A park watchdog says that volunteers who clean up their local green-spaces for free — like those with the new Cadman Park Conservancy — are giving the city a reason to slash even more funding from its already cash-strapped parks.
Geoffrey Croft, who founded the New York City Park Advocates in part to ensure the city’s parks get their fair share of budget dollars, says it’s okay for residents to help keep parks clean, but they shouldn’t go to far.
“What these groups don’t realize is that they become a part of the problem,” said Geoffrey Croft, founder of NYC Park Advocates. “People have given up on getting the city to do its job.”
Croft said that public-private partnerships encourage the city to let citizens pay park maintenance instead of using tax dollars — a dangerous trend that is increasing the gap between the parks that have and those that have no while sending the Parks Department’s budget spiralling downward.
In fact, the city’s 2012 budget for Parks is $233 million, down from $238 million in 2011 and $258 million in 2010, leaving the caretakers of parkland with continually dwindling resources.
“I don’t think anyone has problems with people planting flowers and doing minor stuff, but when you get into taking over the role of a city agency, the disparity is a huge one,” Croft said.
The Cadman Park Conservancy formed earlier this year to fill in where the city can’t keep up. A band of locals on a barebones budget are planting flowers and fund-raising for drastic landscape improvements.
Compare this to entities like Central Park Conservancy, which privately funds most of the Manhattan oasis’s $37.4-million budget, or even Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is required by state mandate to be self-sustaining.
Brooklyn Bridge Park, with its massive $16-million annual budget, isn’t run by the Parks Department, but by the city-run Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation.
The corporation is pushing — against the community — to fund the 1.7-mile waterfront park by building luxury condos within the park’s footprint.
And that, says Croft, doesn’t bode well for city parks.
“Some groups raise money to plant flowers and some manage multimillion-dollar operations of parks,” Croft said. “But the big story is that the city refuses to fund its parks, so they’re forcing individuals to do it.”