Scott Stringer on Parks

Scott Stringer for Manhattan Borough President

Scott Stringer



Part 1 – Yes/No Questions

1. Maintenance

a. Will you work toward committing at least 1% of the overall city budget to the Parks Department’s expense budget over the course of your term? YES
     > If so, would you dedicate revenue earned through park concessions to parks maintenance and operations, without simultaneous decreases in baseline funding? YES
b. Will you establish objective, publicly accessible maintenance standards for all park properties in all five boroughs? I would advocate for the Mayor to take such action
c. Will you provide in your Mayor’s Management Report park ratings by borough and community board in addition to the citywide level? I would advocate for the Mayor to take such action
     > Will you make the official Parks Department “property list” that specifically delineates all 1,700 properties available online? YES
     > Will you make publicly available details of the private funding that helps to maintain and operate many of our public parks? YES

2. Capital

  • Will you require that every capital parks project be accompanied by a plan for ongoing maintenance and/or funding? I would advocate for the Mayor to take such action

3. Crime

a. Will you support legislation that requires regular NYPD reports to the City Council on crime in parks (ie. Intro. 470)? YES
b. Will you work toward making parkland part of the city’s CompStat system? YES

4. Alienation

  • Will you support more laws that require public notification and input when a park will be used for non-park purposes, to afford parks the protection they need from development or use by other agencies? YES

5. Open Space/Natural Areas

  • Will you work toward creating, with significant community involvement, a comprehensive open space plan that will guide the overall acquisition, restoration, improvement, and maintenance of parks, natural areas, playgrounds and athletic facilities in the five boroughs? YES

Part 2 – Open Questions

1. Maintenance

a. What specific actions would you take to ensure that every park in every neighborhood has green ball fields, working water fountains and open bathrooms?
"I will advocate for increased public funding to maintain Manhattan’s parks. Above and beyond this, I will use the Borough President’s role in the land use review process to negotiate Community Benefits Agreements that address park needs. The Borough President has the opportunity to support or oppose any new development based on how well it addresses the community’s interests. Where appropriate, I will use that support to leverage funding for creation and maintenance of park space.

Manhattan’s 2,686 acres of parkland have long been considered an amenity to New Yorkers – open space that beautifies the island. But well-preserved parks are also equally essential to improving the quality of our air and environment. Parks have been credited with reducing crime, as well as serving as an essential aid to the city’s public health – providing a refuge from urban life, and improving the physical and mental health of our residents.

With 17.8% of the borough devoted to parkland, including 204 playgrounds, 251 greenstreets, 371 basketball courts, and countless other facilities, a significant amount of support is needed to keep our parks and community gardens clean, well-maintained and safe for our residents and visitors alike.

As the population of Manhattan continues to grow, parkland becomes an ever more precious commodity. Manhattan faces challenges in providing enough parkland for its residents, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Adequate funding is essential to meet these challenges. And over the past 15 years, city funding for parks has declined by 25%, resulting in a 50% decline in parks staff.

As Borough President, I will:

* Work to ensure that at least 1% of the city’s overall operating budget is dedicated to city parks and playgrounds, and that parks, as critical public resources, are not forgotten in the city budget process;
* Advocate for the Parks Department to keep the roughly $40 million earned from concession revenue in addition to its other city funding;
* Explore the benefits of public/private partnerships in securing additional funding for Manhattan’s parks;
* Balance commercial and residential interests in city parks; and
* Work to secure additional funds for street-tree planting and maintenance."

How would you fund your actions?

"I will advocate for additional city funding and concession revenue to be devoted to park maintenance. Developers fund Community Benefits Agreements directly in exchange for community support, density bonuses, and other incentives."
b. What would be your plan to move from roaming crews to fixed crews for parks maintenance?


c. What funding / programs would you use to increase the full-time parks maintenance staff?

"I would consult with parks organizations and city leaders to devise a solution to best expedite and fund this process."

2. Recreation & Youth Programming

· What specific actions would you take to revitalize the recreational and amateur sports programs that have been decimated by years of budget cuts?

"The Borough President needs to take the initiative to find creative ways to provide after-school and extra-curricular opportunities, an area often overlooked by government officials. I propose the implementation of a Borough President Youth Sports League.

While more playing fields must be created, a short-term solution is obvious – give youth leagues preference in playing permits over adult corporate leagues. Adults have a much easier time than children in traveling to fields in surrounding boroughs and counties. It is both illogical and unacceptable that adult sports leagues receive permits for playing time while children are denied access to our city’s few fields.

As Borough President, I appoint a member of my staff to be the Children’s Services Coordinator to address issues related to youth sports. One of the responsibilities of this position will be to help children’s sports leagues work with the Parks Department to successfully lobby for, and receive, field time. This will provide a valuable resource for parent volunteers leading Manhattan’s little leagues, serving as a source of the information needed to maximize their potential for success as a coordinator.

As Borough President, I pledge to meet regularly with developers and encourage them to create more playing space through the use of Community Benefits Agreements, which afford incentives, in exchange for the inclusion of open space, affordable housing, cultural centers and other developments that benefit the community. Our borough does not have a wealth of open area to develop into athletic fields. Wherever possible, we must consider the creation of new fields as an option to include in new developments.

To maximize the potential for indoor sports activities, I will dedicate funding to participating schools to aid them in staying open after hours to accommodate sports games. I will also dedicate funding towards Youth Sports League operating costs, such as equipment and other necessities.

I will work to create a coalition of sports groups across the city. Partnerships with New York’s professional teams, the Police Athletic League and corporate sponsors can also be used to raise funds to increase playing space. My office will work ceaselessly to make the youth sports that suburban children have long enjoyed a reality for Manhattan’s children."
· What specific actions would you take to enable a much higher level of collaboration among the Parks Dept., Dept. of Youth & Community Development and the Dept. of Education?
"I will appoint a Children’s Services Coordinator within the Borough President’s Office to be the liaison between these agencies and the public. Having a single point of coordination will help to eliminate redundancy, foster helpful collaboration, and ensure that the most issues possible are being addressed."

3. Olympics

· If NYC is awarded the Olympics in 2012 or 2016, what specific actions would you take to ensure that parks that are changed, altered or improved as Olympic venues are properly funded and maintained after the Olympics are finished?
"I will advocate for the Mayor to provide necessary funding for them in the City budget. I will hold public hearings, forums and press conferences to make the public and city leaders aware of these needs."

4. Community Gardens

· What specific actions would you take to reduce the cost of the annual insurance premiums that community gardeners must pay?
"I will consult with city leaders and community organizations to craft a solution to address this problem."

5. Stadiums & Amateur Sports

· What specific actions would you take to require that professional sports organizations assist in maintaining and operating public parks near their facilities?
"We should capitalize on the influx of new stadium agreements to make sure that they contain a proviso to assist with the maintenance and operation of local parks."

· How would you provide more multi-purpose facilities for amateur sports and recreation?
"I will dedicate Borough President funds to assist schools in staying open after hours to accommodate Youth sports and recreation activities. I will also advocate for the creation of more athletic fields wherever possible."

6. Waterfront Parks

· How would you improve upon recent investment in the NYC waterfront?
"There are many areas of waterfront deserving attention of city leaders. Here are a few I intend to focus on:

HUDSON RIVER PARK

The Manhattan Borough President can have a significant role in shaping the continued development of HRP.

The Borough President sits on the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) and appoints three members to its Board of Directors. These appointees may vote on various proposals affecting HRP, but for any proposal to go forward, the city and state must agree. In other words, the HRPT Board only functions by building consensus – thus requiring the Borough President to successfully negotiate compromise to arrive at a solution.

As Borough President, I will:

* Work to accelerate the departure of the DSNY and consolidating the tow pound;
* Work with the Governor and Mayor to secure additional funding for the completion of HRP;
* Appoint HRP Board members who understand the community’s needs, and have backgrounds in park preservation and economic development; and
* Closely monitor the maintenance of the HRP open space and amenities.

HARLEM RIVER PARK

Providing waterfront access for fresh air and recreation is a major challenge facing East Harlem, particularly because it suffers some of the highest asthma rates in the country. Parkland is planned for approximately 20 acres of Harlem River waterfront, from 125th Street to 142nd Street. In three phases, the plans for Harlem River Park would take deteriorating or underused spaces and turn them into a waterfront esplanade and bike path.

Phase III, from 125th to 135th Streets, will be significantly delayed as a result of problems removing an abandoned cement plant and a salt pile, as well as the use of the bulkhead for construction staging for multiple Harlem River Bridge replacement projects. DOT has also proposed a flyover highway to reduce congestion that would decrease air quality and block public access.

As Borough President, I will:

* Advocate for waterfront access from 125th to 135th Streets as soon as possible;
* Work with the Mayor and DOT to follow up on the recommendations for enhanced pedestrian and cyclist access to Randall's Island;
* Have DOT engineers work with the community to come up with an alternative construction plan that does not include the "Flyover"; and
* Ensure that the city, as a last resort, provides the community with concessions in return for its blockage of waterfront land. If East Harlem must go without access to the waterfront and its greenway, and endure construction into the next decade, I will ensure that the city gives back to this community and compensates it for the sacrifice.

EAST RIVER WATERFRONT

Along the East River, from the southern tip of Manhattan to Houston Street, a coordinated effort is under way by Community Board 1, City Planning, the Economic Development Corporation, and the Downtown Alliance to fix up the waterfront. Their proposals include the addition of an esplanade and sports facilities, and restoring the historic Battery Maritime Building, which offers one of the critical points of access to Governors Island.

As Borough President, I will:

* Oversee the progress of this project and help expedite or secure additional monies as needed; and
* Continue to secure public input to determine the appropriate balance of amenities and commercialism along the waterfront.

HARLEM PIERS

The Harlem Piers are located in Northern Manhattan between St. Clair Place, the Hudson River, and West 133rd Street – and are the target for renovation and the creation of a waterfront park. The Harlem Piers area currently bears the brunt of several industrial facilities, a sewage treatment plant, a waste transfer station and a bus depot. With more than 35,000 people living in West Harlem and almost 30% of the population under the age of 20, adding recreational space for this community is essential. Harlem area families deserve this waterfront park and a better environment for their children.

However, the construction of the park has been delayed over a year pending the acquisition of a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for habitat mitigation.

As Borough President, I will:

* Lend my voice to expedite the progress of these plans; and
* Work with affected parties and government officials to secure community input on future development to the area.

WEST HARLEM / HAMILTON HEIGHTS

There are discussions under way aimed at improving public access, economic value and the environmental quality of the waterfront along the Hudson river from West 135th to 155th street. The Manhattan Borough President’s office completed a concept plan for this undertaking, also referred to as “Take Me to the River,” in November 2004. A Master Plan must be developed to move forward this proposal.

As Borough President, I will build upon the former Borough President’s leadership by:

* Closely monitoring the progress of the Master Plan and securing public input on the plans as they continue to take shape; and
* Advocating for appropriate funding levels to advance this project.

SALT STORAGE

The top ten most wasteful city-owned waterfront properties include those areas that house salt piles, such as the ones located at:

* East 125th Street and the Harlem River;
* West 218th Street and the Harlem River; and
* West 140th Street and the Hudson River

While it is clear that the city must store salt for use during snowstorms, there is no reason why such storage must occur on prime Manhattan waterfront or near playground and recreational space. According to David Yassky’s report, “road salt typically contains sodium ferrocyanide and a variety of chlorides, which can break down into cyanide and negatively charged chloride ions that are harmful to wildlife, vegetation and aquatic organisms.” These harmful effects must be addressed.

As Borough President, I will:

* Work with Community Boards, City Planning and DSNY to find community-supported alternate storage sites for the salt piles and turn these wasted areas into vibrant, public parkland.

MANHATTAN WATERFRONT GREENWAY

While we are very close to realizing the vision for a continuous greenway along Manhattan’s waterfront, there are still a few incomplete sections.

Some of these links are scheduled to be completed as part of Hudson River Park, the Riverside South project, and the proposed Harlem on the River project.

As Borough President, I will:

* Make it a priority to finish the waterfront greenway and work with the Mayor and the associated agencies to make this happen as quickly as possible."

· What are your plans to ensure that citizens in all five boroughs have access to waterfront parks?
"I will work with the other Borough Presidents to coordinate a borough-wide plan to improve waterfront access."

· How would you fund the especially costly maintenance of waterfront parks?
"I will advocate for the necessary funding from the city and state budgets. I will also work towards innovative solutions for self-financing, such as allocations from concessions and other amenities."

7. National Parks

· What steps would you take to promote the use of and access to our city’s national parks (ie. Gateway National Recreation Area, National Parks of NY Harbor)?
"I will use my experience and the relationships I’ve built in Albany to ensure the necessary funding from the state budget."
· What is your vision for Governors Island?
"Development on Governors Island is limited in that it cannot be used for residential or industrial purposes. The agreement returning the land to New York stipulated that the island must feature at least 40 acres of public parkland, 20 acres for educational use and about 16 acres for a waterfront esplanade. Combined with a 22-acre National Monument, these public spaces offer a magnificent opportunity for open space development and will likely transform the island into a key destination for city residents and tourists alike. The educational component will be beneficial to lower Manhattan, adding to its existing educational institutions. The complete plans for this space have yet to be determined, and given its potential, this process must be expedited.

While there have been preliminary proposals to build hotels, conference centers, theaters and even a biotech incubator, the Borough President can play a significant role in the development of this public space, working alongside the Regional Plan Association, which, since 1995, has led the Governors Island Alliance, a broad coalition of preservation and environmental groups, to ensure the appropriate reuse of the Island and its historic structures.

As Borough President, I will:

* Call for the acceleration of funding and planning commitments needed to build, and open the island’s park and waterfront spaces to the public – and hold public hearings to do so;
* Support interim uses until a Master Plan is finalized;
* Ensure that the island’s 200 historic buildings receive appropriate care to prevent deterioration or, at worst, collapse;
* Encourage diversity in development;
* Demand the creation, as promised by GIPEC, of a representative public advisory council; and
* Advocate for additional state and city funding to create the transportation and other infrastructure needs of the Island, to move forward public use and access."