Commissioner Silver Makes First Council Appearance

Thursday, June 05, 2014

In his 16th day on the job, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver made his first appearance before the City Council last week at an executive budget hearing at City Hall.

Though the most pressing budget matter at hand – the Council’s request for a $27 million increase to Parks’  budget for additional full-time maintenance and Parks Enforcement Patrol Officer (PEP) positions – is still being negotiated, Silver did provide some news.

The Parks Department, he said, is undertaking a comprehensive assessment of its capital construction process, which Silver said “currently takes too long.”

“It's a broken system that doesn't achieve either input or efficiency,” Council Member Brad Lander added.

We agree. And so we were pleased to hear that the Parks Department is working on creating a publicly accessible online database that would allow the public to track the progress of ongoing projects.

It’s just a first step toward a better capital process, but it’s a good one: it will make the process more transparent and increase incentive for the Parks Department to finish jobs more quickly.

Though Silver didn’t offer any details on how the de Blasio administration aims to address inequities across the park system, he noted the administration’s commitment to working on a solution.

“Parks equity is important to Mayor de Blasio, and it is important to me,” he said. “We will work to address these concerns, ensuring that there is equitable distribution of resources throughout our park system.”

"We don’t know the how at this point," he added after the hearing when asked by reporters about addressing equity issues. “Park equity is the goal, and there are many ways to go in that direction.”

One direction we hope City Hall will go: adding that $27 million to the Parks budget. Parks Committee Chair Mark Levine continues to lead the way in negotiations, and many in the Council are backing his request. Discussions will continue over the next several weeks, so it’s not too late to contact your Council Member and City Hall and tell them how much of a difference an additional 50 maintenance workers and 25 gardeners – all full-time – would make for neighborhood parks in need, along with 150 more PEP officers. And, we hope the City will add an additional $4 million to fund 55 new capital division staffers, enabling Parks to start work on capital projects funded by the new $80 million allocated for neighborhood parks.

Budget season is coming down the home stretch, and we hope you’ll join us in urging the Council, and City Hall, to make it clear, through a better public budget, just how important parks are for neighborhood life in every corner of the city.

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