NYC advocates press Adams to fulfill pledge on parks funding during budget season

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They want to see more green.

New York City park advocates are pressing Mayor Adams to deliver on his unmet campaign promise to put 1% of the city’s budget into the Parks Department.

Before a preliminary City Council budget hearing on parks, advocates plan to gather at City Hall on Thursday to deliver 15,000 petitions urging more parks funding, according to organizers.

Most major U.S. cities spend between 1% and 2% of their budgets on parks, according to New Yorkers for Parks, a century-old advocacy group that gathered the petitions.

But the Parks Department currently receives about .5% of the city’s budget, said Adam Ganser, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks. He recoiled at a proposal for the next budget that would keep parks funding roughly the same.

Ganser said the Parks Department’s staffing has already been hollowed out, leading to poorly maintained fields, rancid public bathrooms, and increasingly dangerous green spaces.

“It’s really a quality of life issue and a serious equity issue,” Ganser said, adding that parks in Harlem, the Bronx, Queens and outer Brooklyn in particular are suffering from a lack of staffing. “The mayor could fix this.”

The city’s finances have been strained by the asylum seeker crisis. The mayor’s office projects the city will spend $10 billion on migrant care by summer 2025.

Charles Lutvak, a spokesman for Adams, said in a statement that City Hall remains committed to ultimately reaching the 1% goal.

“Facing an unprecedented $7 billion gap, we balanced the budget in January without tax hikes, layoffs, or major service disruptions,” Lutvak said. “And the data is clear: Our parks are safer and better maintained than they were this time last year.”

But advocates for parks argue that the spaces are in dire need of more money, and that they provide a crucial refuge to New Yorkers.

The city has cut 700 parks staff positions in the current budget cycle, said City Councilman Shekar Krishnan, the Queens Democrat who chairs the Parks Committee.

In an interview, the councilman said “the mayor’s cuts are not only a failure in keeping his campaign promise, but are directly hurting our workers and our green spaces.”

“We have seen firsthand during the pandemic how deeply connected our parks are to our mental health,” said Krishnan, of Jackson Heights. “Investing in our parks is long overdue.”

In the 1970s, the city routinely put about 1.4% of its budget into the Parks Department, Ganser said, but funding has been stuck around a half-percent in recent years.