The new 245 Tenth Avenue condo, center, will require residents to contribute to the High Line park as part of the monthly common charge. A few other developments like Battery Park City, and One Brooklyn Bridge Park also require residents to pay a surcharge. (Photo: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)
By Geoffrey Croft
The New York Times today published an article on the public paying extra to maintain the City's green spaces. In an otherwise fine wrap-up of the situation they unfortunately once again failed to present the other side, like one of its writers did on February 5, 2010 in her support of the self-financing model in Brooklyn Bridge Park: NY Times Buys Into Self-Financing of City Parks, Ignores Consequence
Today the writer completely failed to address the impacts and numerous consequences of such deals or explain why parks must increasing rely on private funding schemes when the City Charter is clear on what the responsibilities of our elected officials pertaining to the funding parks are. This is a 180 degree turn in fact when in 2001 the Time's editorial board critically looked at - and rightfully so - the huge disparity Madison Square Park situation was causing.
The City’s increasing reliance on these funding schemes, including so called "public/private partnerships" has resulted in a vastly inequitable distribution of services. It has quickly become “a tale of two cities.” Some of these park funding schemes directly divert funds away from the city's general fund. Experience with these deals over the last twenty years has proven that private subsidies to individual parks has created an enormous gap between the haves and the have-nots, while ignoring the real problem - that our parks are not funded as an essential city service.
The parks department is in dire need of thousands of additional workers and hundreds of millions of dollars of additional expense funding. Funding and personnel many say the agency will never receive. This is shameful. The city routinely allocates a fraction, about a third, of what the parks department actually needs. The city’s parks, once the most celebrated and unprecedented public works program in the nation, many have become dumping grounds. Their maintenance and safety have plummeted under the weight of crippling budget cuts. Despite being in violation of the City Charter for decades, the City has been able to get away with this with virtual impunity.
And although this is a city-wide problem that affects virtually every segment of the population, it is no secret that a disproportionate amount of the most severe issues exist in poor neighborhoods, the city’s underserved communities, namely, the working class, the poor and the disenfranchised and in areas populated by people predominantly of color. This is of course the great irony considering these are the communities that rely on these public services the most. This pattern of neglect must be reversed.
For decades the public has been told the expense funding needed to hire the skilled laborers - the gardeners, climbers and pruners, foresters, plumbers, blacksmiths, and park enforcement and qualified managers among other positions - that are so desperately needed are not available for our public parks. Unless you live in a wealthy neighborhood that is and can afford to pay extra for what are supposed to be basic city services.
In both good economic times and bad, public funding for parks is simply not a priority. The political will necessary to provide funding for safe, well maintained parks, and public recreation programs that every neighborhood deserves, simply does not exist. It is not a priority.
New Yorkers are already among the most taxed in the nation, but unfortunately our taxes are not going towards our park system. Up until the 1960's the city allocated 1.4 % or greater towards its parks, today that percentage is far less than one half of one percent. Its about priorities. The question is, how much longer will the city’s elected officials collectively be able to ignore this public heath crisis.
New York Times City Room - April 8, 2011 - By Sarah Kershaw