News

New Yorkers for Parks Statement on Community Parks Initiative

Tuesday, October 07, 2014


Ranaqua Playground, Mott Haven, Bronx

NEW YORK, NY – The following is a statement from New Yorkers for Parks Executive Director Tupper Thomas:

“With today’s significant investment in neighborhood parks, the de Blasio administration and City Council have made a strong commitment to building a better park system for all New Yorkers.

The Community Parks Initiative is smart parks policy that takes the long view. It starts with a number of well-targeted capital projects in high-need areas, and delivers a sustained investment in those areas, from maintenance funding to programming, to stewardship cultivation. The Initiative will begin the long-term task of rebuilding the city's neighborhood parks and playgrounds. It isn’t just a quick fix: the program lays the groundwork for community building in many areas of the city that need it most.

“Addressing park equity issues has long been at the heart of New Yorkers for Parks’ research and advocacy, so it is particularly gratifying to see many of the policies for which we have advocated – a Parks Department capital budget allocated more in accordance with need, and dedicated maintenance funding to accompany that capital budget – being implemented by the mayor today. The City Council, led by Speaker Mark-Viverito and Parks Chairman Levine, deserves credit, too, for securing funding through the budget process for much of the Community Parks Initiative’s maintenance component.

“There are, of course, alternate ways to fund parks, and we look forward to working with the administration and Council to explore thoughtful, productive measures to bolster public spending. But the key to addressing park equity issues has always been meaningful public-sector investment, and that’s exactly what the mayor and Council have delivered.” 


NY4P Appoints Emily Walker as Director of Outreach and Programs

Friday, September 12, 2014

We’re pleased to announce the appointment of Emily Walker as our new Director of Outreach and Programs. Emily has been with NY4P since April of 2012, and previously served as our Community Outreach and Events Coordinator. Many of you may know Emily through our annual Daffodil Project, which she has overseen since starting at NY4P. Under her leadership, the Project has reached record numbers of New Yorkers and forged many new partnerships. Prior to starting at NY4P, Emily worked for Tom Hayden in Los Angeles, where she assisted with research and helped oversee the incorporation of The Peace and Justice Resource Center, a 501(c)3 organization.

Emily is eager to expand NY4P’s outreach initiatives throughout the five boroughs. With the de Blasio administration’s new focus on park equity, NY4P will be working to grow our outreach staff and programs, and we are thrilled to have Emily continuing her work with us in this capacity.

How Can I Improve My Park? New Poster Shows Advocates the Way

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It’s a familiar complaint among even the most ardent park lovers in New York City: navigating the road toward effective park advocacy is just too confusing.

But now, through a collaboration of New Yorkers for Parks, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) and Partnerships for Parks (PfP) there is a guide aimed at lifting that fog: “How Can I Improve My Park?”

The fold-out poster, which features engaging design by Elana Schlenker and colorful illustration by Brooklyn artist Leslie Wood, is designed to help advocates cut through the often-onerous process of advocating for park improvements – from maintenance concerns like litter, broken benches or overgrown grass, to capital projects, like a new dog run or playground, increased signage or better wheelchair access.

Download the full poster here.

“Park advocates contact us all the time to ask: ‘where do I start?’” said Tupper Thomas, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. “It’s a complex process, so we wanted to create a guide that eliminates any of that confusion and makes the process much smoother for those who know their local parks best but may not know how to navigate the city’s budget process. This poster will really empower park advocates from across New York City to make a difference in their communities.”

“This issue of Making Policy Public will make it easier for people, regardless of their backgrounds, to advocate for improvements to their local parks,” said CUP Executive Director Christine Gaspar. “We developed the poster with a focus on reaching underserved communities, who often have less access to resources. As with all CUP projects, this poster breaks down a complex process into a step-by-step guide to meaningful participation.”

"Partnerships for Parks is dedicated to sharing information and opportunities so people can effectively participate in the care and planning of their neighborhood parks and green spaces," said Sabina Saragoussi, Director of Partnerships for Parks. "This publication is an important part of empowering New Yorkers to have a meaningful impact."

“How Can I Improve My Park” was produced after soliciting extensive feedback from park advocates, and those who know the ins and outs of the park advocacy process at each step: community board members, borough president and Council staffers, and Parks Department officials.

In particular, the poster addresses several of the common concerns among park advocates: whom to contact about an issue or desired project, and when. It neatly lays out a course of action – from coalition building and letter-writing, to community board presentations and meetings with public officials. It also clearly describes the difference between advocating for a capital project and a maintenance or staffing issue.

New Yorkers for Parks, CUP and PfP will distribute posters at a free Partnerships Academy Workshop launch event for advocates on July 24 at the Parks Department’s Arsenal headquarters. Speakers at the event will include NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, New York City Council Parks Committee Chair Mark Levine, NYC Parks Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh, and NY4P Executive Director Tupper Thomas. Partnerships Academy is a training program of Partnerships for Parks that supports community-based park groups and individuals to achieve success.

The project is part of CUP’s Making Policy Public initiative, which features foldout posters that use graphic design to explore and explain public policy. Making Policy Public is published four times a year. Each poster is the product of a collaboration of a designer, an advocate, and CUP.

Additionally, the poster complements PeopleMakeParks.org, an online toolkit developed by Partnerships for Parks and Hester Street Collaborative to help community members understand and participate in the NYC Parks capital process.

Support for “How Can I Improve my Park?” was provided by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Surdna Foundation, A Blade of Grass, and the North Star Fund, and public funding was provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council.

To order a free hard copy, contact Emily Walker, NY4P's Outreach & Events Coordinator, at ewalker@ny4p.org or 212-838-9410, extension 314.

A Victory for NYC Parks

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mayor de Blasio and the City Council agreed Wednesday to add $16.25 million to the Parks Department's budget: a significant victory for park advocates across the city.

The increase, to be funded by a blend of Council and mayoral money, includes:

·    $8.75 million for 200 full-time maintenance workers and gardeners
·    $5 million for 80 Parks Enforcement Patrol officers
·    $1 million for tree pruning
·    $750,000 for a neighborhood parks equity fund for "friends of" groups
·    $750,000 for the removal of approximately 2,300 stumps

As we’ve noted throughout the spring budget season, addressing park inequities begins with the public budget. This significant increase, for which the Council and de Blasio administration are to be commended, is a great start. The addition of full-time maintenance workers and gardeners will boost on-the-ground accountability, and the added PEP officers will help alleviate quality-of-life issues. And in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and other significant weather events, we’re grateful that our call for additional tree pruning and stump removal money was answered, too.

While just a start, this increase – and the momentum in the Council and among advocates that helped bring it to fruition – sets a strong precedent for future de Blasio administration budgets. It’s clear that the Council, under the leadership of Parks Committee Chairman Mark Levine, made park funding one of its priorities this year, and that is in no small part due to the efforts of park advocates. Next year, with your help, we’ll build on those efforts and aim even higher. From all of us at New Yorkers for Parks: THANK YOU!

Surveying for 2014 Report Card on Beaches to Begin in July

Friday, June 27, 2014

 

 
South Beach, Staten Island

Few Parks Department properties sustained as much damage from Hurricane Sandy as the city’s public swimming beaches and boardwalks. Now, we are conducting our first post-storm assessment of their condition using our Report Card survey tool.
 
NY4P published Report Cards on Beaches in 2007, 2009 and 2011. While the maintenance conditions dramatically improved over that time, these spaces require a fresh assessment following Sandy. Our new report will be two-fold: it will score maintenance conditions – including bathrooms, drinking fountains, pathways and shorelines – and it will assess how the Parks Department is handling beach recovery from a management perspective. We are hopeful that the report will provide the Parks Department with a helpful independent assessment of its post-Sandy beach recovery work, and look forward to sharing the findings of the report with the City Council and de Blasio administration, as well as advocates in areas with public beaches. As increasingly volatile weather becomes the norm, it’s critical that the Council and Administration work to staff and fund the Parks Department accordingly. We hope our new report will help ensure just that.

NY4P Welcomes Jon Kornfeld as Development Director

Friday, June 27, 2014

We’re excited to announce the arrival of our next Director of Development, Jon Kornfeld. Jon has extensive nonprofit fundraising experience, most recently at Yeshiva University, where he has served as Director of Stewardship and Donor Recognition, and at the Nature Conservancy, where he served as Senior Donor Relations Manager.

Jon is particularly looking forward to focusing on three areas: building relationships with individual donors, growing the NY4P board, and increasing corporate support for initiatives like the Daffodil Project, research reports, and advocacy campaigns.

We’re thrilled to welcome a fundraiser with a proven track record of success, and look forward to engaging with our constituents even more through his work.

NY4P Statement on $16.25 Million Parks Budget Increase

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Mayor and City Council agreed Thursday night to add $16.25 million to the Parks Department's budget. 

The increase includes:

  • $8.75 million for 200 full-time maintenance workers and gardeners
  • $5 million for 80 Parks Enforcement Patrol officers
  • $1 million for tree pruning
  • $750,000 for stump removal
  • $750,000 for a neighborhood parks equity fund for "friends of" groups

Statement from NY4P Executive Director Tupper Thomas:

"Addressing park inequities begins with the public budget, and this significant increase, for which the Council and de Blasio administration are to be commended, is a great start. The addition of 200 full-time maintenance workers and gardeners will boost on-the-ground accountability, and the added 80 PEP officers will help alleviate quality of life issues. The Council has delivered on its commitment to neighborhood parks."

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.

And the Winner Is...

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Congratulations to Jay Waber of Queens and the Astoria Park Alliance, whose photo of Astoria Park daffodils has been selected as the winner of our annual photo contest. Jay's photo was chosen for both artistic value and exemplifying this year's "Daffodils in the City" theme.

Runners-up:

Steve Mercer, Bronx Home for the Aged
Phil Hawkins, Friends of Brower Park
and Margarita Mladenova, also our 2013 winner

Thanks to all who submitted photos!

Addressing Equity Issues Through a Better Capital Process

Thursday, June 05, 2014


 

 

For more than a year, we have focused our research and advocacy on reforming the way the Parks Department’s capital process works; namely, by rethinking both how it is funded and how the agency manages the process – with the goal of addressing park equity issues across the city.

With Commissioner Mitchell Silver now in office and budget season heating up, more and more attention is being paid to substantive interventions, like those included in our study, that could truly benefit the park system as a whole.

At last week’s executive budget hearing before the City Council’s Finance and Parks Committees, momentum to reform the capital process continued to build. We heard questions about this issue from Parks Committee Chair Mark Levine and Council Member Brad Lander. And we heard concerns from Commissioner Silver himself, who bemoaned the sluggishness of the capital process. These issues have present for a while, and now, there are signs that they are going to be addressed.

Working with Public Works Partners, a respected urban policy consulting firm, we conducted extensive interviews with several City agencies that oversee capital projects, along with the City’s offices of Management and Budget and Contract Services, to identify best practices as well as problems and constraints that each agency faces. In nearly every facet of the capital process, we discovered that other agencies can provide valuable lessons for the Parks Department to explore.

Funding for the report was provided by Council Members Lander and Vincent Ignizio, and Staten Island Borough President (and former Council Member) James Oddo.

Read the full report here and a story on the report from Capital New York here and The New York Times here.

Creating a better capital process can ultimately play a huge role in addressing park equity issues across the city, and our report offers a number of straightforward steps that the Parks Department can take to ensure a capital process that is timelier, more cost-effective, and transparent.

Perhaps the most significant change must come from City Hall: the Parks Department should have a well-funded, flexible capital budget that it can use to prioritize parks and neighborhoods with the greatest needs.  Because many capital projects rely on funding from Council members and borough presidents – whose priorities are not always aligned with citywide needs – the system simply isn’t designed to reach the areas that need the most help. For an administration so rightfully focused on park equity, here is a perfect example of reform that could make a sweeping difference.

Fortunately, the FY15 executive budget takes a great first step, by allocating $80 million in discretionary capital funding for “neighborhood parks.” Now, we’re hopeful that the final budget, to be released at the end of June, will include an additional $4 million for the Parks Department so it can hire 55 more full-time capital division workers to help get those new projects up and running.

Second, there are several internal steps Parks can take to make the capital process better. A few examples detailed in the report: a faster and more clearly defined design process; a better system for selecting and working with vendors; more collaboration with other City agencies; and through all these changes, ways of fostering a greater sense of accountability within the capital division at Parks. Each of these suggestions is expanded upon in the report.

What’s next? The good news is that this report won’t just go in a drawer somewhere. Commissioner Silver has already begun taking a hard look at reforming the capital division, and the department is using our report as one of the starting points for the assessment.

In the end, this study comes back to that now very familiar phrase: park equity. After all, when we began our work on this topic, our goal was to make the Parks Department really work better for all New Yorkers – and that means more projects in higher-need areas that are addressed in a timelier fashion. That’s a Parks Department benchmark that City Hall and the Council can get behind. This report can help take them there.