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People Power and New York City Parks

People Power and New York City Parks

Last summer, my Columbian colleague Louise Rosen and I went on a field trip to Ocean Park in Brooklyn. Ocean Park is the closest community park to my childhood home in Brooklyn. Ocean Park Alliance President Maria Carro-D’Alessandro and Park Superintendent Margot Perron gave us a wonderful tour of the park. When I was a kid, the park was an oval running track that surrounded a large field. Today, that part of the park still exists, but now there is also a senior center, an ecological center and a beautiful waterway with abundant aquatic and bird life in the wetlands. What was once a junkyard for abandoned cars and victims of mob violence is now an incredibly beautiful but underrated part of New York City’s natural landscape.according to Ocean Park Alliance website:

“Forever Wild is an initiative by NYC Parks to protect and preserve ecologically valuable lands in the five boroughs in accordance with local laws. Brooklyn’s largest park, Ocean Park, has 530 acres of protected landscape for you to explore. Approx. 4 miles of nature trails wrap around the grasslands on the east side of Gerritsen Creek, and more trails crisscross the upland woods on the west side of the creek – all with views of the salt marshes that buffer the interior The land is protected from destructive storms.”

In spring 2023, Columbia graduate students will work with Ocean Park officials and volunteers to help develop strategies for the park’s continued growth. similar efforts Last spring, Columbia University adjunct professor and New York City environmental justice leader Kizzy-Charles Guzman and a team of sustainability management students conducted research for Morningside Park. I’ve lived across the street from Morningside Park since 1990, and it’s a beautiful and precious resource in my neighborhood, albeit understaffed. This brings us to the point of this article. Our parks are perennially underfunded. They simply cannot compete for government resources with pressing needs such as homelessness, crime and child poverty. While the mayor wants to spend 1 percent of the city’s budget on parks, that seems more like an ambitious goal than an actual operation. What we need to do is increase city funding with volunteers – the power of people. We need to contribute our brains, if any, our strengths to maintain our parks.Again, according to Ocean Park Alliance website:

“Contrary to popular belief, nature doesn’t ‘take care of itself’ in urban environments. Overgrown, trampling and illegal dumping occur from time to time. The Ocean Park Alliance regularly hosts volunteer days to pull up invasive weeds and remove dumped Garbage. Thousands of volunteers have come to help combat this abuse and promote biodiversity in our grassland and marsh habitats.”

Our park needs us. They need our political support, our financial contributions if we can afford it, and our workforce. Those of us who live in apartment buildings have limited access to outdoor spaces. The park is everyone’s backyard. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s budget is small relative to its mandate.according to Departmental website:

“NYC Parks manages more than 30,000 acres – 14% of New York City’s – including more than 5,000 individual properties ranging from Coney Island Beach and central Park to community garden and green street. We operate more than 800 playground and nearly 1,000 playground1,800 basketball court550 tennis court65 public swimming pool51 Recreational facilities15 nature center14 golf courseand 14 miles beach. We Care 1,200 monument and 23 Historic House Museum. We take care of 600,000 street tree, and another two million in the park. “

This city ​​budget This year, about 523 million US dollars have been allocated for the park; the department has 4,260 employees, including 3,523 full-time city-funded positions.New York City has more green space More green space per capita than any other U.S. city, but 35 other U.S. cities have more green space per capita than New Yorkers enjoy at 7,087 square feet per capita.

The city’s parks and parks department needs our help. While city governments can and must do more, so should all of us. Parks need more paid staff, and that needs money. Park franchises such as restaurants, entertainment venues, and snack bars can generate revenue to support the park, but care must be taken to ensure the park does not become too commercialized. One of the great features of our parks is that they are free and a democratized place for all the public to gather. Unlike commercial strips, parents can take their kids to the park without being forced to spend money. There are no ropes to enter the park attractions. This is not an argument against concessions, I am just advocating for balance and caution when using park space for commercial purposes.

During the epidemic, Parks are the lifeblood of our normal lives. On that horrific spring of 2020, we walked in masks, socially distanced, past locked playgrounds, leaves started to grow and flowers bloomed in our parks. Nature doesn’t know how to put on a mask and keep your distance, we can see that life goes on and will go on. Last week, Columbia University student Isabella Noonen wrote an excellent article titled “Morningside Park and those who love itin The Eye, a Columbia University student magazine. Noonen observes:

“I visited Morningside Park for the second time in mid-June – a year later, I moved into an apartment two blocks away. This is the second Saturday of Volunteer Day, where Friends of Morningside Park Volunteers gather Hours of park makeover at Central Turtle Pond. Morningside Park is full of life despite the early hours and sweltering weather. Joggers run on trails. Families with dogs and strollers chat near rides. On the court, a heated basketball game begins. A ridiculous number of turtles swim in the pond. Dozens of us volunteers crouch in a flower pot outside the 116th Street playground, collecting trash and weeding— Or, in my case, desperately trying to make sure the greens I pulled out were actually weeds and not native. As far as I know, I was the only Columbia student who volunteered – ironically, morning Friends of Edge Park was actually founded in the ’80s by Thomas Kiel, a Columbia student who graduated from Columbia College in 1982.”

Her work showcases a terrific History of Morningside Park Among them was Columbia’s silly effort to build a gym on park land in the late 1960s. The unfortunate attempt to build the gym sparked student protests and culminated in students taking over several buildings in Columbia and violently evicted by the NYPD. The gymnasium was never built, and in 1989 and 1990 the crater that was excavated to provide the foundation for the building was converted into a pond, now home to those sea turtles that Isabella mentions in her writing.

At Ocean Park and Morningside Park, a small group of people who love community parks have created nonprofits to mobilize their communities and friends to help their parks.The Parks Department and the City Parks Foundation form a parks partnership to help encourage the creation of Park Support GroupsThe Ocean Park Alliance and Friends of Morningside Park are two of nearly seventy similar organizations in New York City. The Parks Department’s website lists many of these organizations. Some, like the Central Park Conservancy and Friends of the High Line, are highly professional, but most are small, informal operations. All seeking and organizing volunteers (and cash) to help out in the park. New York has more than 8 million people. Parks may not get 1 percent of the city’s $100 billion budget, but if 1 percent of the city’s 8.4 million people volunteered to work in local parks, those 84,000 could be picking up tons of trash and weeding green spaces. People’s Strength and Sweat Equity can get us started and help improve all of our parks and hopefully some cash to follow.

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