New Legislation Creates Greater Transparency in Parks Funding

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Quality parks are impossible without quality maintenance. With more than 5,000 properties across the city, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) cares for approximately 29,000 acres of public land. Yet up until recently, DPR was not tracking and reporting allocations of staff for individual properties. This made understanding discrepancies in the quality of parks across the city practically impossible, partly because there are so many other factors that affect the quality of a park. These include rates of usage, types of usage, terrain, capital expenditures, and the work of a volunteer group or conservancy, among others. It was also impossible to determine if parks staffing is equitably distributed across the city. We had no way of knowing if parks in low- to moderate-income areas were getting as many resources as those in more affluent neighborhoods.

Intro 154-A, legislation sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander and signed into law on November 4, addresses this issue by requiring DPR to submit an annual report to the City Council detailing work performed at each property under its jurisdiction, and to publish on its website the status of each capital park project. 

The maintenance report will include information on whether each park has permanent or mobile staff assigned, the weekly average and dollar value of work-hours performed, and total weekly average dollar value of specific maintenance services at each property. DPR will phase in reporting over the next two years: by December 1, 2016 they will provide data on the 100 largest parks in the city, and by December 1, 2017 they will include data on every park.

The status of parks capital projects will be updated at least quarterly. The information will include the starting and estimated completion date, total amount of funds allocated to the project, a description of the project, and the location.

These reports will work with another important piece of legislation, Intro. 384-A, signed into law in March of this year, which established regular, uniform reporting for parks conservancies on the amount of non-government funding they receive. By comparing the gap in funding between conservancy parks and city parks New Yorkers will have a more complete picture of what resources are necessary for quality open spaces across the city, and will know what to ask for when budget and election seasons come around.

In a press release, Council Member Lander highlighted the importance of this legislation and the contribution of parks advocates such as NY4P. “In each of our parks, for too long, it has been impossible to know what the City is spending, whether our capital program is on track, and whether every community is getting its fair share. This new law will solve that problem. Thanks to support from… strong advocates like New Yorkers for Parks for their work making sure that every NYC neighborhood has the first-rate parks our families need.”

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