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While budget cuts have made their way into every major city department, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation remains optimistic about its future.
The Parks Department recently released some worrisome figures, including a loss of $37 million from 2009 to 2010. A $11 million loss from 2010 to 2011 is expected. The total budget, which includes state funds and private grants/donations, currently stands at $383.4 million for 2009 and $346 million for 2010. The 2011 budget is projected at $335.6 million.
The Parks Department capital spending for projects through fiscal 2013 was cut by 14 percent, or $338 million compared to the proposed budget from January,
These cuts include Brooklyn’s own Bushwick Inlet Park, which is being planned for the Williamsburg-Greenpoint border, and Dreier-Offerman Park in Bensonhurst.
In 2007 Mayor Bloomberg publicly announced, with great fanfare, his PlaNYC, which was to ensure that “every New Yorker lives within a ten minute walk of a park or open space” by 2030. Drier-Offerman Park, including seven other parks within the five boroughs, were to be included under a capital improvements plan projected at more than $1.2 billion.
PlaNYC indicated a $40 million overhaul for Dreier-Offerman park, which is bounded by Gravesend Bay, Bay 44th Street, Bay 49th Street, and Shore Parkway. In May the funding was cut to just $19 million.
Some of the improvements attached to the $40 million were: three new baseball fields, six new soccer fields, kayak launches, new picnic areas, a central lawn, a bicycle path, new nature trails, an amphitheater, a new playground, a recreation center, and a new pavilion all by 2011, The Parks Deparment still remains hopeful that plans for Dreier-Offerman park will remain on schedule.
Plans for Bushwick Inlet park, which was to receive a $30 million overhaul, have been pushed back to at least 2013.
Capital funding for all Williamsburg-Greenpoint projects have been cut to $112.1 million, down from $169.1 million in January.
NYC Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson remains optimistic.
“Just because money is cut, doesn’t mean anything isn’t going on as planned,” he said. “Everything is still open. If anything we have more lifeguards this season. The cuts are mainly where New Yorkers won’t feel them.”
The Parks Department plans on keeping all beaches, pools, parks, playgrounds, comfort stations and recreation centers open to the public. Abramson cited that the budget cuts will mainly affect staff head count through attrition, and a reduction in seasonal staff.
“There will not be layoffs,” he added.
Abramson assured that the city, which has an historic $6 billion capital spending plan, remains committed to investing in the parks system under PlaNYC.
NYC Parks Advocates founder and President Geoffrey Croft feels differently.
“Any cuts are completely unacceptable,” said Croft. “The city allocates a fraction of their budget towards the parks, and Brooklyn gets a fraction of what they need.”
Croft explained that investing in public city parks has a direct relation to living a healthy lifestyle.
“Brooklyn needs an expense budget three times what they already have,” said Croft. “Why shouldn’t every single Brooklyn park get the same attention as Central Park?”
“We need workers that are skilled and trained,” he said, referring to the majority of Parks Department employees who are part of the Welfare to Work program created by the city in 1997.
Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman — whose district includes a large portion of Prospect Park — agrees with Croft about the cuts.
“The budget is following a reverse trend to public demand,” said Hammerman. “[The] city needs to be careful not to turn people away from the parks.”
Hammerman, however, still remained hopeful about the fate of city parks.
“We continue to encourage people to use public parks and other public amenities,” he said.
All figures were verified by the Independent Budget Office of NYC.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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