Release: Play Fair Coalition Applauds City Council Budget, Notes Funding Still Needed


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

April 11, 2019 (New York, NY) - New Yorkers for Parks (NY4P), the independent citywide open space research and advocacy organization, and the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV), the only non-partisan environmental organization fighting for open space, applaud the New York City Council, the Council’s Committee on Parks and Recreation and Speaker Johnson for their response to the Mayor’s Fiscal 2020 Preliminary Budget. The Council funding requests and commitments show that it understands the critical role that parks and green spaces play in the health of our city. NY4P and NYLCV are founding members of the Play Fair campaign that has called upon the City to increase the expense budget for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation by $100 million. While the City Council’s budget falls short of the $100 million ask, it does include some key pieces of funding without which our open spaces would greatly suffer. 

The Play Fair Coalition now includes 120 member organizations from across the five boroughs asking for this funding to ensure quality parks and open spaces, good jobs for parks workers, and the environmental benefits that accrue to all New Yorkers when our green spaces are healthy. 41 Council Members have also signed a letter to the Mayor in support of the Play Fair campaign, and their commitment to parks and open space is evident in the Council budget response. 

For the fifth year in a row, New Yorkers for Parks has asked the Administration to baseline, or permanently secure, just under $10 million in funding for 150 critical park worker and gardener positions, and this remains a top priority in the Play Fair campaign. The City Council has also asked the Mayor to baseline this funding for five years in a row, including in Fiscal 2020, but we are hoping that this will not be the fifth year that the Council is forced to provide temporary funding to keep these positions. These park workers and gardeners do essential work cleaning and maintaining our parks, yet every year they have to wonder if they’ll still be employed come July 1st. The City Council and the Play Fair Coalition agree that it is time once and for all to end the uncertainty and stop the budget dance. 

Additionally, we are incredibly relieved to see the Council recommend that the Parks Department not be subject to the hiring freeze proposed by the Administration for some City agencies. As the Parks Department is already woefully understaffed, a hiring freeze could seriously exacerbate an already dire situation in our city’s open spaces. 

A key piece of Play Fair’s budget ask is for $65 million to allow the 48 largest parks in NYC, vital neighborhood and regional resources, to have on-site zone management maintenance crews. These crews are a critical to larger parks, where the size requires maintenance staff who are experts in the unique landscapes of each zone. It would also expand on-site crews to all eligible smaller neighborhood parks that currently lack full-time, dedicated staff. Although it isn’t included in the Council’s budget response, the Play Fair Coalition will continue to push for this $65 million in funding, which would have a transformative impact on our parks and open spaces while also creating good, green jobs for New Yorkers. 

In addition to their request to baseline $10 million for park worker positions, the City Council also called on the Administration to increase the Parks Department’s Fiscal 2020 Executive Budget by $26.5 million to improve maintenance and operations, allocated in almost exactly the same way that the Play Fair campaign calls for:  

  • $4 million for care and maintenance of natural forests to ensure that they remain healthy and resilient in our changing climate;
  • $8 million to improve all 550 GreenThumb community gardens with new soil, new raised beds, and other resources that gardeners need;
  • $4 million for the 395 playgrounds to host structured sports and afterschool programs for children in every district;
  • $3 million to add 50 new Urban Park Rangers; and
  • $7.5 million to hire an additional 100 Parks Enforcement Patrol officers (Play Fair asked for $6 million to hire an additional 80 officers.)

“We are heartened to see Speaker Johnson and the City Council recognizing parks as critical city infrastructure,” said Lynn Kelly, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. “In our work across the city, residents of every council district tell us again and again that their parks are essential to their community, and yet they’re in dire need of increased maintenance. The City Council members are clearly hearing the same thing, as a majority has given their support to the Play Fair campaign. The City Council’s response budget includes some essential funding. We will continue to push for the full $100 million increase.” 

Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, "We thank Speaker Corey Johnson and the City Council for recognizing the importance of parks in its proposed budget. The proposed $26.5 million increase in the Parks Department budget is an important first step in better maintaining our green spaces. However, the $100 million increase that our Play Fair coalition has asked for is essential to make a lasting impact in protecting one of our city's most valuable environmental assets. We join our coalition partners in continuing the call for fair funding for parks."   

"We truly appreciate the recommendations of the New York City Council to increase Parks funding in the upcoming budget. We fully support the Play Fair Coalition because it is important to maintain and beautify our Parks for all New Yorkers," said Aimee Boden, President of Randall's Island Park Alliance. 

“The Natural Areas Conservancy commends the Council for their support of New York City’s forests, which represent 25% of NYC’s parkland,” said Sarah Charlop-Powers, Executive Director of the Natural Areas Conservancy. “Implementation of the Forest Management Framework for New York City is essential to ensuring local resilience and providing recreation for our growing population. This investment in our city’s parks will reap long term benefits for future generations including cleaner air and water.”  

“It’s terrific to see that there’s the potential for $8M to go into GreenThumb, and that at this time the Council is paying attention to the needs of community gardens and gardeners citywide,” said Aziz Dehkan, Executive Director of the New York City Community Garden Coalition  

“The City Council has been an unwavering supporter of parks and green space, and we are so thrilled to learn of their commitment to the Play Fair initiative," said Sue Donoghue, President, Prospect Park Alliance. “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. This initiative will go a long way toward addressing this inequity."   

"The Nature Conservancy applauds New York City Council for advocating for our parks and urban forests, which are essential for public health and quality of life. Investments in nature are investments in our people, communities, and future. The proposed budget is promising, and we look forward to working with the City and partners to ensure our green spaces thrive for all New Yorkers," said Emily Nobel Maxwell, New York City Program Director of The Nature Conservancy.  

“The Brooklyn Parks and Open Space Coalition is excited to see that the City Council’s budget response includes meaningful investments for park and garden maintenance and programming. Our Coalition includes park and garden advocates who understand first-hand the impact this funding would have on our communities, and we urge the City to make these funding commitments to improve conditions in our parks, gardens, and open spaces,” said Marlene Pantin, Co-Founder of the Brooklyn Parks and Open Space Coalition.  

“Parks and open space are invaluable for our community, making our city cooler during heat waves and providing a place where we can meet our neighbors and create strong communities,” said Carter Strickland, New York State Director for The Trust for Public Land. “Park visitors deserve a clean and safe place to get outside, and additional Parks Department employees will help. Our gardens and forests require upkeep, so that they can continue to provide benefits for all New Yorkers. We’re very happy that the Council has responded with additional funds as a start to full Play Fair funding.”  


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