Mayor Adams Promised 20,000 Trees a Year. But Budget Cuts Threaten Progress
By Mariana Simões
February 1, 2023
In June of last year, the mayor’s office approved the highest funding for tree planting in half a decade, allowing the Parks and Recreation Department to plant 20,000 trees a year for the next four years. But environmentalists worry that cuts signaled in the mayor’s preliminary budget and an already short staff will make it difficult to not only reach that goal, but to maintain the crop of over 865,000 trees the Parks Department currently oversees.
When Mayor Eric Adam released his preliminary budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2024 on Jan. 12, he set aside nearly $583 million for Parks. The amount is $46 million lower than the $629 million allocated for the current budget, and once again fails to fulfill Adams’ campaign promise of dedicating 1 percent of the city’s total $102.7 billion budget to the Parks Department.
For forestry, horticulture and natural resources, the preliminary funds total $34.15 million. The division includes 302 staff members—not enough, advocates say, to adequately manage the 22,000 acres of the city’s 42,656 acres of tree canopy the unit oversees.
“The Parks Department is too understaffed in its forestry division to help take care of our city’s trees,” Adam Ganser, executive director of the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks, told City Limits.
There are currently 4,235 Parks employees and 426 vacant positions agency-wide, the department said in an email. While last year’s $629 million budget was one of the highest allocation of funds made to Parks in the city’s history, Ganser said the new preliminary budget and staff vacancies signify “a step backward.”
The Parks Department is no stranger to budget limitations: the de Blasio administration slashed $84 million from the department for the 2021 fiscal cycle, leaving many green spaces around the city covered in trash from lack of upkeep. Ganser warns the city’s trees could suffer a similar fate.
“We are going to end up in a really difficult situation very soon if we’re not able to maintain them. The trees will not survive, and then the money that we’re putting into planting [new trees] is just wasted,” Ganser said. “Elected leaders like to build things, they like to plant things, but they don’t like to maintain them. There’s no ribbon cutting for maintenance.”
In an emailed statement, Jennifer Greenfeld, deputy commissioner for environment and planning at Parks, said the agency is committed to its tree care.
“As the stewards of nearly half of the City’s urban forest, it’s our goal to protect and expand this vital natural resource as much, and as equitably as possible,” Greenfeld said.
Read the full article online at City Limits