(NEW YORK) — Ahead of a city budget meeting, several non-profit organizations dedicated to preserving green spaces across New York City rallied outside City Hall on Wednesday with one clear message to local officials: “Stop picking on our parks!”
Proposed budget cuts of 5 to 15% would devastate park conditions across the city, said Adam Ganser, the executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, an advocacy group that champions quality public spaces.
“We can build parks that have great new innovative ideas, but we can’t take care of the basic parks that are taking care of the eight and a half million people who live here,” Ganser told The Click.
“You know, it’s great that we have the Highline, we have Central Park, but when you’re looking at neighborhoods in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, they just want clean neighborhood parks.”
Mayor Eric Adams said the reallocated funds will help support asylum seekers arriving in the city.
“Our Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget prioritizes our working people’s agenda and keeps our city working for the benefit of all New Yorkers. But the challenges we face are real — including the costs of the asylum seeker crisis, the need to fund labor deals, and slowing tax revenue growth — and we must budget wisely,” said Adams.
Advocacy groups like New Yorkers for Parks are asking the administration to allocate just one percent of the city’s $107 billion budget towards parks across the city.
Ganser claims that with this small investment into parks, New Yorkers would have greater refuge from increasingly severe weather caused by climate change.
“There are many areas in New York City that are park deserts. And the data shows, they’re warmer. And it’s no secret that a lot of those areas are areas where there are people who have been disenfranchised in the city for many, many years,” said Ganser.
The cause has attracted representatives from marginalized communities across the city like Shekar Krishnan, chairman of the City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation. Krishnan, who has negotiated the highest budget ever for NYC parks, represents District 25, which encompasses Jackson Heights and Elmhurst.
“We need to recognize and accept that our parks are not a luxury, they are not a privilege. They are an essential space in our city. They restore us. They help us with our mental health, our physical health, and our well-being,” Krishnan said at the rally. “The problem in our city is that we have never treated our parks and funded them like the essential spaces they are.”Black and Brown communities would be affected the worst by these budget cuts, said Matthew Shore, an organizer for South Bronx Unite.
South Bronx Unite is a non-profit organization that represents the environmental needs of neighborhoods like Mott Haven and Port Morris.
Currently, these communities rank towards the bottom of all 59 community districts in terms of percentage of tree canopies, areas that reduce the urban heat island effect and help to lower temperatures in built-up areas. The South Bronx also ranks at the bottom as far as the percentage of total park spaces.
Shore, 29, became dedicated to this cause after realizing how climate change disproportionately affected his community in Kingsbridge, Bronx. Shore feels that there aren’t enough people in this space looking out for Black and Brown communities.
“I was really seeing a lack of diversity in urban planning and the lack of Black and Brown working-class people trying to become urban planners,” said Shore. “There’s so much disinvestment, so much neglect. And growing up in that environment, I was very much compelled to go to community meetings, public meetings and learn more about it.”
“Urban planning could be a tool that can destroy communities and harm them, but it could also be a tool that could benefit and advantage communities such as the South Bronx,” he added.