Elected Officials and Advocates Urge Administration to Fund a Visionary Park Equity Agenda

Green Space Advocates Create Pop-up Park at City Hall in Demonstration Against Executive Budget Cuts


CONTACT: Tyrone Stevens (917) 842-5748 / [email protected]

NEW YORK -- On Wednesday, May 27, City Council Parks Committee Chair Mark Levine, and New Yorkers for Parks alongside elected officials and more than 100 people from across the city, representing community gardeners, park users, church groups, and New Yorkers who care about their parks, gathered today to show their passionate support for our city’s green spaces. Parks supporters from across the city called on the Administration to fund key initiatives for public green spaces to address the equity gap. There are currently hundreds of struggling parks in low and moderate income communities that have fallen behind highly funded parks in wealthier areas.


Funding proposals the Council has called for that are not part of the Mayor’s Executive Budget includes support for the Community Parks Initiative, Green Thumb Program, and the hiring of additional gardeners, playground associates and maintenance workers. All of these programs are vital to advance a meaningful Park Equity Agenda.

The Mayor’s Executive Budget provides increases in funding for parks enforcement officers and tree maintenance, but cuts that impact parks operations remain in place. At yesterday’s executive budget hearing, Commissioner Silver acknowledged that the Mayor’s budget proposal cuts the jobs of 150 maintenance workers and gardeners, as well as staff at Community Parks Initiative sites. Additionally, the Administration’s ten year capital spending proposal allocates no funding for midsize anchor parks and represents a cut from the previous administration’s capital plan.

“As the city embarks on one of the biggest building booms in its history we must plan for green space and open space. Parks are anchors of healthy neighborhoods all over the city, and we must do more to ensure that every community has healthy green space--especially low- and moderate-income areas. I look forward to working with the Administration, colleagues in the City Council and parks advocates from across the five boroughs to ensure our green spaces are fully and equitably funded,” said Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the City Council Parks Committee. 

"The Mayor's budget does not support the growth, maintenance, innovation or equity that our city needs from its park system," said Tupper Thomas, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. "It's time for the city to treat parks and gardens as the essential public services they are."

Council Member Costa Constantinides said, "When you improve a park, you improve a community.  Funding for parks should not be contingent on how wealthy the surrounding neighborhood is.  Investments in our city's vital green spaces must be robust and equitable so that we all have the same access to great parks.  I support my colleague Council Member Mark Levine in this rally for parks equity and thank him for his leadership on this important issue."

“Vibrant parks are the center piece to quality of life in New York City. In many communities in my district, the local park is the only green space that is available to my constituents. Unfortunately, our city’s parks have been underfunded for way too long, resulting in parks that are unsafe or rundown. Now is the time for the city to invest in green spaces in every neighborhood--New Yorkers deserve access to high quality parks no matter where they live,” staid Council Member Rafael L. Espinal, Jr., of Brooklyn.

"Our parks can only thrive as much as we invest in them,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “All New Yorkers have a right to access outdoor space. Any fair budget must contain sufficient resources for our parks to ensure that they are safe and well-maintained. On the East Side of Manhattan, we have one of the lowest rates of open space in the city. It is essential we invest in and maintain the parks we do have."

“Quality parks increase the health of our neighborhoods. They provide a welcome change of pace from City life and afford children of all economic means a free place to play. As we as a Council  make strides against economic and environmental injustices, it is crucial that we address the equity gap in our Parks system and prioritize providing higher quality parks to those living in low-to-moderate income communities,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson (D-16th District, Bronx). “By increasing Parks funding, we will have an opportunity to better care for those parks without private endowments while adding significant value to our communities. I thank Council Member Levine for his leadership on this critical issue.

“The residents of Northern Manhattan know all too well the inequities that exist in our parks system. Though we boast the second greenest area in Manhattan we have only a fraction of the requisite resources. Today, I am proud to join my colleagues as we call for greater equity and transparency, so that the communities like mine in Northern Manhattan receive the resources we deserve,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.

"Central Park and Riverside Park in my district depend on funds from private donors to cover basic operating costs, and other parks are not so lucky. I join Council Member Mark Levine in calling for more funding for New York City parks," said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

“Our parks are largely supported by volunteer organizations in our communities and they do a wonderful job, but they need our support so I stand with my colleagues and New Yorkers for Parks in calling for more funding to provide cleaner, safer parks and gardens,” said Council Member Donovan Richards (D-Queens).

We need to provide more funding for our Parks to close the equity gap in the city's parks system.  Funding should be distributed equally so our children, families, and seniors can continue to enjoy our parks for recreational activity," said Council Member Darlene Mealy.

Jennifer Nitzky, ASLA-NY President said, “Funding for city parks not only improves the quality of life for our communities, but it also ensures that the health, safety and welfare of it's users remain a top priority. Landscape Architects lead the stewardship, planning and design of our built and natural environments. With proper funding, landscape architects are able to provide our communities with sustainable and vibrant parks that benefit all communities. ASLA-NY is proud to support Council Member Levine and the New Yorkers for Parks in their advocacy efforts to increase park funding.”

"New York City has the premier parks system in the country but the Department of Parks and Recreation's budget has not kept pace with the needs of a system that has steadily increased in size and in usage," said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. "The Community Parks Initiative is a great start, but it will take a lot more to fully fund our parks. We look forward to working with the Administration and the City Council to realize a robustly-funded, well-maintained parks system that more equitably allocates resources." 

Peter H. Kostmayer, CEO of Citizens Committee for New York City, said: "New Yorkers mustn’t be forced to choose between affordable housing for our neighbors and precious open space and parkland. Developing housing on land that was once open and green would be a hollow victory indeed."

Items included in the Mayor’s Executive Budget released on May 7, 2015:


  •  $5 million in funding for the Parks Enforcement Patrol

  • $2.6 million for tree pruning for a total of $6 million

  •  $3 million for Trees and Sidewalk Program for a total of $6 million


  • $151 million for the second phase of the Community Parks Initiative

Items not included in the Mayor’s Executive Budget released on May 7, 2015 that Council Member Levine is calling for:


  •  Restore $8.7 million for gardeners and park maintenance workers.

  • $1 million increase for the Green Thumbs Program to support the City’s more than 600 community gardens.

  • $750,000 for tree stump removal

  • Restore $750,000 in funding for the Parks Equity Initiative.

  • $5.4 million to hire 200 additional playground associates.


  • $500K to support a Master Planning process for the city’s mid-sized parks--especially those which are regional draws with high usership.  

  • $5 million for the Green Thumbs Program to address infrastructure needs.


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