Friends of Van Cortlandt Park’s Executive Director gave the following testimony at the NYC City Council Parks Committee Preliminary FY19 Budget Hearing on Tuesday March 27th, 2018.
Good afternoon. Thank you for allowing me to testify. My name is Christina Taylor and I am the Executive Director of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park. First of all, I want to thank our Councilman Andrew Cohen for his vital support of parks.
We all know that NYC Parks is underfunded. They have been for many many years and this needs to change. The Friends would happily join you to urge Mayor de Blasio to increase funding for NYC Parks.
A few years ago, NYC Parks approved a comprehensive Master Plan for the first time in the park’s history, however that Master Plan will never be accomplished in 20 years with the current rate in which project are funded and implemented.
Currently in Van Cortlandt Park we have several capital projects that are critical parts of the Master Plan in the works that are delayed due to various reasons including significant increases in cost since funding was originally secured. We also have several projects that are needed but the estimates are so incredibly high that finding money for them will be nearly impossible. For example, a small wooden bridge on the popular John Kieran trail which is shared with the Van Cortlandt Golf Course is closed to pedestrians for safety reasons. NYC Parks has estimated this to be $2.5 million capital project. This is just ridiculous. A project like this should not cost nearly this much or take 3-5 years to implement.
The Capital Process is Broken! In addition to increasing Parks Budget, we need to improve the system so our dollars are better spent. The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park are willing to work with our Elected Officials and NYC Parks to make this happen.
In the meantime, for the upcoming fiscal year, the Friends requests the following:
1.) Capital Funding! NYC Parks needs a much larger Capital Budget to implement infrastructure improvements as needed. NYC Parks shouldn’t have to beg Elected Officials for funding of basic infrastructure projects. They should have their own dedicated capital budget to implement these projects like every other City agency does. Elected Officials should only have to provide support for projects that are above and beyond a park’s basic needs.
2.) Maintenance Funding! We strongly believe that NYC Parks is not funded at a level needed for the agency to properly maintain and care for all of its parks. Each year, we see funding allocated for Capital Projects which vastly improve our parks but we don’t see an increase in maintenance funding to keep the new facilities in good shape. Instead, after a few years, they fall into disrepair and need new capital funding to restore them. This can be avoided with ongoing maintenance. The budget should allocate more money to dedicated maintenance staff, PEP officers and other staff for the park.
3.) Specifically for our Park- Daylighting Tibbetts Brook- NYC Parks needs funding for Phase 1 of this project which involves Wetland Restoration within Van Cortlandt Park to begin decreasing the amount of brook water entering the City’s sewer system. Also, funding is needed to purchase property from CSX to implement Phase 2- true daylighting. Daylighting Tibbetts Brook has been a potential project for 20 years- it’s time to make it happen. This project should not only involve NYC Parks but we need NYC DEP to participate as they will directly benefit from Daylighting Tibbetts Brook.
The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park fully support the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and its efforts to maintain and improve all parks in NYC. It is important to the future of our borough that we fund our Parks.