Release: Play Fair Coalition and Councilmember Peter Koo Call on City to Play Fair with Parks

Play Fair Coalition and Councilmember Peter Koo Call on City to Play Fair with Parks

Protect Jobs and Funding for open spaces as New Yorkers grapple with and recover from COVID-19 pandemic

CONTACT: Megan Douglas 347-925-0101 /


April 13, 2020 (New York, NY) – Today, New York City Council Member and Parks and Recreation Committee Chair Peter Koo, New Yorkers for Parks, New York League of Conservation Voters, District Council 37, and other 250 other members of the Play Fair Coalition called on the City to protect and create jobs, and ensure open spaces receive essential maintenance and care, particularly in light of the increased use of parks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coalition estimates the NYC Parks Department budget will need $47 million to cover these costs.


The ask is part of the multi-year Play Fair campaign, which is now in its second year. The campaign was launched to improve the quality of New York City parks, address climate change, and create green jobs.


“We are asking the City to Play Fair when it comes to our parks,” said Paul Gottsegen, Chair and Acting Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. “New Yorkers are turning to parks for refuge during the coronavirus pandemic. Parks and open spaces are essential to the health of our communities, now more than ever.”


The Play Fair Coalition developed the $47 million ask in response to the coronavirus crisis. The funding will protect 342 essential maintenance staff positions that were created last year and are due to expire on July 1. The funding will also support the maintenance of parks, which will be critical when New Yorkers can once again gather in large groups, and parks usage will likely go up significantly.


The $47 million ask for the FY 2021 City budget includes:


  • $10M to baseline the 100 City Park Worker and 50 Gardener staff lines added in the FY20 budget.
  • $9M to baseline and preserve the 50 new Urban Park Ranger and 80 new Parks Enforcement Patrol positions created in the FY20 budget.
  • $7.4 M to baseline 15 Green Thumb and 47 Natural Resources Group staff added in the FY20 budget.
  • $5.5M to create 100 City Seasonal Aide positions for Parks Opportunity Program participants citywide.
  • $7.85M to invest in recreation and programming, creating five new positions with Partnerships for Parks, new positions in a Natural Turf Management citywide crew, and additional staff to host structured sports and afterschool programs.
  • $3M to create an in-house comfort station improvement team to target a comfort station in every borough, with 18 full-time staff, and 20 seasonal positions.
  • $950K to more than double the NYC Parks staff conducting the critically needed citywide needs assessment.
  • $520K to hire four full-time crews to conduct lake and pond maintenance.
  • $2.5M to bring much needed maintenance equipment to all 51 Council Districts


The Play Fair Coalition notes that once it is finally safe for New Yorkers to congregate in groups, parks are likely to see a huge increase in usage. They serve as places to gather, to exercise, to relax, and to connect with nature – things that almost all residents of the densest city in the nation will have long gone without. The Coalition believes that $47 million is the amount of funding needed to ensure that New York City open spaces are properly maintained both during and after social distancing requirements.


Parkland makes up 14 percent of all City land, but even with last year’s historic increase, NYC Parks received only approximately 0.6 percent of the City’s budget. The last time NYC Parks received at least one percent of the City’s budget was in the 1970s. This lack of funding prohibits the Parks Department from fully maintaining parks and ensuring their long-term health.


This $47M is a steep reduction from the Play Fair Coalition’s original 2020 campaign, launched on March 13th, which called for $200M in funding. “In light of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the City budget, and the increased demand on parks, we have significantly decreased our ask to focus on key priorities: protecting and creating jobs, and ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to safe, healthy, and beautiful parks, gardens, and natural areas,” said Council Member Peter Koo, Chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation.


As a multiyear campaign, Play Fair will continue to call for increased investment in parks in the years ahead, to compensate for the years of underfunding and neglect. Last year the Play Fair Coalition secured a historic $44 million increase in the expense budget of NYC Parks, the largest funding increase in nearly three decades.


Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, "Greenspaces are one of the city’s most valuable environmental assets. More New Yorkers are using parks now due to COVID-19 and relying on them for a connection to nature. Parks also help mitigate climate change and provide clean air.  A $47 million investment in maintaining parks would make New York more sustainable, improve resiliency, and conserve nature. We join Council Member Koo, New Yorkers for Parks, and DC 37 in this call to Play Fair for parks.”


"With COVID-19's impact on our communities and economy, New Yorkers are seeking respite in our city's parks. It is critical for the city to provide adequate resources to keep our parks safe for public use now, and to meet public demand as we eventually return to normal life," said Heather Lubov, Executive Director of City Parks Foundation. "Parks are our most fundamentally democratic places and will be vital to the healing of our city and its many and varied communities."


"The Natural Areas Conservancy strongly endorses the Play Fair campaign — including a critical investment in the restoration and management of New York City's forests. Simply put, our city's parks are essential infrastructure and they need to be funded and managed as such. Parks and natural areas provide residents with vital access to the outdoors and much needed space for exercise, relaxation, and recreation. Now more than ever, it is clear that the physical and mental health of New Yorkers depends on having safe, well maintained parks, and we call on the Mayor and the City Council to continue investing in these invaluable natural resources," said Sarah Charlop-Powers, Executive Director of Natural Areas Conservancy.


"Girl Scouts of Greater New York is proud to stand alongside New Yorkers for Parks and all members of the Play Fair Coalition in the fight for green space funding. Clean, accessible parks are vitally important for young people and all New Yorkers, and will be even more critical once we are able to gather together again outdoors. We know ensuring our parks are healthy and sustainable for this and the next generation is a top priority of today’s Girl Scouts, and our community stands eager to do our part to ensure parks remain a vibrant part of our city fabric for years to come," said Meridith Maskara, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater New York


“All New Yorkers deserve great parks,” says Emily Nobel Maxwell, Cities Program Director for The Nature Conservancy in New York. “Every day, and especially today, New York City parks and their staff help meet people’s fundamental needs, including access to open space, the inspiration, beauty and physical and mental health benefits of nature and the outdoors. The Nature Conservancy is proud to support the Play Fair campaign and asks that the Mayor and City Council ensure NYC’s parks are sufficiently funded to enhance quality of life for everyone in NYC.”