With Brooklyn’s borough presidency up for grabs, and more than a dozen candidates vying to fill the soon-to-be empty seat at Borough Hall, it’s more important than ever for Brooklynites to know what the candidates stand for — and, with most forums and debates still limited to a virtual setting due to the pandemic, it’s easier than ever to tune in.
On Thursday, April 22, the Brooklyn Parks and Open Space Coalition (BPOC) and New Yorkers for Parks (NY4P) will host a virtual Brooklyn borough president candidate forum focused on parks, open space, land use, zoning and public land issues in the borough.
The forum — to be hosted by community journalist Brian Vines — comes as New York City continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and as parks and open spaces are more critical to the physical and mental health of New Yorkers than ever before. Parks across the city are seeing a record usage as residents flock to them for refuge — and it’s more apparent than ever which neighborhoods are in need of more green.
Still, in 2020, the city’s historically underfunded Parks Department suffered a budget cut of $84 million, accounting for 14 percent of its budget — the second highest of any city agency.
“Because of the budget cuts, NYC Parks staff made 7,185 fewer maintenance visits in July 2020 to Brooklyn parks vs. 2019 levels, representing a 31 percent drop,” said Adam Ganser, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks. “That left Brooklyn parks with more trash, overgrown lawns, understocked comfort stations and other conditions that negatively impact their safety and usability.”
“We would expect that the next Brooklyn borough president is fully aware that parks are an essential infrastructure and is committed to leading and supporting efforts to fund this important local treasure in all communities, but particularly those in marginalized and high needs neighborhoods,” said Marlene Pantin, chair of the Brooklyn Parks and Open Space Committee.
From 6 to 7:15 pm on April 22, more than half of the BP candidates will lay out their vision for parks and public land, their commitment to park equity, and their plans for how they will ensure that the borough’s parks and open spaces are safe, clean, beautiful and accessible for everyone, regardless of their income or zip code.
BPOC has partnered with NY4P on initiatives since its inception, notably NY4P’s “Play Fair” campaign, which in 2019 successfully advocated for a historic increase in the NYC Parks budget of $44 million. In 2020, despite the devastating budget cut, the Play Fair Coalition successfully preserved 300 parks positions who perform critical maintenance and safety work.
Formed in 2018, BPOC is an advocacy and networking group for Brooklyn parks and the communities that use them. Their vision is beautiful, clean, safe and sustainable parks and open spaces throughout the entire borough.
Founded over 100 years ago, NY4P is the only citywide independent nonprofit advocacy organization championing quality open spaces for all New Yorkers. They conduct and publish research which, in concert with the input of community members from across the city, guides their policy recommendations and advocacy initiatives.
A whopping 14 candidates are set to square off for the seat, according to the most up-to-date Campaign Finance Board filings — and with the primary nearly two months away, the race is heating up. The winner of the Democratic primary in June will presumably sweep the general election in November and land in Borough Hall in January 2022.
The post has been held by Eric Adams, who is now running for mayor, since 2014. The next borough president will be tasked proposing legislation, approving zoning changes, making citywide budget recommendations, and directing for land use. Borough presidents appoint members to the New York City Planning Commission, and members to other local boards.
As of publication, Robert E. Cornegy Jr., Kim Council, Khari Edwards, Robert Elstein, Pearlene Fields, Trisha Ocona, Antonio Reynoso, Jo Anne Simon and Bishop Lamor Whitehead will take place in the parks-centric forum.
Brooklyn Paper and PoliticsNY will serve as media sponsors. Other sponsors include CAMBA, Inc., Fort Greene Park Conservancy, Gowanus Canal Conservancy, North Brooklyn Neighbors, North Brooklyn Parks Alliance, Prospect Park Alliance, and Red Hook Conservancy.