Why NYC Should Add $47 Million to Its Parks Budget

In 2019, NYLCV partnered with New Yorkers for Parks and DC 37 to launch the Play Fair for Parks Campaign, a multi-year effort to advocate for increased funding of parks maintenance, staff, and programming. The campaign involves a large, expanding coalition of more than 275 organizations. The Play Fair Campaign believes that investing in greenspaces makes New York City more resilient in the face of climate change and improves residents’ daily lives and overall health.

Urban forests support the City’s environmental health, filtering out harmful pollutants, cooling temperatures, and supporting wildlife. In NYC, trees filter out an estimated 1,300 tons of pollutants, save nearly $94 million in health costs, capture 2 billion gallons of stormwater runoff, and store 1.2 million tons of carbon annually. While the City struggles with how to best protect park goers as the warm weather draws crowds, it is imperative to support the Parks’ employees and programs to maintain safe and successful urban greenspaces.

Although City parks make up 14% of NYC’s land, the Parks Department receives only 0.6% of the City’s total budget. This disparity has left parks and gardens neglected and overlooked as necessary infrastructure for successful and healthy neighborhoods. In the past, the City has recognized this disparity and set a goal in its OneNYC plan to have 85% of New Yorkers living within walking distance of a park by 2030. NYLCVEF’s Climate Action Tracker, released earlier this year, found that the City is making progress but still has a ways to go, with 81.5% of New Yorkers living within walking distance of a park as of 2019.

In the first year of the Play Fair Campaign, the coalition successfully added $44 million to the NYC Parks Budget. The largest portion of the FY20 increase was allocated as secure funding for park worker positions ($19.1 million), while other funds went toward additional Urban Park Rangers, Parks Enforcement Patrol officers, forestry management, community gardens, and tree stump removal programs. $1.7 million of the budget boost was used to extend the City’s pool and beach season by an additional week.

Now in its second year, Play Fair is asking the Mayor and the City Council to add $47 million to the NYC Parks Budget to maintain safe and healthy open spaces while protecting jobs within the Parks system. We are asking for $10 million to baseline the 100 City Park Workers and 50 Gardener staff lines, and $9 million to baseline and preserve the 50 new Urban Park Rangers and 80 new Parks Enforcement Patrol officers, and $7.4 million for the 15 Green Thumb and 47 Natural Resources Group staff created in the FY20 budget. The Campaign is asking for $5.5 million to create 100 City Seasonal Aide positions and $3 million to create an in-house comfort station improvement team. We recommend investing $7.85 million into recreation and programing, $950,000 into more than doubling NYC Parks staff that are conducting citywide needs assessment, $520,000 into four full-time lake and pond maintenance crews, and finally $2.5 million into much needed maintenance equipment.

Play Fair had originally called for an increase of $200 million, but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and impending City budget reduction, the campaign shifted gears. It is imperative for New Yorkers to have access to safe, healthy, and beautiful greenspaces at this time given the increased use of parks during the pandemic. If you agree, sign the petition in support of Play Fair for Parks Year 2.