NY4P Makes Final Budget Season Push with City Hall Rally to Restore Parks Department Funding

Friday, June 15, 2012
NY4P was joined last week by a bipartisan group of New York City Council Members and park advocates from across the city to call upon the Council and Bloomberg Administration to work together to restore $33.4 million to the Parks Department’s expense budget prior to the July 1 deadline. The rally was held on the eve of the final public testimony on the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.
$33.4 million is the base minimum to ensure that all of the city’s swimming pools can be opened and sufficient seasonal staff can be hired this summer, essential maintenance jobs are not slashed, and trees are pruned and stumps removed to keep sidewalks and streets safe.
“The Bloomberg Administration is to be commended for its unprecedented commitment to creating great new parks, but we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the budget for maintaining and operating our city’s 2,100 existing parks has been cut over 23 percent in the past five years,” NY4P Executive Director said to cheers at the event. “To care about New York City’s neighborhoods is to care about its parks. We are here today to say ‘we care,’ and the time has come to start investing in the maintenance of our city’s park system as generously as we have in its expansion.”
Leicht was flanked by Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito, Brad Lander, James Oddo, Letitia James, and backed by “friends of” park groups from all five boroughs, workers’ rights advocates, community gardeners and members of regional and waterfront planning organizations.
The following analysis, which NY4P submitted to the City Council, is a detailed breakdown of the additional funding we called for:

Seasonal staff and services:  $13.12 Million
As has become the tradition in recent years, the FY13 Executive Budget does not include funding needed for summer seasonal staff – including Job Training Participants (JTP’s) and Playground Associates – and four swimming pools (Wagner in Manhattan, Howard in Brooklyn, Fort Totten in Queens and Faber in Staten Island), and would necessitate a reduced season for all pools. Not only should $13.12 million be restored to avert these service cuts, but these functions should be baselined in DPR’s budget going forward, as they are essential services of the Parks Department.
Job Training Participant (JTP) program:  $16.25 Million
JTPs make up the bulk of Parks’ maintenance crews, yet this program may lose up to 700 positions in Fiscal Year ’13, on top of seasonal reductions.  In our comparison between the proposed FY 2013 budget and the FY 2008 adopted budget, NY4P identified a decrease of 1,435 JTP workers, a 62% cut. If the Council and Administration do not restore $16.25 million to hold the JTP program harmless, New Yorkers will increasingly see a decline in park conditions across the city.
Pruning and stump removal:  $4 Million

At the same time the City is planting a million new trees, the budget for pruning and stump removal has been slashed by 80 percent since 2008. With a budget of $1.4 million, trees are now pruned on a 15- to 20-year cycle rather than the recommended five-year cycle, and funding for stump removal, which stood at $2.3 million in FY08, has been totally eliminated. Tree maintenance is not optional; unmaintained trees create dangerous conditions, and $4 million for pruning and stump removal should be baselined in DPR’s budget.

update (July 6, 2012):

NY4P commends the Bloomberg Administration and New York City Council for securing a targeted increase of more than $38 million to the Parks Department's budget for Fiscal Year 2013. Council leadership was provided by Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Finance Committee Chair Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., and the unusual bipartisan coalition who joined us at a June 5th rally to decry proposed cuts to Parks' budget:  Parks & Recreation Committee Chair Melissa Mark-Viverito, Brad Lander, Minority Leader James S. Oddo and Letitia James.

Among the restorations:

· A $9.737 million restoration for summer seasonal services, including $1.437 million for pools, $1 million for playground associates, and $7.3 million for other seasonal needs. These restorations will ensure that all municipal pools open for the full season, and that pools and playgrounds maintain regular hours;

·  $16.783 million for the Job Training Participant program, saving 845 full-time equivalent maintenance positions; 

· $9.2 million to make up for an FY12 staff attrition target that fell short; and

· $2 million for tree pruning, helping prevent dangerous conditions that result from insufficient tree maintenance.

“While this additional funding does not solve the Parks Department’s fiscal challenges, it is a significant stop-gap measure to help ensure that New Yorkers can continue to enjoy clean, safe parks,” said Holly Leicht, Executive Director of NY4P. “New Yorkers for Parks commends the Council and Administration not only for restoring seasonal funds, but also for saving nearly 850 maintenance jobs and bolstering essential funding for tree pruning.  In recent years, there has been a disconnect between the robust capital investments being put into new and existing flagship parks and the depletion of the maintenance budget. Today’s restorations signal a positive shift to better align Parks’ capital and maintenance budgets.”

The increase in Parks Department funding between the preliminary and final FY13 budgets is greater than in recent years. According to public officials, NY4P can claim a big share of the credit, thanks to recent advocacy efforts that included the June 5th rally with Council Members and park advocates on the steps of City Hall. We also helped bring the potential dangers of insufficient tree care to light, resulting in the first increase in funding for tree pruning since 2008.


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