Local lawmakers are putting pressure on Mayor Eric Adams to fulfill his campaign promise to make New York City greener by committing more cash to the parks department, something Adams did not follow through with in his preliminary budget.
On Monday in Flushing Meadows, members of the City Council and environmental stakeholders called for a $1 billion investment in annual maintenance for New York City parks as part of a five-point plan for improving parks and access to green spaces.
Such a commitment would mean that the city is spending 1% of its budget on operating parks and recreational areas — and would match a promise that Adams made on the campaign trail for the mayorship. But in his first preliminary budget proposal, which the Council is currently reviewing, Adams only allotted about half this amount — $500 million — to these activities.
The five-point proposal also pushes for waterfront access for all, the planting of 1 million trees to help increase the city’s canopy cover to 30% by 2035 and upgrading playgrounds, parks and school yards in every ZIP code of New York City. This group would also like the city to create a Parks Construction Authority for the goal of building new parks. Such a proposal has been introduced by Queens state Senator Leroy Comrie.
Councilmember Shekar Krishnan, who represents Jackson Heights and Elmhurst in Queens and chairs the Council's Parks and Recreation Committee, is spearheading the request. His district has one of the least amount of green space in the five boroughs.
“What we've seen through this pandemic is how essential our parks and greenspaces are for our lives," Krishnan told Gothamist on Tuesday. “It's an issue of public health. It's an issue of social justice. It's an issue of racial justice.”
Along with a half dozen other Council members, the co-signers on the proposal include Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. and The Nature Conservancy in New York.
Their rally came a day after Adams broke ground on a $2.2 million refurbishment of Saratoga Playground on the borders of Brownsville and Bed Stuy in Brooklyn. The event was part of a larger announcement on $417 million capital investment into park revitalization projects that were paused during the pandemic.
“COVID hijacked not only our personal spaces, but our green spaces,” Adams said on Sunday. “We're saying today as we cycle out of COVID that it's time to get back into our green and our open spaces.”
He said construction on those projects would begin this spring. He added that he wants to invest more in parks but must also consider the economic crisis.