Parks budget and us

Parks has two key budget areas: Maintenance (Maintenance, Gardening and Security Staff) and Capital Construction improvement projects.

The Chair of City Council’s Parks Committee Mark Levine wants $27 million to be included in Parks budget ,over the amount already in place for maintenance, for “neighborhood parks (those not funded by wealthy conservancies).

Levine reported that the mayor reiterated “his commitment to closing the parks equity gap…”

The Mayor has also continued to include $80 million in capital funding for Parks department use for “neighborhood parks” in the budget.

Parks Department has requested 55 capital division jobs to help move all new projects forward.

For more on Parks budget:

Interview with Mark Levine, Chair of Parks Committee for City Council


Capital article on Mayor’s Parks budget.


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The Hua Mei Bird Sanctuary in Sara Roosevelt Park


The Hua Mei Bird Sanctuary
The Hua Mei Bird Sanctuary -photo by Lee Elson

From a post on 9/8/2009 by Brian Dubé

“…In 1995, three men, a Chinese banker and two former waiters, approached Anna Magenta, who, with Federico Sabini, had started the Forsyth Street Garden Conservancy in 1994 to improve the park. With her help, they petitioned the Parks Department, and in 1995, the Hua Mei Bird Garden was hatched. Bird gardens are common in China, and there are even restaurants that cater to patrons with their birds in tow.

Every morning, a group of Chinese men gather with their songbirds, finches, sparrows, and blue jays among them. But the raison d’être of this garden is the Hua Mei with its songs. On weekends, the population of men and birds reaches its zenith, with dozens of cages along the walkway and hanging from lines. Most of the birds’ owners are retired Chinese men.

The Hua Mei is a fighting song thrush – in the company of other males, it fights, and for females, it sings. The distinguishing physical feature is a white line that circles the eye and extends towards the back of the head. The birds are kept in ornate handmade bamboo cages, frequently with a white cloth covering the cage to shield them from the impact of the city. The birds are imported from China and Vietnam – they are quite costly, requiring quarantine before being brought into a domestic environment.

The gathering is a social one for both the owners and the birds. The Hua Mei needs exercise, and the owners take the opportunity to introduce the birds to each other while bird talk dominates the conversation…”

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US Senator Gillabrand’s Representative visits M’Finda Kalunga Garden in Sara Roosevelt Park

Senator Kristen Gillabrand’s representative Patti Lubin visited the M’Finda Kalunga Garden as part of her tour of LES Community Gardens (also included were Children’s Magical Garden and Liz Christy).

Among other issues the Senator is trying to link NYC urban agriculture in community gardens with upstate farm agriculture.

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We talked about possible links to CSA’s and local community gardens. From the Senator’s website:

Connecting Fresh Produce with New Markets – Combating Food Deserts
More than 20 million people live in areas known as “food deserts,” areas that are out of reach of a supermarket, particularly common in communities of color, low income communities, and rural areas. This is a major barrier for families to reach fresh, nutritious food they need to lead healthy lives, and blocks the economic benefits of local supermarkets, such as jobs and associated retail. 

Senator Gillibrand is fighting for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative to help bring more grocery stores, farmers markets, food cooperatives and other options within reach by providing one time start-up grants and affordable loan financing. 

Increasing Access to Farmers Markets
Current participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are unable to use these benefits at farmers markets because farmers markets typically lack the wired Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) terminals  that process SNAP funds. This adds another barrier to fresh, nutritious produce for families in need, and farmers lose out on this business at their markets.

Senator Gillibrand is pushing to change this by providing farmers markets and other non-traditional retailers with wireless, mobile technology that can enable EBT terminals and process SNAP payments. 

New York is home to roughly 520 farmers markets, second only to California. More than 2.5 million New Yorkers received SNAP benefits in 2010. Connecting SNAP recipients with farmers markets can help these individuals lead healthier lives with better access to fresh produce, and help support this business for our state’s farmers. 

Photo from left:

K Webster – President Sara Roosevelt Park Coalition

Bob Humber – Director of the Elizabeth Hubbard Memorial Garden and Head Gardener of M’Finda Kalunga Garden

Kate Temple-West  – Children’s Magical Garden

Patti Lubin – Senator Kristen Gillabrand’s Representative

Aresh Javadi –  Children’s Magical Garden

2nd photo the same but instead of Aresh we have Aziz!

Aziz Dehkan- Executive Director of the New York City Community Garden Coalition

Photos taken by:

Charles  Krezell: Board member of the New York City Community Garden Coalition in cooperation with LUNGS (Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens.)


It was good to have the Senator interested in what we do!

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New Parks Commissioner priorities: park equity, resilience, community health, safety and innovation

More good news!

“I believe in the anatomy of a place, of a city,” he said. “Parks are a system within a city. They are connected to culture. They are connected to traditions and memories, the economy, the natural systems. As a planner, I take a very different view of parks, as not just a green space but a public space.”…..

….“So equity and fairness to me is absolutely paramount. How we figure that out, I don’t know. There’ll be a lot of meetings, both internally but also externally with our partners, to figure out how we can have a fair parks system.”

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Fairness in parks spending: Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Council

“..The focus on park equity, which fits in with Mayor de Blasio’s theme of inequality, follows years of huge capital expenditures on parks under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, with almost $1 billion going to a small number of parks, like Brooklyn Bridge Park, Governors Island and the High Line…”








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Park Equity Begins with a Better Public Budget

This post comes from the New Yorkers for Parks blog.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

On March 27, the City Council’s Parks Committee held its annual preliminary budget hearing, and NY4P Executive Director Tupper Thomas was there to offer both testimony about specific budgetary needs this fiscal year, but also to begin to address some of the more overreaching equity issues facing the park system.

The hearing arrived on the heels of Mayor de Blasio’s introduction of Mitchell Silver as New York City’s next Parks Commissioner. The announcement, held in Seward Park, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, was an inspiring day for park advocates across the city. Both the mayor and incoming commissioner offered thoughtful, even-handed commentary centered on a clear goal: a fairer park system for all New Yorkers.

We are pleased to see that the mayor’s preliminary budget for Parks not only baselines many of the important restorations made over the past few years, such as street-tree care and stump removal,  but funds items up front that are usually subject to the annual budget dance, such as Playground Associates and seasonal workers.

This good news gives us the opportunity to turn our attention to the larger issue of addressing inequities across the park system. The solution is complex and nuanced. While many of the large park conservancies are ready to work with the commissioner on bringing more private resources – financial and otherwise – to parks in need, it’s clear, as Parks Committee Chairman Mark Levine noted recently in the Huffington Post, that addressing inequities must begin with the public budget. There are several specific budget and policy reforms that the administration and Parks Department can undertake in the name of equity and fairness.

On the expense side, this will require addressing the top concern of many local park advocates across the city: there simply isn’t enough full-time staff assigned to the parks that need them most. Rather, 75 percent of the Department’s maintenance staff is made up of Job Training Participants who work at the Department up to six months but are almost never given an opportunity for permanent employment once their training is complete. “Almost as soon as they’re really up to speed on the park, they cycle out,” a local advocate told us recently. Her comment rings true across the city. At the same time, many advocates tell us that having full-time staff – a familiar face in the park – goes a long way toward improving the overall park experience for users. These issues offer Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Silver an opportunity to both address park equity issues and create good jobs.

What would those jobs be, where would they make the most immediate impact, and how much money is needed to create them? Here are some great ways to get started in the highest-use, highest-need neighborhood parks:

·    $2 million for 50 full-time workers to staff playgrounds with comfort stations.

·    $1.5 million for 25 skilled full-time gardeners to help maintain midsized neighborhood parks. Our organization learned first-hand how important these positions are when we helped lead the Neighborhood Parks Initiative almost 10 years ago.

Not only would these new positions start making a difference for parks most in need right away, but they’d offer an opportunity for the Department’s part-time workers to gain full-time employment through a new, robust training program to help transition JTP staff into full-time maintenance workers and gardeners.

·    Additionally, though the Parks Department has shortened its street-tree pruning cycle thanks to recent budget restorations, DPR still prunes very few trees park trees. $2 million would allow the Department to at least prune about 25,000 trees in parks: a good start toward a pruning cycle.

These are possible suggestions for a better operating budget. If the Council could establish a neighborhood parks fund of $5-6 million, Commissioner Silver could work with the Council on a plan that really addresses needs in underserved parks.

There is also an opportunity to address inequities through the capital budget. In recent years, the Parks Department has not had a meaningful discretionary budget to really enable it to plan for and fund capital projects over time across parks citywide. Rather, the DPR has been reliant for funding for the majority of its projects on piecemeal discretionary allocations from City Council Members and Borough Presidents. Cobbling together allocations over multiple fiscal years from different elected officials is inefficient, leads to inequitable results, and often means the nuts-and-bolts needs of parks across the city fall through the cracks.

We are pleased to see that our call for increased discretionary capital funding, as highlighted in our Parks Platform 2013 and elsewhere, seems to have been heard: the FY 15 budget contains a significant amount of capital funding, and it appears to be at the discretion of Commissioner Silver. We call on the Council and administration to ensure that this funding remains in the budget.

The introduction of Mitchell Silver as Parks Commissioner ushered in a new era for New York City’s parks. We’re eager to work with Commissioner Silver and the leading conservancies on ways to bring more private money into high-need parks throughout the city, but we’re also hopeful that the Parks Department will now turn its primary focus to large-scale budget and policy reforms aimed at addressing inequity – and, in turn, lifting the park system as a whole.

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