The nonprofit group’s “Five Point Plan for Park Equity” platform calls on New York’s next mayor and City Council to do more than the bare minimum of reinvesting in the Parks Department, which suffered an $80 million budget cut last year.
It urges the city to increase parks investment, develop a five-borough open space plan, address disparities in park access based on race and income, overhaul the capital process to deliver parks improvements, create new parks across the city, and invest in the maintenance of natural areas and waterfronts.
“We need a new vision for a new era of parks in our city,” said Adam Ganser, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks. “Now is the time to prioritize these open spaces as the essential infrastructure they are, not only for our quality of life and environmental resilience, but as drivers of New York’s economic recovery.”
The five core policy tenets of the platform include:
• A comprehensive parks and open space plan that prioritizes a cross-agency open space vision focusing on parks, access, climate resiliency, equitable economic development, and open space equity. The Plan also calls to create a Director of the Public Realm.
• Commit 1 percent of the city’s budget for parks maintenance and operations, like other top US cities that dedicate up to 2 percent of their budgets for safe, clean, and accessible parks, as well as identify alternative public funding models.
• Build more parks and open space in under-resourced communities where they are needed, invest in comprehensive environmental plans for the city’s existing natural areas, and commit to creative proposals including greenways and Open Streets.
• Fix the capital improvement process by reforming the citywide procurement process for faster, cheaper building of parks and giving NYC Parks a flexible capital budget.
• Empower communities by championing and indemnifying nonprofit partners and volunteer stewardship groups, and facilitating programs that enhance access to resources in parks and open spaces.
In addition to straining critical citywide park maintenance and operations, the pandemic deepened stark inequities in access across majority Black, Latinx, and Asian neighborhoods in the five boroughs.
The data confirms not only that neighborhoods of color are underserved, but that citywide the vast majority of districts lack a sufficient amount of open spaces.
For example, 33 percent of New Yorkers do not have a park within a five-minute walk, and of the 59 community districts in the city, 48 have less than 10 percent of city-owned parkland within their district.
Also, twelve of the 20 districts with the least amount of parkland are districts with a majority people of color, majority-white communities are not universally well-resourced for public space.
Community district 12 in Brooklyn comprising Borough Park, Kensington, Ocean Parkway and Midwood has a 70 percent white population and just 1 percent parkland.
Amenities are also lacking In Queens, seven of 14 districts have no recreation center, seven have no swimming pool, and seven have no dog runs.