On Friday March 9th, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park’s Executive Director testified along with over 50 other New Yorkers at the City Council Hearing on the Parks FY20 Budget to ask that the City increase the Parks’ funding by an additional $100 million. Each year, the Friends and others attend this hearing to ask for an increase in the City’s budget for Parks because it is desperately needed. This year, thanks to New Yorkers for Parks’ Play Fair Campaign, there were more people in the room than there has been in many many years.
If you are interested in learning more about the Play Fair campaign please visit NY4P’s website where you can join the effort and tell Elected Officials to Play Fair for NYC Parks. Here is the testimony that Friends’ Executive Director Christina Taylor gave at the hearing:
“Thank you for allowing me to submit this testimony on behalf of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park. First of all, I want to thank our Councilman Andrew Cohen for his vital support of parks. Also, I would like to thank Chair Grodenchik for his leadership efforts to improve our parks.
We all know that NYC Parks is underfunded. They have been for many many years and this needs to change. There is not enough personnel and working equipment to properly maintain our parks at a level that our park users deserve. For example, in the Bronx our vehicles such as garbage packers and lawn mowers spend about as much time in the repair shop as they do out in the parks. When our comfort stations breakdown we have to wait for one of 4 Bronx plumbers to have time to fix it. This has resulted in our main comfort station for Cross Country Races being closed during major events.
To address these issues and other in parks throughout NYC, the Friends would like the NYC City Council to work with the NYC Mayor to finally commit the $10 million needed to baseline the 100 City Park Worker and 50 Gardener positions that we have to beg for each year and to increase the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation budget by $100 million. This is only an additional 0.10% but it will have a significant impact.
Specifically, the Friends would like that the $100 million go towards the following:
1.) Maintenance Funding! 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, gardeners, plumbers and other staff for the parks.
2.) Safety! There are not enough Parks Enforcement Patrol officers to keep our Parks safe. Currently, there are only 58 PEP officers to patrol over 6,000 acres of Parkland in the Bronx. These officers are split among multiple shifts and during evening patrols there is often only a handful on duty. The sad fact is that this is the largest number of PEP officers the Bronx has had in many years but it is not nearly enough.
3.) Funding for our Natural Areas! Van Cortlandt Park is the third largest park in New York City with 1,146 acres and over half of those acres are natural areas including old growth forests, freshwater wetlands, a brook and the largest freshwater lake in the Bronx. However, typically NYC Parks only has a crew of 3-5 that are dedicated to maintaining these natural areas. The Friends work with volunteers to maintain several of the natural areas in the Park but we are combating years of neglect. Our natural areas are at a tipping point. They are threatened by invasive plants, garbage dumping and lack of management. They need continual investment or they will decline in quality. New York City’s natural areas are at risk of losing diversity that, once lost, can never be regained.
In addition to these expenses funding requests, we are concerned about the Capital Process- capital projects are extremely expensive and take far to long to be completed. In 2014, 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 projects are funded and implemented. It has been 5 years and not one project new project in that plan has been done or is even close to being completed. The Capital Process is broken and desperately needs to be fixed. The Friends would like to work with New Yorkers for Parks, other park groups and the City Council in the future to figure out the solution to fixing the Capital Process.
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 NYC that we fund our Parks.”