Great parks make a great city.
NY4P's Parks Platform 2013 is a set of policy recommendations for the de Blasio Administration. The Platform is based not only on NY4P research and analysis, but also incorporates feedback from more than 100 park advocates from every borough at our April Town Hall Forum.
The Parks Platform 2013 white paper is available here.
Please join our parks advocacy campaign by clicking here to endorse the Platform.
Our thanks to the following elected officials, community boards and organizations for their endorsement (list in formation):
New York City Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo (District 17, Bronx)
New York City Council Member Gale A. Brewer (District 6, Manhattan)
New York City Council Member Margaret Chin (District 1, Manhattan)
New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm (District 25, Queens)
New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras (District 21, Queens)
New York City Council Member Helen Foster (District 16, Bronx)
New York City Council Member Daniel R. Garodnick (District 4, Manhattan)
New York City Council Member Vincent J. Gentile (District 43, Brooklyn)
New York City Council Member G. Oliver Koppell (District 11, Bronx)
New York City Council Member Brad Lander (District 39, Brooklyn)
New York City Council Member Jessica S. Lappin (District 5, Manhattan)
New York City Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito (District 8, Bronx & Manhattan)
New York City Council Member Rosie Mendez (District 2, Manhattan)
New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer (District 26, Queens)
Bronx Community Board 4
Bronx Community Board 5
Bronx Community Board 7
Bronx Community Board 8, Parks & Recreation Committee
Bronx Community Board 12
Brooklyn Community Board 7
Brooklyn Community Board 9
Brooklyn Community Board 15
Manhattan Community Board 1
Manhattan Community Board 2
Manhattan Community Board 3
Manhattan Community Board 4
Manhattan Community Board 5
Manhattan Community Board 8
Manhattan Community Board 11
Queens Community Board 11
Alley Pond Park Maintainers (Queens)
American Planning Association, New York Metro Chapter (citywide)
Bronx Council for Environmental Quality (Bronx)
Bronx River Alliance (Bronx)
Design Trust for Public Space (citywide)
Flushing Meadows Corona Park Conservancy (Queens)
Friends of Sunset Park (Brooklyn)
Friends of Van Cortlandt Park (Bronx)
Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (Queens)
Green Guerillas (citywide)
Jackson Heights Green Alliance (Queens)
Lower East Side Ecology Center (citywide)
Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (citywide)
New York League of Conservation Voters (statewide)
Parks & Trails New York (statewide)
Pelham Parkway Citizens Conservations Corps (Bronx)
The Point Community Development Corporation (Bronx)
Pratt Center for Community Development (citywide)
Udalls Cove Preservation Committee (Queens)
West Harlem Group Assistance, Inc. (Manhattan)
Women's Housing and Economic Development Corporation (Bronx)
Trust for Public Land, New York Office (statewide)
Village View Volunteer Gardeners (Manhattan)
Volunteers for Isham Park (Manhattan)
OVERHAUL HOW THE PARKS DEPARTMENT IS FUNDED.
1) The Parks Department should have its own discretionary capital budget.
Unlike many capitally driven agencies, the Parks Department does not have a meaningful discretionary budget to enable it to plan and budget for capital projects over time in parks citywide. Rather, the Department is reliant on discretionary allocations from City Council Members and Borough Presidents whose priorities may not align with those of the Department. This creates an inefficient, inequitable, and potentially politicized process for funding capital projects, and makes it impossible for the Department to plan for the long-term capital maintenance and improvement of parks system wide.
2) The Parks Department’s maintenance budget should be increased, and funding for core functions should be baselined – meaning automatically renewed – in its annual expense budget.
The Parks Department’s maintenance budget has been slashed for many budget cycles, leaving the Department woefully understaffed to care for its 29,000 acres of parkland. In addition, multiple core functions of the Department – such as tree care and seasonal staffing for pools and playgrounds – are subject to annual budget negotiations rather than being included in its baseline budget that gets renewed every year. These activities are central to the Department’s mission and should not be subject to political wrangling. It is time for the Parks Department’s maintenance budget to reflect the true cost of maintaining, operating and programming all parks properties at a consistently high standard of care.
3) The Parks Department provides an essential city service and should be staffed accordingly.
Mandated staff cuts for City agencies that perform essential services are half that of other agencies. The Parks Department is responsible for maintaining the city’s street trees in addition to its parks and Greenstreets, and when major weather events hit, Parks Department staff are among the first responders. It has never been more clear just how critical New York City’s parks are to the sustainability of our city, or what an essential role the Department’s staff plays in protecting our shorelines and vulnerable areas. DPR is responsible for maintaining public safety on our streets, sidewalks, beaches and in our parks, yet they are not treated as providing an essential service at budget time.
INCREASE THE TRANSPARENCY AND EFFICIENCY OF THE PARKS DEPARTMENT TO ENSURE EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF RESOURCES.
4) The Parks Department should know the cost to maintain every City park, as well as the amount of public and private funding that supports each.
Because few parks have dedicated full-time maintenance crews, it is not easy to track staffing and maintenance costs for individual parks. In 2011, the Parks Department began piloting technology that would allow for better tracking of time spent and tasks performed by Parks staff on a park-by-park basis. The end goal of this new tracking system should be to calculate cost estimates for maintaining every park. These estimates, plus data on how public and private funding goes into each park, would enable the Parks Department to more effectively allocate resources throughout the parks system and advocate for more maintenance dollars based on measurable need.
5) The Parks Department should adopt the best practices of other capital projects agencies to improve its own process.
Like the Parks Department, multiple City agencies and authorities – including the Department of Design and Construction, the Economic Development Corporation, and the School Construction Authority – have large pipelines of capital projects, though their practices and procedures vary. The Parks Department should study and incorporate these other agencies’ best practices, or alternatively, off-load its projects to the agency or agencies that can complete them in the most timely, cost-effective manner.
6) Organizations in public-private partnerships with the Parks Department should report annual revenues, expenses and other critical financial information in a simple, consistent manner to be shared on the Department’s website.
The Parks Department has contractual agreements with more than 20 nonprofit partners that, depending on the terms of the agreement, may do anything from fundraising and programming to maintenance and capital improvements in affiliated parks. These public-private partnerships have enhanced services in multiple parks citywide. There has been some criticism of these partnerships, however, due to a perception that they benefit select parks to the detriment of the system as a whole, replacing rather than augmenting public funding – an assertion the Parks Department denies. If the public is to truly understand the important role that these organizations play, it is critical that their financial information be transparent and publicly available, not just through required tax disclosures, but through a simple and consistent reporting document issued and posted by the Parks Department.
RESTRICT AND STRONGLY REGULATE THE PRIVATIZATION OF PARKLAND.
7) Parkland alienation should not occur unless no other land is available to serve an essential public need.
In a city as dense as New York, parkland is scarce and sacred. Parks should be the last place where private uses are sited, and the City’s presumption should be against any alienation of parkland. Whether proposing a municipal non-park use or a private use that is arguably “compatible” with a park, the City should not view our parks as potential development sites, even for necessary or worthy projects.
8) State and local laws regulating parkland alienation should be strengthened to require earlier and broader notification of alienation actions, and to mandate acre-for-acre replacement of lost parkland.
The New York State Legislature can alienate the City’s parkland with only a last-minute notice to the City Council and without any notice to the Parks Department or the Parks Committee of the Council. What’s more, neither State nor City law require replacement of alienated parkland. The laws regulating alienation need to be strengthened to ensure that those entities charged with protecting our parks have at least 30-days’ notice of any potential alienation action, and that New Yorkers receive an equal amount of proximate new parkland of the same quality and character to replace any alienated parkland.
INTEGRATE PARKS PLANNING INTO NEIGHBORHOOD, CITYWIDE AND RESILIENCY PLANNING.
9) Parks are part of a broad network of public spaces, and City agencies should collaborate to maximize neighborhood open space and citywide environmental benefits.
Parks are not islands – they are part of a neighborhood’s network of public spaces that also includes streets, sidewalks, greenways and plazas. Thinking about parks in this larger context is essential to ensuring that all residents of a community feel connected to and comfortable in all open spaces. Signage and other way-finding tools, pedestrian safety measures, and crime prevention strategies are integral to park-users’ experience not just within parks, but also in traveling to and between parks. And this means that parks need to be considered as part of the larger infrastructure of neighborhoods and the city as a whole, and City agencies must coordinate to create a safe, cohesive public realm.
Too often City agencies operate in silos, but interagency cooperation is essential if New York is to be a truly sustainable urban environment. The Parks Department isn’t the only agency with open space in its jurisdiction. Under PlaNYC, multiple agencies developed innovative programs to create new neighborhood open spaces, including the Schoolyards-to-Playgrounds Program and DOT’s Plaza Program. These models should be continued, refined and replicated by more agencies, such as the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which has hundreds of acres of underutilized open space. In addition, sensitive wetlands and other natural areas currently fall under the jurisdiction of multiple City agencies; all of these vital ecosystems should be transferred to the Parks Department’s Natural Areas Conservancy for preservation.
10) The City should be more proactive in involving neighborhood residents in their parks, both as volunteer stewards and in planning for the future.
New Yorkers for Parks’ research shows that the best maintained parks in the city are those with active volunteers and “friends of” groups. Involving community residents in the planning and stewardship of local parks makes a noticeable difference in the quality of those public spaces. Outreach through established local organizations such as religious institutions, civic associations, schools and community centers will help encourage more New Yorkers to invest time and energy in their neighborhood parks. The Parks Department should collaborate with community residents to develop long-term plans for local parks, as well as to foster volunteer stewardship and cultivate “friends of” groups for every park in the city.
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