New group aims for big parks spending hike
By Ryan Brady
March 7, 2019
A new alliance has launched an effort aimed at getting the city to, over a matter of years, dramatically increase its spending on parks.
Almost 200 people stood outside City Hall last Thursday at the Play Fair Coalition’s rally to kick off their campaign, demanding a $100 million increase in Parks Department expense budget funding. That number is a goal for the first year of the campaign, which will run into 2021, when an open mayoral election is expected to take place.
City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), the Parks Committee chairman, joined more than 60 groups at the event to let their voices be heard. New Yorkers for Parks, the Astoria Parks Alliance, DC 37 and Friends of Cunningham Park are just a few of the names in the Play Fair coalition.
A $100 million increase would represent a dramatic spike in Parks funding. The agency told the Chronicle that its entire expense budget for fiscal year 2019 is $534 million.
According to the Play Fair Coalition, parks represent 14 percent of land in the city. But, it noted, only .59 percent of the city budget for fiscal 2019 was dedicated to the Parks Department.
The agency declined to comment in response to the Play Fair rally, referring the Chronicle to the Mayor’s Office. An inquiry there was not returned prior to deadline.
The coalition said its overall goals are to get the city to enhance its parks, make green jobs and mitigate climate change.
“For more than a generation, parks have been shortchanged in the city budget,” Grodenchik said in a prepared statement. “Across our city, in all five boroughs, in every neighborhood, parks are the places where New Yorkers play, exercise, and breathe fresh air, the places where we clear our minds, rejuvenate our bodies, and refresh our spirits.”
Dorothy Lewandowski retired as Queens Parks commissioner at the end of 2018. No successor has been publicly announced since then.