Queens lawmaker launches digital rally calling on city to increase funding for NYC Parks

Councilman Peter Koo (Carlotta Mohamed/QNS)

Members of the Play Fair Coalition, a multi-year campaign to improve the quality of New York City parks, held a digital rally on Twitter Friday to launch the 2020 Play Fair Campaign with videos of coalition members calling on the city to increase the NYC Parks budget by $200 million. 

Councilman and Parks and Recreation Committee Chair, Peter Koo, was joined by New Yorkers for Parks, the New York League of Conservation Voters, District Council 37, and other members of the Play Fair Coalition. 

“Despite being one of the most widely enjoyed amenities in the city, our parks are routinely overlooked and underfunded in the budget. That began to change last year when we worked with the City Council and the administration to secure a historic investment in NYC’s parks. But that was just the beginning,” said City Councilman Peter Koo, chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation. “Much of that investment is already set to expire, sending us right back to square one. The Play Fair 4 Parks Campaign seeks to baseline just over one half a percent of the total city budget funding so that we can finally give our city’s parks the resources they deserve.”

Last year, the Play Fair Coalition secured an historic $44 million increase in the expense budget of NYC Parks, the largest funding increase in nearly three decades. This year, they’re calling on the city to invest in the long-term maintenance and safety of New York City open spaces, with increased staffing, expanded youth programming, protection of natural areas, investments in infrastructure, and more. 

“With our population continuing to grow, and our city becoming more and more dense, now is the time to invest in both the infrastructure of our parks, and in people who keep them clean, safe and beautiful,” said Paul R. Gottsegen, co-chair and acting executive director of New Yorkers for Parks. 

Throughout the digital rally, the Play Fair Coalition outlined a vision for how an increase of $100 million in the Fiscal Year 2021 expense budget and $100 million in the Fiscal Year 2021 Four-Year Capital Plan would create quality parks, a healthy environment and green jobs, while transforming neighborhoods across every corner of the city. 

The coalition detailed how the $200 million would improve and maintain open spaces across the city:

$100M to invest in the expense budget for NYC Parks:  

  • $74M to invest in critical maintenance and operations, including $10M to baseline the new 100 city park workers and 50 gardener positions added in the FY20 budget 
  • $8.15M to invest in recreation and programming
  • $9M to invest in parks safety
  •  $7.92M to invest in nature and resiliency

$100M in capital investments for NYC Parks:

  • $52M to rebuild 10 neighborhood parks and playgrounds throughout the City
  • $4.8M to invest in vitally needed structural improvements for GreenThumb Community Gardens citywide 
  • $3.8M to continue critical investments in proactively protecting, conserving, and maintaining our natural forests
  • $39.4M in flexible capital funding for NYC Parks to help complete capital projects and improve parks infrastructure citywide

Park land makes up 14 percent of all city land, but even with last year’s historic increase NYC Parks received only approximately 0.6 percent of the city’s budget. The last time NYC Parks received at least 1 percent of the city’s budget was in the 1970s. This lack of funding prohibits the Parks Department from being able to maintain parks and ensure their long-term health.

 The Play Fair Coalition notes that parks and gardens are a vital part of life in New York and are essential to healthy communities – they serve as backyards, front yards, summer vacation destinations, gyms, respites and a vital place for New Yorkers of all ages to connect with nature in the densest city in the nation.

Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said protecting parks is one of NYLCV’s top priorities because parks and other green spaces are one of the city’s most valuable environmental assets. 

“Our city’s tree canopy helps mitigate climate change by storing more than a million tons of carbon each year and mitigate urban heat island,” Tighe said. “Our city’s parks provide clean air by filtering out pollutants, and help protect our waterways by capturing almost 2 billion gallons of stormwater each year. To fight climate change and support healthy neighborhoods, we need to Play Fair for Parks!”

Heather Lubov, executive director of City Parks Foundation, said, “Everything we do at City Parks Foundation — from SummerStage concerts and free sports programs to environmental education for middle schoolers and community volunteerism through Partnerships for Parks — depends on our city’s parks having adequate resources for good maintenance and operations. Parks are in every neighborhood and are our most fundamentally democratic public spaces, yet receive less than 1 percent of the city’s budget. It’s time to play fair for parks.”