Release: Play Fair Coalition & NYC Council Parks Chair Peter Koo Launch 2021 Play Fair Campaign

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, March 12, 2021

CONTACT: Nicole Havens, 

Play Fair Coalition and NYC Council Parks Committee Chair Peter Koo Launch 2021 Play Fair for Parks Campaign with a Digital Rally

300+ Parks Advocates Call on City to Address Urgent Funding Gaps in the FY22 Budget with $78.9 Million to Ensure Parks are Safe, Clean, and Accessible

14 percent budget cut to NYC Parks resulted in worst park conditions on record in 2020

March 12, 2021 (New York, NY) – This morning 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 members of the Play Fair Coalition held a digital rally to launch the 2021 Play Fair campaign, calling on the City to reinvest $78.9 million in the FY22 NYC Parks budget after a devastating 14 percent funding cut in FY22--the second largest funding cut to any city agency. 

Now in its third year, Play Fair is a multiyear campaign to improve the quality of New York City parks, address climate change, and create green jobs. The Coalition includes more than 300 parks, community garden, environment, recreation, youth development and social justice organizations from across the five boroughs.

The Coalition’s FY22 platform is focused on addressing urgent maintenance and operational funding gaps that emerged during the pandemic. Last year park conditions reached a low point since NYC Parks started measuring in 2005. 

At this morning’s digital rally, Coalition members outlined a vision for how a restoration of $78.9 million in the FY22 expense budget would address critical funding shortages at NYC Parks and ensure parks across every corner of the city are safe, clean and accessible. The Play Fair for Parks FY22 budget platform includes:

  • $30M to restore the critical seasonal staff budget for maintenance and operations workers citywide.
  • Baselining $10M to make permanent 100 city park workers and 50 gardeners, and create secure, stable jobs.
  • $15M to restore critical parks forestry contracts for tree pruning, stump removal and sidewalk repair, and invasive species control.
  • $6M would ensure that parks are safe by restoring 80 Parks Enforcement Patrol officers citywide.
  • $4.5M means that NYC’s natural forests, wetlands, and trails will receive the proactive care and maintenance they need to remain healthy and resilient in our changing climate, and as they receive unprecedented use by New Yorkers.
  • $4M to restore the Parks Equity Initiative, and support park stewardship organizations citywide.
  • $3.4M to restore 15 GreenThumb staff, and expand access to plant materials, resources and tools for community gardeners citywide.
  • $3M to restore the Parks Opportunity Program and provide a pathway to full-time employment.
  • $3M would mean 50 Urban Park Rangers could be hired to connect New Yorkers with the nature that surrounds us, and help ensure our parks remain safe and accessible for all.

In 2019, 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. Last year, despite unprecedented challenges, the Coalition's campaigning in-person, by phone and email, and on Zoom resulted in 300 secured jobs for NYC Parks workers.

Council Member Peter Koo, Chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation, stated, “One million New Yorkers lost access to their parks last year. This is a make or break moment for our City in which we must commit to prioritizing our parks as critical infrastructure. More than ever, New Yorkers are relying on open community spaces for their physical, social and emotional wellbeing. Yet last year, NYC Parks got hit with a crippling budget cut and park conditions deteriorated to their lowest point in 15 years. We cannot expect to do more with less. The Play Fair Coalition’s call to restore parks funding must be met with urgency and decisive action.”

“Parks are a vital part of life in New York and essential to healthy communities. With spring and summer around the corner, the City must reinvest in NYC Parks to ensure this time we’re prepared to manage and maintain these spaces,” said Adam Ganser, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. “This isn’t an abstract problem; we’re already seeing the crisis of disinvestment play out across the city. Parkland makes up 14 percent of all City land, but New York spends about 0.5 percent of its budget maintaining quality open space--a fraction of what most major cities across the country invest in their parks. That has to change.”

Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, stated, “The Play Fair campaign has taken on added urgency after a year in which unprecedented park usage coincided with major disinvestment in these greenspaces. Budget cuts left our parks in a greater state of disrepair than any time in recent memory while New Yorkers continue to rely on them for fresh air and access to nature. Our greenspaces are some of our most vital environmental assets - they improve air quality, reduce climate pollution, and help combat the urban heat island effect. The City’s budget is a statement of priorities and our natural lands must be at the top of the list. Parks funding is essential to a healthy, equitable recovery in New York City.”

“As the weather begins to warm and our city begins to recover from COVID-19, now is not the time to reduce staffing levels in our city parks,” said Henry Garrido, Executive Director District Council 37, AFSCME. “District Council 37 workers performed essential services all throughout the pandemic. They need support. The Parks Department must restore funding to bring staffing levels to full force.”

“I join the City Council Parks Committee, New Yorkers for Parks, New York League of Conservation Voters, DC 37, and the hundreds of organizations that make up the Play Fair Coalition to call on the Mayor to restore $78.9 million in expense funding for the Department of Parks and Recreation,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “Parks and public open spaces play a crucial role in our neighborhoods, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when our communities are yearning for more outdoor space and fresh air. Cuts to the parks budget would have a devastating impact on maintenance staff and PEP officers, vital community stewardship programs, and crucial forestry initiatives. We urge the Mayor to avoid these cuts and restore the funding needed to properly care for our valuable open spaces.”

“After a year spent staying home in cramped apartments and keeping our distance on narrow sidewalks, it is imperative now more than ever that we invest in our City's open spaces for the sake of public health," said Council Member Carlina Rivera. "I am proud to join New Yorkers 4 Parks and the Play Fair Coalition in demanding the Mayor restore critical funding for our parks in the next budget to not only ensure all of our parks citywide are safe, clean and accessible, but also to uplift our communities by creating stable green jobs.”

“NYC Parks are a critical part to our recovery from COVID-19, especially in the neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The Play Fair Coalition's call to restore funding represents having clean parks that families can safely enjoy, a space for our youth to support their physical and emotional health, and jobs for New Yorkers to get back on their feet. I stand proudly with New Yorkers for Parks, New York League of Conservation Voters, my brothers and sisters of District Council 37, and the hundreds of parks advocates in pushing for this funding to be prioritized and restored,” said Council Member Francisco Moya.

“Parks and open spaces have been a lifeline to New Yorkers during the pandemic and are critical to our city’s recovery, so we need to improve investments in these critical assets to keep them beautiful and accessible," said Carter Strickland, New York State Director for The Trust for Public Land. "Every dollar invested in parks returns even greater benefits back into the community and we encourage the city to support the Play Fair Coalition's budget requests so that these spaces can continue to support our residents.”

“Increasing the NYC Parks budget for FY22 is critical, especially after such a difficult year, one in which New Yorkers volunteered their time -- amidst health concerns -- to help maintain their neighborhood parks during a crisis," said Heather Lubov, Executive Director of City Parks Foundation. "Maintaining our parks is our city’s responsibility and 0.5% of the budget is just not sufficient to support what are so clearly essential civic resources. What’s more, restoring the NYC Council’s Parks Equity Initiative to $5,113,500 (the amount allocated in FY20) will help ensure that we continue to support the critical -- and appropriate -- work of those volunteers and stewardship groups in the long term to bring communities together and keep our parks active and safe.”

“The last year has made abundantly clear that parks and open spaces are essential to our health and wellbeing; they are cornerstones of our communities. Unfortunately, last year the funding for these beloved places was cut right when it was needed the most,” said Emily Nobel Maxwell, New York Director of the Cities Program at The Nature Conservancy. “We urge the City to restore funding for parks, which will put people back to work and expand access and opportunities in our hardest-hit neighborhoods. Parks are home to a vast number of New York City’s trees, which cool our streets and provide shade. Taking care of our parks and urban forest isn’t just the right thing to do, it is also an important opportunity to strengthen our economy and prepare for a future with more extreme heat.”


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. He was previously a member of the committee. 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 The Trust for Public Land 

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit 

About DC 37:

District Council 37 is New York City's largest public employee union, representing 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