Saturday, September 10, 2005

Speak up for Parks

It’s been hard over these last two weeks to focus on anything but the horrors of the Gulf Coast. But alas New York City’s elections are coming this Tuesday, and the stakes are great, so for the next few days matters closer to home must compete for our attention. For Washington Heights and Inwood, now is the time to let our voices be heard on one of the least addressed issues of this campaign season: our parks.

Fully one-third of the area north of 155th Street consists of parkland. This includes some of the most beautiful (if underappreciated) parks in all of New York City. But thanks to the ever-shrinking Parks budgets, these green oases have vast unmet needs: crumbling paths in Ft. Tryon, poor drainage in Inwood Hill, collapsing stone walls in J. Hood Wright, poor lighting in Highbridge.

Repair problems, however, are overshadowed by pervasive concerns about park safety. Inwood Hill park was the site of a gruesome murder last year, and has seen several assaults since. Much of Highbridge is too dangerous to enter after dark. And parks of all sizes throughout our community suffer from an almost total absence of public safety personnel.

In fact, all of Manhattan north of 155th Street is served by a grand total of one full-time, dedicated officer from the Park Enforcement Personnel (PEP) force. It’s no wonder that so many feel so insecure.

How did this come to be? New York City now spends just $45 per resident annually on its parks—less than nearly every other large city in the nation. And two decades of cuts have reduced Parks professional staff by 65%.

But wait...Central Park doesn’t look so bad, does it? That’s because, like a handful of parks in upscale areas around the city, it’s supported by the donations of wealthy residents living nearby. This private funding has allowed the City to reduce its general parks budget without fear of a backlash from those living in the toniest (and most politically powerful) neighborhoods, since their parks remain well cared-for. But smaller parks around the five boroughs have had no such luck. And the resulting disparities are enormous: private money funds 18 PEP officers at Battery Park alone—exactly 18 times the allocation for all of Northern Manhattan.

The Mayor and other elected officials need to hear our demands for adequate parks resources. We know that when we stand up we get results. When at a Washington Heights town hall meeting last June City officials were greeted by a chorus of howls over appalling late-night parties in Ft. Tryon, the police began immediately closing and securing the park every evening.

With just days to go before the primary election, you can add your voice to a campaign calling for a doubling of parks funding, by signing on at http://www.parks1.org/. The website also tells you which candidates have pledged to support this effort, information you should be sure to remember when you walk into the voting booth on Tuesday.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Fred said...

Thanks for the Shout Out.

Keep up the good work!

Check Parks1.org to see our progress and recent parks news.

11:05 PM  

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