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Latest Mayor's Management Report Shows Progress in Maintenance and Tree Care

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Mayor’s Management Report (MMR), an annual report card of City government performance, tracks key metrics for each City agency, and as usual, NY4P took a hard look at the Parks Department (DPR) section upon the recent release of the Fiscal Year 2013 MMR, which you can download here.  The good news is there is nothing as dramatic as the plunge in recreation center memberships that took place last year after the City increased fees for adults and seniors.  Here’s a closer look at the major indicators in this year’s report on the Parks Department:

Overall Maintenance

While DPR’s Park Inspection Program (PIP) average scores improved in small parks and playgrounds from 79 to 83 and in large parks from 69 to 74, both categories still fall short of the PIP target of 85. Clearly, large parks continue to pose a significant maintenance hurdle. As we found in our most recent Report Card on Large Parks, the average performance of parks improved, but DPR is forced to distribute too few resources over too many spaces.

Tree Care

In a challenging year for tree care, the Parks Department made positive strides in pruning, thanks to a $2 million increase in its pruning budget, and emergency funding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. DPR pruned nearly 47,000 trees, compared to just 29,000 last year. Though still less than the nearly 80,000 pruned in FY 2009, it gets the department back on track for keeping to the ideal 7- to 8-year pruning cycle. One statistic to work on: a nearly two-week average response time for emergency tree-limb repairs, further illustrating the salience of one of the 10 goals in NY4P’s Parks Platform 2013:  DPR should be viewed as an essential service agency, subject to more modest staff cuts than non-essential service agencies.

Crime

Crime is only tracked in 30 large parks – not nearly enough to draw meaningful conclusions about park crime citywide. Nevertheless, it’s troubling to see that major felony crimes increased by 23 percent in FY13. It is worth noting that 55 percent of all property crimes took place in only two parks, Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Randall's Island, both of which have large parking lots for events, and that more than half of all crimes against persons occurred in three parks: Prospect, Crotona and Riverside.  We’d like to see DPR to work with the NYPD to dig into this data to understand why these specific parks saw a spike in these specific crimes, and to develop targeted prevention strategies where appropriate.

Recreation Center Memberships

Last year’s MMR revealed a 45.5 percent decrease in recreation center memberships among adults and seniors between 2011 and 2012 – a drop that followed a decision by the Parks Department to double membership fees for adults, and more than double fees for seniors in response to a mandated citywide budget reduction. (Memberships for kids under 18 remain free and saw no change in number.) The strategy backfired, resulting in a revenue loss of $200,000, instead of the projected $4 million gain. Membership stayed low through the first four months of FY 2013, falling below a million visitors for the first time since 2008. In January, we were pleased to hear Parks Commissioner Veronica White announce a new reduced $25 dollar annual membership for 18- to 24-year-olds – a group that declined by 55 percent over the past two years – along with an outreach campaign to seniors, many of whom were unaware they were grandfathered at the former rates. Last year’s MMR broke down membership statistics into each category – youths, adults and seniors – but this year’s only provides total memberships, making an annual comparison more difficult. The report’s narrative does note a 28 percent increase in youth memberships and a more than 8 percent increase in adult memberships, but a full breakdown by membership category would help assess whether DPR’s renewed efforts to increase membership levels are successful. The new young adult category took effect in July 2013, and we look forward to assessing its impact in the next MMR.



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