By Robbie Sequeira
May 26, 2022
Mayor Eric Adams captured the heart of the city’s park lovers when the central tenant of his campaign was a promise to dedicate 1% of the city budget — or about $1 billion — to NYC Parks.
But Adams, so far, has not held true to that promise, parks advocates said at a rally on the steps of City Hall Friday morning.
The mayor’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposed reducing the amount going to NYC Parks by more than $20 million, to about $600 million, factoring to only 0.6% of the city’s budget.
The mayor’s preliminary budget stands at $98.5 billion with $250 million of the current parks budget concentrated on new bathrooms and comfort stations at city parks.
With more acreage dedicated to public park space than any other borough, the Bronx reigns supreme as the city’s greenest borough. But with the city’s parks departments set to see an exodus of hundreds of maintenance staff this year, keeping up with Bronx parks could be a tall task.
In September, NYC parks officials told the Bronx Times that six workers — three crews of two maintenance workers — were sent every night to close about 100 NYC parks properties throughout the Bronx. Advocates say that level of staffing is not adequate to maintain, close and cultivate Bronx parks.
The mayor’s office told the Times that the current funding total is a down payment for his ‘Percent for Parks’ pledge.
“As the mayor said during his speech, the significant investments we are making in the Parks Department as part of the Executive Budget represent a down payment on his ‘Percent for Parks’ pledge” said mayor’s spokesperson Jonoh Allen. “Reaching this goal must be done over time to ensure the money is being spent wisely and efficiently to improve parks equity. He remains committed to ensuring one-percent of the city budget goes to parks during his mayoralty.”
“While the mayor has positioned his budget proposal as a ‘down payment’ to 1 percent, New Yorkers for Parks and the Play Fair Coalition are asking for a stronger commitment,” said Adam Ganser, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks. “Without this funding, the Parks Department will lack the resources and staff needed to properly maintain parks and open spaces across New York City. Our parks already fell into disarray when the city budget was cut during the COVID-19 pandemic and we don’t want to see a repeat of that. One percent for Parks will ensure New Yorkers have the clean, safe and accessible parks they deserve.”
While the mayor still has until 2025 to honor that campaign promise, parks advocates are hoping for sooner rather than later.
Advocates said that increased funding for the city Parks Department can improve the city’s air quality, lower air temperatures by up to nine degrees, cut air conditioning use by 30%, reduce heating energy use by 20-50% and remove 1,300 tons of pollutants from the atmosphere each year.
Another issue park advocates raised is access, as 12 of the 20 NYC districts with the least amount of parkland are districts with a majority people of color — highlighting inequitable access to open spaces across the city.
Some districts, such as Brooklyn 17 comprising East Flatbush, has 1% of parkland for a community that’s 89% Black. Bronx 5, which includes University Heights and Fordham, has 3% parkland and a 70% Latino population.
The decreased funding, advocates say, will compound years of disinvestment in city parks and open spaces as well as reduce critical staff and resources as one-time federal stimulus funds.
A letter sent to Mayor Adams appears to remind him that much of his support generated on the campaign trail last summer, was due to his 1% parks commitment.
“On the campaign trail, you earned widespread support from voters by publicly committing to fund the NYC Parks at 1% of the city budget,” a petition from 26 councilmembers sent to the mayor earlier this year states.