Leveling the Playing Field Between Rich and Poor Parks

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Jackie Robinson Park in Central Harlem Neighborhood parks, like Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem, above, rely on City Council members for funding. (Amy Pearl/WNYC)

Two competing plans to make funding for New York City's parks more equitable are vying to become policy.

Park advocates have long complained about the unequal state of public parks around the city. The grand marquee parks — like Central Park — feature manicured, litter-free grounds; clean, bubbling fountains; and a fleet of security and maintenance staff. Neighborhood parks, especially in low-income areas, often struggle with trash, overgrowth and disrepair.

State Senator Daniel Squadron calls the disparity the result of a "crisis" in park funding. While big parks often have conservancies that receive private donations, neighborhood parks rely heavily on appropriations from local city council members. Squadron, who represents Lower Manhattan and northwestern Brooklyn, said that leaves the parks in areas with more pressing problems of public health and safety competing for limited funding.

"Those who need it most shouldn't be left with the open spaces that are the least well maintained," he said

Last year Squadron proposed that privately-funded park conservancies with at least $5 million be required to partner with small struggling parks. The conservancies would have to designate a fifth of their budgets to their smaller partners. Squadron said he believes donors would likely appreciate the chance for their money to help maintain even more green space in the city.

The conservancies and some park advocates disagreed. They have pushed back against the proposal, saying the estimated $15 million it could generate is not enough to risk alienating donors.

Now the head of the City Council's parks committee, Mark Levine, has proposed a less-controversial solution: he and other council members have requested $27 million from the city budget, courtesy of all taxpayers, to keep small parks in good shape.

It is unclear which approach Mayor Bill de Blasio favors. His proposed budget allocated money for capital improvements in neighborhood parks but nothing for their maintenance.  The Council and the mayor have until July 1 to figure out a final budget.


Matthew Schuerman


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Comments [2]

Bruce from Astoria Park and DeMarco Park

Astoria Park:
A good park that get even better with improvements:

1. Though improved, The Shore Blvd portion of the park need to be rehabilitated and daily maintained. Most notably, the need for more trash cans and the need to dispose of the garbage in a timely manner. It is a jewel in Queens and could be a major asset to the community if maintained.

2. The tennis courts: needs resurfacing badly. There is a good tennis community here and a court resurfacing would be most welcomed.

3. An are set up for picnicking and barbecuing for both Astoria Park and DeMarco Park (further north)

Thank you.

Bruce from Astoria/Ditmars

May. 28 2014 09:49 AM
Sarah from Brooklyn

Wow, Mark Levine has come up with a logical proposal that involves the government doing its job, unlike Daniel Squadron and his idea, which fails on several levels. Kudos to Mr. Levine. The way I see it, the City has the authority to tax and spend. Over the years, the city has neglected its parks. Speaking of Prospect Park Alliance, which is the organization I am familiar with, it stepped in to do what the City SHOULD be doing, that is, taking care of its natural resources and open spaces in the Borough's beautiful big park. Prospect Park is not "manicured" and it is often overwhelmed with garbage. It is still woefully short of the resources it needs to host the thousands of people that visit from around the Borough every weekend. Many parts of the Park are run down, falling down, and depend on an overworked, dedicated staff plus a lot of volunteers, who pick up garbage, pull weeds, etc.

The thing that really blows my mind is that a legislator (Squadron), rather than proposing to use the taxing and spending authority that legislators are supposed to wield, is proposing not to give, but to TAKE one fifth of all money away from Prospect Park - money that was donated specifically to take care of the park, and which is needed because the City failed us in the first instance!

So, I don't know too much about Mark Levine, but thus far he has distinguished himself by being a thousands times more sensible than Daniel Squadron.

May. 27 2014 10:11 PM

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