Cuts made to the city’s parks and recreation department last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be reversed in this year’s budget deal, and more.
The $ 98.7 billion budget for the fiscal year adopted Wednesday includes about $ 620 million for the parks department, according to the mayor’s office.
This is a significant increase from the $ 503 million earmarked for the agency in the budget adopted in June 2020 for fiscal year 2021, which was down $ 84 million from the year before the pandemic. Amid the isolation of the crisis, residents flocked to local parks, one of the few public spaces where people could spend time outside their homes during the lockdown.
“Many of these have served as New Yorkers’ havens over the past year,” City Council Chairman Corey Johnson said, noting that the 2022 budget will also reverse pandemic-related cuts to cultural institutions. and the Ministry of Sanitation. Cuts in the latter’s budget have led to the end of the city’s curbside composting program and the resignation of its commissioner and current mayoral candidate, Kathyrn Garcia.
The budget announcement comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office plans a city-wide reopening party on the Great Lawn of Central Park with headliners Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and Jennifer Hudson.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, this restoration and additional allocation gives us the resources we need to stay true to our commitment to provide equitable access to quality parks and green space for all New Yorkers.” New York Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver said. “It will truly be the New York summer. “
Part of the funding from Parks will support “Play Fair,” a campaign overseen by a coalition of around 300 groups and organizations dedicated to keeping spaces open, including natural areas and city forests.
Use of these areas, which encompass about a quarter of the city’s park systems, increased by about 65% during the pandemic, according to Sarah Charlop-Powers, executive director of Natural Areas Conservancy, one of the organizations in nonprofit involved in Play Fair.
Chalrop-Powers called last year’s budget cuts a “blow,” especially because of the additional foot traffic.
“Unfortunately, this corresponded to an increase in visits to all of the city’s parks,” she said.
This has resulted in more waste and less staff to clean up green spaces, remove invasive species, and plant trees.
This year’s $ 79.6 million funding for Play Fair is about $ 700,000 more than what the coalition requested to fund its programs.
In addition to paying for more than 200 park rangers and patrol officers – positions cut from the previous year’s budget, the mayor’s office said – the money allocated will support community gardens, forest management and community initiatives. ‘equity.
“We are relieved to see funding restored for the maintenance and critical operations of New York City parks, and we are pleased to see all of the Play Fair Coalition priorities funded for the new fiscal year to ensure that New Yorkers have the safe, clean, accessible parks they deserve, ”said Adam Ganser, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, at City Limits.
Investing in equitable access to parks and trees was a sticking point for environmentalists across the country and during the city’s primary election.
A recent report from American Forests, which measured the number of trees in neighborhoods across the United States against the racial and economic demographics in those areas, found that low-income communities and communities of color had fewer more trees than the richer, mostly white neighborhoods. The report says New York should add 1.5 million trees in order to provide an equitable distribution of tree cover in each neighborhood.
Next year’s budget could allocate more funds to the city’s parks programs, depending on who is elected mayor in November. Votes are still being tallied for the Democratic primary and the results are uncertain, following an electoral board misfire last week.
The first three candidates have all committed, in various forms, to investing in green spaces. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who has maintained his lead in the race and is presumed to be the Democratic nominee in the November general election, has vowed to make sure everyone lives at least 15 minutes away from the race. ‘a park. Former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia has pledged 1% of New York City’s budget to parks, and Maya Wiley said in an interview with the New York League of Conservation Voters that she undertake to finance the equity of the parks.
“Our parks save lives,” said Wiley.
Liz Donovan is a member of the Report for America Corps.