$130 million secured to invest in 35 under-resourced parks throughout NYC. On October 7, 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Department of Parks & Recreation Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver announced a $130 million investment in 35 community parks throughout the five boroughs. This is the first phase of a multi-faceted program to support investment in the most under-resourced parks and communities, known as the Community Parks Initiative. The Mayor’s capital budget raised $110 million of program financing. The City Council, Borough Presidents, and foundation grants cumulatively contributed another $20 million.
As part of Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to equitable distribution of resources for better parks and open spaces, the City developed NYC Parks: Framework for an Equitable Future to strategically allocate resources; promote a cleaner, greener, and more resilient city; incorporate community and stakeholder engagement; and cultivate innovative ideas. The Community Parks Initiative funding will be used to repair cracked asphalt, improve old play equipment and benches, and replace concrete with greenery. The Department of Environmental Protection has committed an additional $36 million to the CPI to build rainwater landscaping, porous surfaces, and storm water detention below the surface. Additionally, a $7 million expense budget investment will be used to provide recreation programs, maintenance staff, and gardeners. This Initiative represents a total $173 million investment in capital and expense funding.
The City Parks Foundation, a nonprofit organization that creates various programs in parks across all five boroughs, will create 14 outreach coordinators through the Partnership for Parks initiative to build strong park stewards in each of the 35 identified locations. In addition to the 35 parks, CPI will address 55 other locations for “quick fixes,” such as painting and fencing. NYC Parks identified these sites as areas of particular need that require immediate targeted improvement.
The Parks Department completed a thorough assessment of neighborhood park needs, and the City initially identified 215 parks throughout the city that received less than a cumulative $250,000 in funding over the past 20 years. Commissioner Silver stated that in order to address all 215 parks would have required $1 billion. The Parks Department then employed a specific methodology to narrow the program’s scope and prioritize parks of the most need. Factors that were considered included neighborhoods with high population growth and density, and above-average percentage of low-income residents. NYC Parks also considered maintenance records, and the capacity to improve.
At his announcement, Mayor de Blasio encouraged contributions from non-government agencies. Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “[I] think we believe fundamentally in an agenda of fighting inequality. I think it’s front and center in the philosophy of this administration and it applies to everything we’re doing – doesn’t matter if you’re talking about schools or job creation or parks – it’s the way we see the world.”
President of NYC Park Advocates Geoffrey Croft told CityLand “We’re happy that the new administration is taking steps to create a more equitable distribution of funds.” He went on to give concerns about continued CPI financing. “For me, there is a big issue with lack of expense money, which the new administration has unfortunately not dealt with. When you just spend money on capital, but don’t have any money to maintain the parks, that is a problem.” He also called for an overview of the entire park system, “not just one based on politics.” “Every square inch, flora and fauna, the condition of trees needs to be looked at. Then you move from there,” Mr. Croft said.
The announcement was held at Bowne Playground in Queens, one of 35 sites. The Mayor stood alongside City Commissioners, City and State elected officials, and park advocates.
By: Danielle Librandi (Danielle is a CityLaw Intern and a Student at New York Law School, Class of 2016).