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Jackson Heights councilman unveils blueprint for greater investment in city parks system

Councilman Krishnan
Jackson Heights Councilman Shekar Krishnan lays out his plan for greater investment in the city’s park system alongside Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. (Photo by Emil Cohen/City Council)

Standing beneath the iconic Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on March 14, Councilman Shekar Krishnan unveiled his “5 Point Plan” to build, upgrade and expand parks across New York City.

The new chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee called for increased investment in green spaces; the rapid expansion of public parks, playgrounds and trees across the five boroughs; as well as the transformation of the Parks capital construction process.

“During this pandemic, we’ve seen the way in which parks and green spaces are as much an issue of public health as an issue of racial justice and equity,” Krishnan said. “We need to immediately invest more in our existing parks, and create new public, green, restorative spaces for all New Yorkers.”

Councilman Krishnan
Photo by Emil Cohen/City Council

Krishnan’s plan calls on the city to invest $1 billion for New York City parks, plant 1 million trees by 2030, create a Parks Construction Authority to build more efficiently, provide waterfront access for all New Yorkers and commit to new or upgraded playgrounds in every ZIP code in five years.

“While there is much to love about our parks system, there is also plenty of room for improvement,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “The ambitious proposals laid out in this plan, from the equitable construction of playgrounds to expanded waterfront access for all, would represent tremendous investments in our families and our shared future. I look forward to working with Council member Krishnan on implementing his plan and on all efforts to deliver more and better parks and playgrounds to our families.”

The mayor’s preliminary budget, announced last month, allocated $495 million for the maintenance and operation of NYC Parks, or about 0.5% of the total budget and a $63 million cut from the prior year. Krishnan’s blueprint calls for an increase in resources dedicated toward lifesaving parks space to $1 billion, as advocated by organizations including New Yorkers for Parks, the New York League of Conservation Voters, the Trust for Public Land and District Council 37 as part of their longstanding “1% for Parks” campaign.

Councilman Krishnan
Jackson Heights Councilman Shekar Krishnan lays out his plan for greater investment in the city’s park system alongside Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. (Photo by Emil Cohen/City Council)

“When the pandemic first hit and gathering indoors was considered a danger to public health, New Yorkers flocked to parks and open spaces to experience just a bit of normalcy,” Councilwoman Sandra Ung said. “Unfortunately, keeping those parks in a state of good repair is a constant challenge because the Parks Department is woefully underfunded. We need to make an investment in our parks that reflects the important role they play in the health of our communities.”

Krishnan and his Council colleagues also called for the planting of 1 million trees to help increase the city’s tree canopy to 30% by 2035. Councilman Robert Holden, who served as president of the Juniper Park Civic Association for 25 years before seeking elected office, endorsed Krishnan’s proposal.

“Our parks are critical infrastructure that serve an important role in our neighborhoods,” Holden said. “For far too long city parks have been neglected, and are in need of repairs and maintenance. I commend Chair Krishnan on his 5 Point Plan for NYC Parks, and will work with him on achieving these ambitious goals.”

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