State Senator Daniel Squadron (D) is proposing legislation for a neighborhood parks alliance to ease funding disparities and build partnerships between well-funded park conservancies and parks in need of support.
Though New York City recently ranked second on The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore index for city park systems, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) faces budget cuts annually. In 2012 the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks reported that the DPR’s maintenance and operations budget has faced 23% in cumulative cuts since 2008.
Some city parks manage to make up the difference with private fundraising – the Central Park Conservancy covers 85% of the park’s annual budget and employs approximately 90% of its staff.
Squadron, who represents New York’s 26th Senate District including the Lower East Side and the northern Brooklyn waterfront, argued in a recent New York Times op-ed that park budget cuts and lack of private support for parks in lower-income communities has had a disproportionate effect on the city’s 1,700 parks.
“…[T]he city and state have cut parks funding in ways that are unacceptable in the past few years. And for large parts of the city, they don’t see the effects of those cuts,” Squadron told MetroFocus’ Rafael Pi Roman. “If you live near Prospect Park, if you live near Central Park, whatever your lifestyle is, you don’t experience the injustice of these parks cuts.”
To address the disparity, Squadron’s legislation would require well-funded conservancies to contribute 20% of their annual budgets to “member parks” in need.
The senator says, “[s]o it’s actually a great opportunity to fund Central Park, Prospect Park, keep these parks world class, and also at the same time know that your dollars are going to a good place to help kids in need and neighborhoods in need.”