FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 2, 2020
Contact: Megan Douglas, firstname.lastname@example.org, 347-580-2772
Play Fair Coalition: 14% Slash to Parks Budget Threatens Open Spaces When New Yorkers Need Them Most
City Budget Saves Some Key Staff but Large Cuts Will Reduce Maintenance, Increase Reliance on NYPD
New York, NY - Adam Ganser, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks, Council Member Peter Koo, Chair of the Council Committee on Parks and Recreation, and Julie Tighe, President of New York League of Conservation Voters, co-founders of the Play Fair Coalition, released the following statement in response to the New York City fiscal year 2021 budget:
“We are extremely disappointed that the City has decided to slash the budget for NYC Parks by over 14%, including the loss of 193 critical parks staff. The pandemic shone a spotlight on how much New Yorkers need parks and open spaces, and suffer when parks are closed. Cutting funding for parks and laying off parks workers at this incredibly challenging time was a mistake.
“We are shocked that the city chose to eliminate 80 Parks Enforcement Patrol positions, when calls to defund and reduce dependence on NYPD are stronger than ever. In addition to their many other responsibilities, Parks Enforcement Patrol officers now hand out masks and educate and enforce social distancing. Without their presence we expect to see the city relying even more on the NYPD, and we fear an increased police presence in parks will make many New Yorkers feel unwelcome and lead to increased strife.
“Other lost positions include Urban Park Rangers, who educate and engage the public, especially young people, about nature, and Green Thumb and Natural Areas Group staff, who maintain the green spaces that New Yorkers depend on for food and environmental justice.
“In this very difficult fiscal year, we are grateful that the city has preserved 100 City Parks Workers and 50 Gardeners that the Play Fair Coalition successfully advocated to have added to last year’s budget, and which we pushed to be preserved this year. These are the staff who keep open spaces well-maintained, safe and usable, and they are truly indispensable.
“Parks are not a luxury – they are essential. As New Yorkers continue to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, parks and open spaces are one of our few – and sometimes only - remaining refuges. For most New Yorkers, particularly lower-income residents, parks are often the only places they can go to get fresh air, cool off, enjoy nature, safely spend time together, exercise and play. They are one of our most vital environmental assets, which help mitigate climate change and provide clean air.
“The NYC Parks budget was inadequate to begin with. NYC Parks controls 14% of city land, and yet year after year it has received around 0.5% of the City budget. Meanwhile, the next five largest cities in the country all spend at least twice as much of the city budget on their parks system, with Los Angeles spending 2%, and Chicago 4%.
“For a city renowned for our open spaces, the City’s commitment to them was already remarkably weak. This additional 14% cut only underscores this fact.
“We will continue working with the 295 members of the Play Fair Coalition and our allies in the City Council to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to high-quality, safe and accessible parks and open spaces. It’s a matter of equity and public health, and our work is more urgent than ever.”
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: www.ny4p.org or www.playfair.nyc
About New York City Council Member, Parks and Recreation Committee Chair Peter Koo:
Council Member Peter Koo, who represents the 20th City Council district in Queens, was elected to the council in November 2009. Council Member Koo has chaired the Council’s committee on parks and recreation since June 2019. For more information, visit https://council.nyc.gov/district-20/
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 www.nylcv.org