Preliminary Parks Budget Offers a Few Reasons to Cheer

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

For the first time since 2008, the preliminary Parks Department budget calls for a significant increase in staff: 414 new positions, the majority of which are dedicated to parks maintenance. The proposed expense budget totals more than $344 million, up from the $337.5 million adopted last year.
At last, NY4P Executive Director Holly Leicht told the City Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee last Friday, our organization’s cry that we can’t keep asking the Parks Department to do more with less – most recently expressed in those very words in our 2012 Report Card on Large Parks released last week – has been answered, at least in part.
The 414 new positions will include 252 maintenance workers, 81 Parks Enforcement Patrol Officers, 30 climbers and pruners, and 51 trades workers.
And there’s more good news in this budget: the $2 million for tree pruning that we successfully advocated to add to last year’s budget has been baselined, enabling DPR to return to a respectable 7- to 8-year pruning cycle. The total proposed amount for pruning is now $3.45 million.
For the fourth year in a row, however, there is no funding – not a single dollar – for stump removal, though stumps have become ubiquitous citywide in the wake of severe weather events like Hurricane Sandy.  As The New York Times reported last week, tens of thousands of stumps pervade the city’s sidewalks, 11,000 the result of Sandy alone. These stumps are a hazard as well as a lost opportunity to increase the urban tree canopy with new trees.  And because it is almost impossible to get stumps removed, some New Yorkers have soured on having new trees planted in front of their homes – a lose-lose prospect.
At last Friday's hearing, NY4P called on the City Council and the Administration to add $2 million to the FY14 budget for stump removal, and to baseline this amount as they have for pruning. Only by investing in the entire lifespan of a tree – from planting to maintenance to removal – will we ensure a greener city for future generations.
We also advocated for the restoration of approximately $26.5 million for 129 Seasonal Associates, 30 Playground Associates, 42 Pool Associates and 850 Job Training Participants (JTP's) - just as we have for three years running. Without funding for these positions, the Parks Department says four pools would be shuttered all summer, and all pools citywide would close two weeks early. NY4P's position is that these functions, which are core services of the Parks Department, should be baselined in DPR's budget rather than being subject to the annual budget dance between the Administration and the Council.
For the first time since 2008, the preliminary budget for the Parks Department looks promising. But NY4P will continue to push for the final FY14 budget to go even further, by restoring funding for critical summer staff and JTP positions and adding $2 million for the last step in responsible tree care: stump removal.

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