Park lovers clean up Brooklyn greenspaces on citywide day of action

Volunteers collect litter at Prospect Park.
Adam Ganser

Park lovers across the Five Boroughs came together to clean up New York City on Oct. 17, as a summer of budget cuts and heavy use has led to some city parks looking worn down.

In Brooklyn, lawn lovers cleaned up Prospect Park, Owls Head Park, and Canarsie Park, where thousands of cooped up Brooklynites have flocked for fresh air and open space throughout the pandemic as a 14 percent cut to the Parks Department’s budget resulted in the loss of 1,700 seasonal maintenance workers.

“The budget cuts from July have had an incredibly disproportionate impact on the parks system,” said Adam Ganser, executive director of the nonprofit New Yorkers for Parks. “At a time when virtually every New Yorker is out in the parks because there’s really no other place for us to go, it just could not be a worst-case scenario.”

Volunteers work the bushes in Prospect Park.Sue Donoghue

Ganser encouraged New Yorkers who want to help to reach out to the stewards of their local parks, be it through the city agency or local conservancies and friends groups for the larger greenspaces, to find ways to volunteer their time. 

And while Ganser says volunteer work is important in lean times, it’s still no substitute for the services provided by the full time seasonal maintenance crews that were eliminated in the 2021 budget.

“You cannot replace 1,700 seasonal workers with volunteers and expect to have the same results,” he said. “The Parks Department has done a valiant job trying to keep our parks in great shape but the reality is those budget cuts and the loss of staff is going to have a long term impact on our parks, and we need to be active out there telling our politicians that we need those staff back.”

City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver thanked the volunteers for their efforts. 

“Throughout the ongoing public health crisis, we have developed a greater appreciation for our greenspaces as they have proven to be critical infrastructure that serve New Yorkers in so many ways,” Silver said. “We thank our partners at New Yorkers for Parks, City Parks Foundation, and Partnership for Parks for helping us lead the recent citywide park clean up event as it was a testament to how we can keep our parks clean and beautiful when we work together.”