The New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) is a founding member of the multi-year Play Fair advocacy campaign. Along with New Yorkers for Parks and DC 37 (the parks workers’ union), the Play Fair Coalition supports an increased investment in New York City’s parks. Last year, the coalition focused on significantly increasing the Parks Department’s expense budget to baseline funding for crucial parks employees, including maintenance workers, gardeners, and others. New York City’s parks are a community staple and help fight against climate change, yet they are underfunded and often neglected.
In 2019, the coalition successfully secured $44 million in additional funds for the Parks Department in the FY20 budget. These additional funds have supported projects like tree stump removal and community gardens, and have funded maintenance workers, gardeners, and forestry managers. While this was a big win for the coalition, many city parks and recreational areas are still in need of maintenance, staffing, and infrastructure improvements.
In Year 2 of the Play Fair Campaign, the coalition has grown to include more than 230 organizations across the city. Together, we are asking the Mayor and the City Council to consider adding $200 million for New York City’s parks in the FY21 budget: $100 million for the parks expense budget and $100 million for much-needed capital investments. On March 13th, NYLCV, New Yorkers for Parks, and dozens of Play Fair coalition members held a digital rally—featuring a speech from NYLCV President Julie Tighe—to officially launch our Year 2 platform. We now have support from 33 out of 50 Council Members.
Protecting and investing in our parks is one of NYLCV’s top priorities. Parks and other green spaces are some of the city’s most valuable environmental assets: they bring New Yorkers closer to nature, are centers of recreation, and help mitigate the effects of climate change. In fact, our city’s tree canopy stores more than a million tons of carbon each year, and mitigates the urban heat island effect by helping reduce temperatures by up to nine degrees. Parks also provide clean air by filtering out pollutants, and help protect our waterways by capturing almost 2 billion gallons of stormwater each year.
In addition to these environmental benefits, investments in our city’s parks and the people who maintain them is an opportunity for the city to support new and existing green jobs. As part of the coalition’s $200 million request, it includes $10 million to baseline the new 100 city park workers and 50 gardener staff lines added in the FY20 budget. It also includes $5.5 million to create a pathway to full-time employment for 100 parks opportunity program participants citywide.
Other requests include $4 million for improvements to nearly 400 playgrounds to equip them with the ability to host structured sports and afterschool programs for children in every district. Also included is almost $8 million to support our urban forests, lakes, ponds, and gardens.