager, Annamaria Jones, who can be reached at (212) 838-9410. The stated purpose of the gathering was “making New York City streets, fields and gardens green; keeping bathrooms, drinking fountains and sprinklers working; ensuring that playgrounds are clean, safe and fun for every child.”The leaders of the 2005 Parks Advocacy Day issued a briefing which explained that in the past 20 years, in both good and bad economic times, the budget for the Department of Parks & Recreation has been cut by 26 percent, resulting in a 62 percent decline in staffing. In his preliminary budget for fiscal year 2006 the mayor has proposed eliminating the street-tree pruning, except for emergencies; not hiring about 100 spring and summer playground associates; and eliminating 12 seasonal parks positions this summer. Those of us who use Cunningham Park and walk the streets, where our street trees grow, are unhappy.The New Yorkers For Parks believes that more is needed so they propose an additional $20 million for parks, which would go for more full-time gardeners, pruners, recreation specialists, park workers, Parks enforcement police officers, street tree pruners and seasonal playground associates. We want the mayor and City Council members to listen to us. New Yorkers for Parks is urging the passage of Intro. 470 by the City Council. This bill would mandate that the police regularly report on crime in our parks to the City Council. The good news is that 43 Council members have co-sponsored Intro. 470, including Councilman David Weprin and Councilman Jim Gennaro. It has to be passed!Another bill we want passed is Intro. 327. This bill says that the money paid to the city by concession stands in our city parks should be given to the parks. Currertly concession money, including the tennis concession fee in Cunningham park, goes to the general fund of the city.Advocates want the mayor and the City Council to put this money into a dedicated fund which will help maintain the 28,800 acres of city parkland. Currently 33 Council members have co-sponsored Intro. 327, including Councilmen Weprin and Gennaro. With dedicated money we can keep our parks in good shape. We also need to have this bill passed.I and Tammy Asherov, Community Awareness chairman, Meadowlark Gardens Owners' Association, Fresh Meadows, met with George M. Fontas, director of communications for Councilman Weprin and Rebecca Shaffer, director of press and legislative affairs for Councilman Weprin. We talked of our concerns about the renovation of Cunningham Park, which need works to correct the wear and tear due to the heavy use of the park by so many people over the years and our concern for preserving the old Klein Farm as a working farm affiliated with the Queens Farm on Little Neck Parkway. They seemed receptive to out requests. Other people at the meeting with us were Tom Fox, a park advocate and the former president of the Alley Pond Striders.During the discussions I learned that there is a direct relationship between parks and the adjacent neighborhoods. Parks mean less pollution due to the green things growing, there is stress reduction by those who use parks so their general health improves, exercise such as just walking is good for the cardiovascular system and the value of nearby housing property increases. In addition, my 3-year-old grandson Sam loves the various playgrounds in Fresh Meadows. All these are good reasons to spend money on our parks. Why do they have to make it so hard on us?GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEKWith the fiscal 2006 budget getting close many people went by bus to Albany to prevent proposed budget cuts to libraries as part of the recent Library Day in Albany. I did not go but received the quarterly publication of the Queens Library called Library Matters. The front page had a photo by old and young people in Albany. Why do they make us do this every year? The people met with the 25 state legislators from Queens.Every year they propose city and state cuts to our libraries, then they put all or most or some of the money back. They did cut $10 million last year and are proposing to put back $2 million this year. Any intelligent person knows that libraries, schools and parks are important to the economic, physical and intellectual health of our city. Why do they play with us when it comes to financing?