This informative piece appeared in Friday’s New York Daily News, an Op-Ed by parks advocate Geoffrey Croft addressing the vast reduction over the years of the Parks Department budget and why creating a city-wide conservancy – as proposed by State Senator Daniel Squadron – is not the answer.
At Washington Square Park, the misguided powers that be at Community Board 2 were apparently blissfully unaware of (or unconcerned with) all the problems associated with private conservancies and let one sail through an “approval” process by the Board with minimal scrutiny.
When information was revealed by this blog that a false front had been presented to the public based on serious collusion between the private Conservancy founders and city Parks Department officials, the Community Board still decided to look the other way.
The other major conservancies took hold when their corresponding parks were seeing very dark days, such has not been the case at Washington Square. In fact, a conservancy at the park had been shot down at various points over at least 12 years. To push this one through, a whole boat load of information was intentionally omitted and concealed. Will the Community Board and/or elected officials intervene? Stay tuned.
In the meantime, it is good to be aware of the following information and perspective.
Government Must Pay to Remedy the vast inequalities of our parks
New York Daily News, March 28, 2014
Sen. Daniel Squadron’s proposal to force certain park nonprofits to allocate 20% of their budgets from private donations to other parks is well intended — but it won’t work.
by Geoffrey Croft
For decades, the public has been told the funds are not available to hire the employees that are so desperately needed. Increasingly in wealthy neighborhoods, these basic services are being funded with private money.
What this means in practical terms is that those chosen few have dedicated staff assigned to individual parks while the vast majority have to make do with the often deplorable and unequal conditions found throughout the city.
State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn) has introduced controversial legislation — supported by Mayor de Blasio — that would force certain park nonprofits to allocate 20% of their budgets from private donations to other parks — a means, he says, to help address the inequity.
Squadron’s “Neighborhood Parks Alliance,” would form partnerships between a “well-financed” conservancy and less fortunate parks.
Under the plan, a “poor” park would perform tasks like gathering signatures from local residents, establishing its own conservancy group. It also would need a commitment from the city and local lawmakers to maintain the current level of public financing.
This well-intentioned but deeply misguided law shows a clear lack of understanding of the enormous problems facing our vast but resource-poor park system. Relying on what, in reality, are a few conservancies to deliver the tens of billions of dollars in capital needs, and another three quarters of a billion dollars annually for maintenance and operation, is deeply misguided.
Squadron testified Thursday that he thought his proposal could generate approximately $15 million dollars annually; in other words, enough to build a few bathrooms.
Another unfortunate consequence of this conversation is that it is detracting from the real issue — that our elected officials refuse to fund parks as an essential city service.
The administration needs to take responsibility by dramatically increasing the parks budget and ensuring the funds are distributed according to need — not on politics or private interests — while demanding accountability from an agency that is in desperate need of reform.
We need to attack the very system that allows and encourages this enormous disparity and discrimination in the first place, not invite more.
Until these things happen, nothing will change.
Geoffrey Croft is the founder and president of NYC Park Advocates, a city-wide watchdog group.
In addition, at Croft’s blog, A Walk in the Park, he expanded on this information as follows:
The fact that Central Park receives large private donations while 99.9% parks do not is not the problem. The Central Park Conservancy exists solely because of a failed city policy i.e. our elected officials refusal to take care of all of our parks so the wealthiest people per capita in the world took matters into their own hands. This is hardy a sustainable model, nor should it be.
Each year our elected officials allocate approximately one-third of the desperately needed funds required to properly operate our public parks. This year is no different. The Mayor’s preliminary budget allocates just $301.2 million in city-funds – just .52 % of the overall city budget in city funds for an agency responsible for 14 % of the city’s land. Up until the 1960’s parks received up to 1.4 % of the city budget or greater. An astonishing decrease.
Photo: Anthony Lanzilote for the New York Daily News
Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:
Washington Sq Park Conservancy Timeline The Road to Community Board 2 “Approval”