Friends of Dag Hammarskjold has joined the Play Fair Coalition led by New Yorkers for Parks and City Council Parks Committee Chair Barry Grodenchik to request $150 million be added to the City’s annual budget to maintain and operate the NYC parks system—29,000 acres of parkland. At present the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) receives less than HALF of ONE PERCENT of the city’s annual budget for Maintenance and Operations (M&O), which explains why uniformed park workers are scarce and Park Enforcement Patrol are an endangered species.
The campaign kicked off with a rally on the steps of City Hall (Feb. 28) and testimony delivered at the City Council budget hearing March 8th. Letters to the Mayor followed. Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza put forth our case on all fronts for a park that represents only 1.5 acres, but has big maintenance requirements, given its midtown location in a densely populated neighborhood and use as a staging ground for mass rallies (capacity 8000). The park’s historic role as Gateway to the UN adds to security issues, and the concentration of homeless shelters in midtown also impacts this open space with the largest public garden on the east side of midtown Manhattan.
Although Parks’ mobile crew (welfare to work program) help clean Dag Plaza, they lack the manpower to provide an adequate level of litter control/sanitation or routine maintenance like cleaning the park’s six fountains. For 20 years, Friends of DHP have outsourced plaza and fountain cleaning to service providers like the Doe Fund, but with costs skyrocketing, the City must do its fair share. We appealed to Councilman Keith Powers to assist but essential park services must be built into the City’s annual budget.
AN ADDITIONAL $150 MILLION FOR PARKS WOULD PROVIDE:
$17.96 million of the proposed increase in M&O for Parks would provide fixed-post crews to small neighborhood parks that currently lack a full time, dedicated staff. (That’s Dag Plaza!) while $47.17 million would allow the 48 largest parks to have dedicated crews.
$6 million would ensure that parks are safe by adding 80 additional Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) in FY 2020, which begins July 1, 2019. The current Parks operating budget provides for about 300 PEP officers, of which 84 positions are privately funded.
$3.9 million would mean that 395 playgrounds could offer structured sports and afterschool programs for children in every district.
$3 million would provide for 50 new urban park rangers to connect New Yorkers with the nature that surrounds us.
Finally, the Play Fair coalition advocates base-lining the salaries of park employees so that they have a secure career path with excellence rewarded by promotion rather than chronic agency attrition. Regardless of economic conditions, the agency is chronically underfunded and pressured to raise more money from concessions, be it hot dog vendors and cafes or golf courses.