NY4P in Staten Island Advance: NYC Mayor Adams proposed budget again falls short of 1% commitment to Parks Department

NYC Mayor Adams proposed budget again falls short of 1% commitment to Parks Department

By Joseph Ostapiuk

January 19, 2023

When Mayor Eric Adams took office, he reiterated a commitment made during his campaign: 1% of the city’s budget should be allocated toward the operation of the city Parks Department.

In his first opportunity to make that commitment, when finalizing the 2023 fiscal year budget, he fell short of that goal.

He did not commit a full about-face. Adams remained committed to delivering on his promise, which his office previously said would be completed during his mayoralty.

However, his preliminary fiscal year 2024 budget again stands well-short of even approaching the 1% mark — a disappointing start to months of negotiations, advocates said.

“Increasing funding for parks maintenance and operations to 1% of the budget is fundamental to building a greener New York City for all,” said Adam Ganser, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks. “However the mayor’s proposal, which cuts dozens of much-needed NYC Parks staff positions, does not reflect the level of investment to which he has committed, and it’s not enough to maintain the world-class parks system New Yorkers deserve.”

The first iteration of Adams’ spending plan set aside around $582 million toward the Parks Department’s operations, which is separate from its capital purse, representing under a half-percent of the proposed $102.7 billion budget.

That total sits more than $50 million under the $624 million originally allocated for the previous budget, though it is likely to shift in the coming months as negotiations between the City Council and the mayor move toward a summer deadline and grant funding is added to the sum.

A larger operations budget would enable the agency to rely less on seasonal workers and ensure the city has the workforce necessary to maintain parks, playgrounds and other areas throughout the five boroughs.

Instead, concerns are now arising surrounding the elimination of vacated open positions that would further hamstring the Parks Department’s efforts to manage its sprawling green spaces.

“This is not the time to be cutting any positions for Parks,” said Ganser. “It’s so difficult to get those positions back.”

After delivering the largest-ever operations budget to the Parks Department last year, despite staying under the 1% threshold, advocates were hopeful for continued concerted steps to bolster the funding for an agency that has historically suffered a lack of investment.

“Since taking office, this administration has made significant investments in our parks and green spaces,” said a City Hall spokesperson. “We are committed to working toward the goal of 1% for parks, which must be done wisely and efficiently to strengthen and improve our parks for all New Yorkers.”

Park Benefits

Parks in New York City offer billions of dollars in benefits, said a report issued last year. It found residents visit the 50,000 acre-network of city, state and federal parks a combined 527 million times annually, with 99% of people living within a 10-minute walk to a nearby park.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for green spaces as city residents flocked to parks for exercise and an escape from work-from-home routines. Studies have found green spaces are tied to positive health impacts that reduce long-term healthcare costs.

The city’s parks, akin to its street trees, also work to combat high temperatures and subsequent heat-related illnesses, which disproportionately affect minority communities. Staten Island’s more-diverse North Shore was found in a separate report to have significantly lower “stocking rates,” a measure of the percentage of living trees of an estimated capacity, compared to the South Shore.

“When you have an agency that is historically under-resourced, it’s those areas of the city that themselves have the fewest amount of resources that suffer the most,” said Ganser, who said he looked forward to working with city officials to address the budget. “So, this is absolutely going in the wrong direction for all New Yorkers, but particularly for those who are relying on these spaces more than anybody else.”


Read the article online at Staten Island Advance