By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
At a virtual rally today, the Play Fair Now Coalition consisting of DC 37, New Yorkers for Parks, and the League of Conservation Voters, as well as parks advocates urged the Mayor to restore $84 million in funding for city parks.
New Yorkers relied on public parks more than ever in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visits to city parks, green spaces, beaches, trails and wetlands were up 64 percent.
Still last year the City drastically reduced the Parks and Recreation Department budget. Parks eliminated hundreds of unionized jobs, including Urban Park Rangers, Seasonal City Aides and PEP Officers, Gardeners, Pruners, City Parks Workers, Debris Removers and Park Attendants, who protect park goers and clean and maintain grounds. All told about 1,700 seasonal and permanent Parks jobs went unfilled in 2020.
Volunteers cleaned local parks in their communities but the City, advocates said, should not rely on volunteers as a long term fix.
Presidents Dilcy Benn of Local 1505, Joe Puleo of Local 983 and Daniel Clay of Local 1507 spoke at the rally. Puleo said, “For the first time in 20 years we had layoffs of PEP Officers, who are the front line of park safety. UPRs, who educate city kids about the ecosystems of plants, birds and animals, and climate justice, were let go.”
“Garbage overflowed in parks, relief stations and bathrooms were shuttered during the pandemic. There wasn’t adequate staffing to clean and maintain them,” Benn said.
“Prospect Park and gardens are overgrown with invasive trees and poison ivy. There isn’t money in the budget for maintenance and planting,” said Clay.
Reducing Parks budget by $84 million dollars last year made no significant improvement to the overall City budget, advocates said. They pressed lawmakers to baseline funding for Parks jobs to guarantee employment for seasonal workers and to fund maintenance equipment. They said the Parks budget should be set at a minimum of 1 percent of the total City budget.
DC 37 urges our members and all New Yorkers to sign the petition below and tell the Mayor to restore funds for New York City Parks. Please sign the petition to restore Parks funding here: https://bit.ly/saveourparks2021