Release: New Coalition Launches Play Fair Campaign for Parks


Play Fair Coalition Unveils Multiyear Campaign to Improve Parks, Gardens, Increase City Parks Budget by $100 Million  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 28, 2019

CONTACT: Megan Douglas 212-838-9410 ex.310 /  

February 28, 2019 (New York, NY) - Today on the steps of City Hall nearly 200 New Yorkers braved the winter weather to stand with New York City Council Member and Parks and Recreation Committee Chair Barry S. Grodenchik, New Yorkers for Parks, New York League of Conservation Voters, DC 37, and over 60 other parks and open space advocacy groups to demand more money for New York City parks and green spaces. The Play Fair Coalition unveiled Play Fair, a new multiyear campaign to improve the quality of New York City parks, address climate change, and create green jobs.  

The campaign, which will lead up to the Mayoral election in 2021, focuses on an increase of $100 million in the City Parks expense budget in its first year. 40 council members have signed onto a letter to the mayor in support of Play Fair to date.  

The Play Fair Coalition includes:  

Anthony Beckford for NYC, Astoria Park Alliance, Bedford Mosholu Community Association, Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, Bronx Park East Community Association, Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, Brooklyn Parks & Open Space Coalition, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, Central Park Conservancy, Coastal Preservation Network, DC 37 (founding member), Douglastown Local Development Corporation, Downtown Alliance, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Elmhurst Supporters for Parks, Fort Tryon Park Trust, Friends of Abe Lebewohl Park, Friends of Alley Pond Park, Friends of Bellevue South Park, Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, Friends of Corlears Hook Park, Friends of Cunningham Park, Friends of Mosholu Parkland, Friends of Morningside Park, Friends of Pelham Bay Park, Friends of Pelham Parkway, Friends of Pelham Parkway, Friends of Springfield Park, Friends of the High Line, Friends of Tompkins Square Dog Run, Friends of Tremont Park, Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, Friends of 4 Parks Alliance, Gehl Institute, New York City Council Member and Chair of the Council Committee on Parks and Recreation Barry S. Grodenchik (founding member), Hudson River Park Friends, Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, Jackson Heights Beautification Group, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, Leilani S. Boykin Consulting, Loving the Bronx, Madison Square Park Conservancy, Municipal Arts Society, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Areas Conservancy, New York City Audubon Society, New York City Community Garden Coalition, New York League of Conservation Voters (founding member), New Yorkers for Parks (founding member), New York Restoration Project, North Brooklyn Parks Alliance, Prospect Park Alliance, Randall's Island Park Alliance, Red Hook Conservancy, Riverside Park Conservancy, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, Stewards of Brust Park, The Bronx is Blooming, The Freshkills Park Alliance, The Lowline, The Nature Conservancy New York, Times Square Alliance, Trust for Public Land, Union Square Partnership, United Athletic Association, Waterfront Alliance, 10th & Stuyvesant Streets Block Association, and 52 People for Progress.  

At the rally today on the steps of City Hall, surrounded by nearly 200 New Yorkers, the Play Fair Coalition detailed their asks and outlined a vision for how an increase of $100 million in expense budget would create quality parks, a healthy environment, and green jobs, while transforming neighborhoods across every corner of the City.  

Parkland comprises 14% of all City land, but the Parks Department received only 0.59% of the City budget in FY19. The last time Parks received at least one percent of the City’s budget was in the 1970s. The Play Fair Coalition detailed what a modest investment of $100 million – just 0.10% of the proposed City budget – would mean for open spaces across the city:  

  • $10M means that once and for all, 100 City Park Workers and 50 Gardeners will have secure, stable green jobs.
  • $4M means that NYC’s forests have the investment they need to protect NYC from climate change.
  • $65M would provide funding for parks of all sizes to have full-time, dedicated staff to help keep things clean and green.
  • A little over $8M would fund improvements for every GreenThumb community garden in the City.
  • $4M means that every neighborhood in the City could have more seasonal afterschool programs and movie nights.
  • $9M means that natural areas and parks are preserved, protected, and made safer for New Yorkers.

“For more than a generation, parks have been shortchanged in the city budget,” said Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik, Chair of the Council Committee on Parks and Recreation. “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. Since taking on the role of parks chair last year, I have visited over a hundred parks in over two thirds of the council districts across the city and have seen that while our parks department does an outstanding job with current funding, parks need more resources to be as clean, safe, and well maintained as they should be. As a lifelong New Yorker who grew up spending countless hours in my local park and continue to visit parks whenever I can, I am proud to be part of the Play Fair coalition that is advocating for a one hundred-million-dollar increase in the parks budget. I believe that every New Yorker wants the city to play fair for parks.”  

“As a lifelong New Yorker I am heartened to have been joined today at City Hall with hundreds of other park supporters who love their city as much as I do,” said Lynn Kelly, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. “Together, we need to make history with the City’s budget and finally, #PlayFair for parks!”   

Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, "Greenspaces are one of the city’s most valuable environmental assets and preserving these spaces a top priority for NYLCV. They connect residents with nature and the outdoors, help mitigate climate change, and provide clean air. Leveling the playing field in the City budget with a $100 million investment in maintaining parks would make New York more sustainable, improve resiliency, and conserve nature. We are proud to join Council Member Grodenchik, New Yorkers for Parks, and DC 37 in the Play Fair coalition for equity in funding for City parks."      

“For generations, our city parks have provided millions of New Yorkers the sanctuary for recreation and relaxation that they have needed. Keeping them safe and well-maintained has always been our priority because it adds immeasurably to the quality of life for our communities,” said D.C. 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, who represents thousands of workers in the NYC Parks Dept. “We call on the City Council and Mayor for more parks funding in the proposed FY 2020 NYC Budget. It’s an investment that will generate valuable dividends for all New Yorkers.”  

The Play Fair Coalition notes that parks and gardens are a part of every-day life in New York – they serve as back yards, front yards, summer vacation destinations, gyms, respites, and a vital place for New Yorkers of all ages to connect with nature in our incredibly dense city.

Parks comprise a whopping 14% of NYC’s land but last year the agency received a meager 0.59% of the total City budget. This disparity in the City budget for Parks has existed for a decade and makes it incredibly challenging for the Parks Department to staff, maintain and secure parks. The Play Fair Coalition believes that increasing the Parks Department’s budget by only $100M or an additional 0.10% of the proposed City budget would positively impact the lives of millions of New Yorkers.

“Parks are vital urban infrastructure for all New Yorkers, but too many are experiencing infrastructure problems brought on by age and magnified by record usage and decades of under-investment. To sustain a healthy parks system now and in the future, the city will need to double down on maintaining and revitalizing its public parks infrastructure," said Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director, Center for an Urban Future  

“New York City natural areas – forests and wetlands in NYC Parks—are the lungs of the city. They filter our air, absorb stormwater, reduce heat and are where many New Yorkers go to experience nature. They are also one-third of the entire park system, and they need more funding to stay healthy and accessible – and keep New Yorkers healthy,” said Sarah Charlop-Powers, Executive Director, Natural Areas Conservancy.  

“The New York City Community Garden Coalition is proud to support the Play Fair campaign. Funding to help improve GreenThumb community gardens citywide would help ensure that these vital spaces can continue to build community, provide access to healthy food, and thrive for years to come,” said Aziz Dehkan, Executive Director, New York City Community Garden Coalition.  

“While New York City parks are among some of the best in the nation, our green spaces are under constant threat from the impacts of climate change and a growing population. Chronic underfunding leaves our green spaces in disrepair, often creating access barriers that deny low- and moderate-income neighborhoods access to recreation and opportunities for physical, mental and emotional well-being. We believe the best way to improve our green spaces and ensure all New Yorkers can access them is to support the Fair Play Initiative, which would baseline funding for much-needed maintenance, gardener and park worker positions in the city budget,” said Sue Donoghue, President, Prospect Park Alliance.  

“We must lift up environmentally friendly, public health and labor conscious approaches to community planning, planning that should center on adequately funding green and open spaces throughout the city and state. In fact, one of my key priorities is bringing more community space to the North Shore of Staten Island. Incorporating these key values takes us on a path where healthier lifestyles, eliminating carbon emissions and providing more green jobs encourages New Yorkers to participate in their local community activities,” said Assemblyman Charles D. Fall.  

“Bronx Council for Environmental Quality has been a steadfast fighter for parkland and proportionate, sufficient Parks funding for decades. We are proud to join the Play Fair Coalition because it shines a light on a long standing fiscal inequity and social injustice on our city: the tiny percentage of the overall NYC budget spent on our parks’ expenses. Parks spending has a multiplier effect on public health, civic life, community development, and neighborhood prosperity. We hope that someday soon NYC Parks will receive 1% of the total budget, but $100M would be transformative and help us reach that goal,” said Dr. Robert Fanuzzi, President, Bronx Council for Environmental Quality.  

“Parks are too important to New Yorkers’ health and wellbeing to resign ourselves to the pittance of the City budget that is allocated every single year. Our parks are in desperate need of support, and too few parks have a local conservancy that can step up to make up the difference. We are long overdue for greater investment in this vital infrastructure for New York City,” said Dan Garodnick, President & CEO of the Riverside Park Conservancy, and former New York City Council Member.    

“Parks are a vital part of neighborhoods across the city, providing green and open space for all New Yorkers. We are calling for a fair share of the budget to support these beloved spaces, ensuring that parks are invested in and maintained for years to come,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, President of The Municipal Art Society.  

"Parks are essential and need their fair share," said Jessica Lappin, President of the Alliance for Downtown New York. She added "New York's concrete, glass and steel may define our built environment, but it is our greenery, our water and our outdoor gathering places that provide us necessary refuge, recreation and renewal.  We underfund them at our peril."  

"New York City is home to some of the most iconic urban parks in the world, and this common-sense investment will help ensure our park system is clean, safe, and welcoming to everyone—now and well into the future," said Emily Nobel Maxwell, New York City Program Director for The Nature Conservancy in New York. "Nature plays an incredibly important role in enriching our lives. In the face of a changing climate, we need healthy green spaces more than ever."  

“The Brooklyn Parks & Open Space Coalition is proud to support the Play Fair campaign. Our Coalition was formed to advocate for the needs of Brooklyn’s parks, playgrounds, and gardens, and we believe that more investment must be made to support increased maintenance and programming in our local open spaces. $100M would be transformative not only for Brooklyn parks, but for all NYC parks,” said Marlene Pantin, Founding Member, Brooklyn Parks & Open Space Coalition.  

“Parks make cities livable — they provide a respite from daily urban life and add to our well-being in countless ways. These green spaces enable neighborhoods to become communities. Without proper financial support, we could lose these vital treasures,” said Elizabeth W. Smith, President & CEO, Central Park Conservancy.  

"At The Trust for Public Land, we're working to ensure that everyone has access to a quality park within a 10-minute walk of home," said Carter Strickland, New York State Director for the organization. "That’s because parks are critical infrastructure for public health, managing stormwater, creating community, and protecting people from heat and other effects of a changing climate. The City should adequately fund parks in recognition of their multiple roles in creating a thriving city, so that all New Yorkers benefit."




About New York City Council Member, Parks and Recreation Committee Chair Barry S. Grodenchik: Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik, who represents the twenty-third city council district in Eastern Queens, was elected to the council in November 2015 and re-elected in 2017. Since 2018, Council Member Grodenchik, a longtime friend of the city parks system, has chaired the council’s committee on parks and recreation, which has held hearings on subjects including beach erosion, waterfront resiliency, recreation centers, and jointly operated playgrounds. For more information, visit  

About New Yorkers for Parks:
For over 100 years New Yorkers for Parks has been the independent champion for quality parks and open space for all New Yorkers. Through our research, advocacy, and the Daffodil Project, we work with communities and elected officials to promote and preserve quality open space across the city. Learn more: or  

About The New York League of Conservation Voters:
The New York League of Conservation Voters is the only non-partisan, statewide environmental organization in New York that takes a pragmatic approach to fighting for clean water, healthy air, renewable energy, and open space. For more information, visit   

About DC 37:
District Council 37 is New York City's largest public employee union, represents 125,000 members and 50,000 retirees. DC 37 members help make New York City run by working in over 1,000 titles – everything from Accountants to Zookeepers, including thousands of NYC Parks workers such as City Park Workers, Gardeners, PEP officers, Urban Park Rangers, City Seasonal Aides, Associate Park Service Workers, Lifeguards, Lifeguard Supervisors, Climbers and Pruners, City Park Supervisors, and Motor Vehicle Operators. For more information, visit