March 24, 2022 By Christian Murray
Council Member Shekar Krishnan, the chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, unveiled a five-point plan last week that aims to increase the city’s investment in parks, upgrade playgrounds and add trees across the city.
Krishnan, who represents Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, held a press conference at the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows Corona Park last Monday calling on the city to allocate $1 billion—or 1 percent of the city budget—for the Dept. of Parks and Recreation each year.
“One billion dollars is absolutely essential. It’s needed from the standpoint of public health, climate justice and equity,” Krishnan told the Queens Post. “We need to ensure that all our communities have adequate green space and have properly maintained greenspace.”
The council member is critical of Mayor Eric Adam’s $98.5 billion preliminary budget which allocates only $495 million for the maintenance and operation of NYC’s parks, or about 0.5 percent of the total budget. The number falls far short of the $1 billion number—or 1 percent—and Krishnan is calling for the full $1 billion.
The additional funds would provide the department with the ability to hire more full-time staff and go toward the maintenance and repair of parks.
The mayor pledged to allocate 1 percent of the city budget to parks when he was running for office, and Krishnan is calling for him to stick to it. The mayor, however, released a budget that actually cut the amount allocated by $63 million from last year.
“We need to ensure that every community regardless of income, regardless of race has access to green space because we’ve seen how vital it is,” Krishnan said in an interview. “We [Jackson Heights/Elmhurst] were the epicenter of the pandemic yet we have some of the least amount of park space in the city.”
Krishnan’s second point in his five-point plan deals with the planting of trees, which he says will help combat climate change. He is calling for 1 million additional trees by 2030, as he aims to make sure New York City has a 30 percent tree canopy by 2035. The 30 percent figure was initially put forward by the Forest for All Coalition, a group that is advocating for an urban forest in NYC, and has the support of the borough presidents.
The third point in his plan aims to address the construction process when it comes to building and improving parks.
He said the current construction process is broken, noting that it took 10 years to redesign Travers Park in Jackson Heights and how bathrooms can often cost millions of dollars to build yet prove to be inadequate. For instance, he said, some are built lacking changing tables for parents with young children.
He is calling for a process that mirrors how the city builds public schools. He said that School Construction Authority, which is in charge of building city schools, is much more efficient and cost effective. He wants to create a Parks Construction Authority that would oversee park construction.
A fourth component of the plan deals with waterfront access. He is calling for the city’s waterfronts to be accessible to all residents.
“In the Bronx, for example, you have acres of waterfront that is not accessible to Bronx residents,” he said. He said that waterfront access is about equity as well as combatting climate change. He said that the waterways are likely to be cleaned up if people can access them, which is vital from a climate and environmental justice standpoint.
The fifth point in his five-point plan involves revamping the city’s playgrounds. Krishnan is calling for the city to commit to new or upgraded playgrounds in every zip code within five years.
He said that playgrounds in lower-income areas—particularly at public housing—are not maintained or upgraded at the same level as in wealthier areas.
“We have to invest in our playgrounds. Every child deserves a place to play and in some neighborhoods they have newly renovated, well-designed playgrounds and in others they don’t. You have to look no further than public housing to see this.”
Krishnan’s council colleagues who joined him at his press conference last week back his plan.
“Our parks are critical infrastructure that serve an important role for our neighborhoods,” said Council Member Bob Holden, who is also on the Parks Committee. “For far too long city parks have been neglected, and are in need of repairs and maintenance. I commend Chair Krishnan on the 5 Point Plan for NYC Parks, and will work with him on achieving these ambitious goals.”