March 14, 2022
By Jacob Kaye
A number of Queens lawmakers and advocates called on the mayor to make the city’s parks a little greener, in more ways than one, on Monday.
Led by City Councilmember Shekar Krishnan, who chairs the council’s Committee on Parks and Recreation, the lawmakers gathered in front of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park called for $1 billion in funding for the Parks Department in this year’s budget. If allocated, the funds would potentially make up around 1 percent of the city’s nearly $100 billion budget.
“We cannot afford any less for our parks right now,” Krishnan said.
The funding request isn’t unheard of – Mayor Eric Adams vowed to dedicate 1 percent of the city’s budget to the Parks Department when he was running for office, signing a pledge from nonprofit organization New Yorkers for Parks.
But when he issued his preliminary budget last month, the funds were missing. In total, Adams’ budget dedicates around $500 million to the department, making up around 0.5 percent of the city’s overall budget.
It’s not only Adams who hasn’t followed through on the promise. The organization first issued the pledge two decades ago. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed it but, like Adams, didn’t include the funds in his budget.
Additionally, the department was slapped with an $84 million cut in 2020, when the pandemic forced a number of budget cutbacks throughout city government – those funds, and more, were restored in 2021 when the department’s budget was increased to a little over $600 million.
“Within three weeks of the budgets getting cut during the pandemic, our parks were in the worst condition that they had seen in 20 years,” said Adam Ganser, the executive director of New Yorkers for Parks. “We are operating on the thinnest of margins.”
On Sunday, Adams announced the restarting of over 100 parks projects put on hold during the pandemic. He said that while the funds weren’t made available in his budget, he was “confident” that they would eventually.
“COVID threw us all off our game,” Adams said. “But this is early, it’s the first budget, the preliminary budget, and the goal is to get to that 1 percent. I’m a big believer in parks.”
“We’ll get there,” he added.
The budget request came as part of Krishnan’s five-point plan for the city’s parks, which was praised by a number of lawmakers and advocates Monday, including Queens City Councilmembers Linda Lee, Sandra Ung and Robert Holden, as well as Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.