By Max Parrott
June 28, 2019
The city’s new 2020 fiscal year budget includes the most money for public parks in nearly 30 years, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver announced on Thursday at Queensbridge Park in Long Island City.
“That means everything from patrol officers to pruning. From Staten Island to the Bronx every borough will benefit, in every season,” said Johnson.
While this does mean more money for summer fun — the city pools are going to be open an extra week this summer — it represents an even greater payday for two driving forces in New York City politics: environmentalists and organized labor.
Of the $44 million investment in the 2020 budget for city parks, $19.1 million will go to park maintenance workers, $4 million for Forestry Management and $8.2 million to support all 550 GreenThumb community gardens citywide.
All of the lawmakers who spoke paid homage to Lynn Kelly, the “inimitable, relentless” executive director for New Yorkers for Parks, who spearheaded the effort to secure the historic level funding. New Yorkers for Parks formed a coalition with DC37, the union that represents park workers and the New York League of Conservation in order push the city council.
“That is how you get things done. You put pressure on elected officials and work for what’s right. And you make sure justice is served,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, addressing Kelly.
The funding for parks workers includes the salaries for 200 parks employees and 100 gardeners, of which $9.6 million will go to baseline 150 parks workers.
“[Baselined] is city-speak for made permanent. That means that every year we had to advocate for those jobs because every year they didn’t know if their jobs were going to get renewed. Now they know they can pay their rent on time and buy groceries,” said Kelly.
The environmental branch of the coalition celebrated the investment in parks for their own reasons. Julie Tighe, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said that the parkland, and trees in particular, serve to help clean the city air and absorb storm water runoff into the bay.
“Nature is an important place to fight climate change,” said Tighe.
She noted the $4 million for forestry management is especially important because many of the city’s forest preserves are also are seeing more invasive species as the climate changes.
The funding will also include $1 million for tree stump removal, $1.7 million to extend the city’s pool and beach season, $4 million for additional 50 Urban Park Rangers and $6 million for additional 80 Parks Enforcement Patrol officers.
“We will work hard to ensure that the benefits are equitably applied across the parks system to those areas most in need,” said Commissioner Silver.