Michael Bloomberg on Parks

Bloomberg for Mayor 2005

Mike Bloomberg

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? I share with New Yorkers For Parks a commitment to growing and improving our City’s park system so that New Yorkers in communities throughout the five boroughs have safe, quality recreation and green space. Indeed, the capital plan that accompanied the recently passed Fiscal Year 2006 budget included significant funding for parks throughout the five boroughs, including $200 million for Bronx parks and $100 million for the development of the Fresh Kills landfill into a world-class, multi-use park. I also agree that making sure that our parks have the funding they need to be maintained properly is important, and I am committed to this goal.

The financial crisis the City faced in Fiscal Years 2003 and 2004 forced my Administration to reduce the budgets of all agencies, including the Department of Parks & Recreation (Parks). As the City’s financial situation has improved, it has allowed us to increase our commitment to Parks in the operating budget, and the Fiscal Year 2006 budget provides for the largest expense budget for Parks in City history. I hope to be able to continue this funding trend as our economy expands, so that we can continue the progress we have made in providing excellent parks and recreation facilities to all New Yorkers.

     > If so, would you dedicate revenue earned through park concessions to parks maintenance and operations, without simultaneous decreases in baseline funding? During the 2001 campaign, I proposed that concession revenues from parks be returned to the Department. Upon arriving in office and being faced with a multi-billion dollar budget deficit to balance, we decided instead that a certain amount of Parks revenues be base-lined within the City’s general operating budget to pay for general City services, which include paying to maintain City parks.
b. Will you establish objective, publicly accessible maintenance standards for all park properties in all five boroughs? The Parks Department has established objective maintenance standards, and these standards are used to manage the entire park system. The results of inspections are available on the Parks website. As part of a general overhaul of the entire Parks Department website that is currently taking place, Parks will soon make these maintenance standards available on its website.
c. Will you provide in your Mayor’s Management Report park ratings by borough and community board in addition to the citywide level? Borough and Community Board park ratings are already available through the “My Neighborhood” feature of the Mayor’s Office website, a free and easily-accessible resource that is currently utilized millions of New Yorkers.
     > Will you make the official Parks Department “property list” that specifically delineates all 1,700 properties available online? My Administration placed information about all 1,700 of Parks’ properties on the Department’s website, searchable by zip code, borough, or name. As part of the overhaul of its website, the Parks Department will make a complete list more easily accessible.
     > Will you make publicly available details of the private funding that helps to maintain and operate many of our public parks? This information is readily available through the annual reports of the non-profit organizations that provide support for parks, and most of these funds are raised and spent by private, non-profit groups.

2. Capital

3. Crime

a. Will you support legislation that requires regular NYPD reports to the City Council on crime in parks (ie. Intro. 470)?
b. Will you work toward making parkland part of the city’s CompStat system? New York City is the safest big city in the nation and crime has declined by 20% over the last four years. This is largely due to my Administration’s singular focus on cracking-down on all crimes, from violent felonies to quality of life offenses. In a city as dense as New York, where many residents do not have backyards, parks become extensions of our homes, and it is doubly important that we keep them safe. My Administration is continuing its discussions with the Council on Intro. 470, though it should be noted that crimes committed in parks are included in Compstat statistics, and the City Council receives detailed CompStat reports on a quarterly basis.

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? "The current alienation process requires, by law, a home rule message from the City Council and approval of both houses of the State Legislature and the Governor’s signature for both the new land use plan and the parkland mitigation plan. In many instances, park alienation projects must also go through the City’s comprehensive Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure, a process which includes public hearings at the Community Board level. I believe this process, which requires the approval of local elected officials at two levels of government, ensures that the public has a voice in the future of its parks and that our parks are protected from outside encroachments."

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. Partnerships for Parks, a joint project of Parks and the City Parks Foundation, is currently working with over 1,000 highly dedicated steward groups from across the city to develop plans for the future of their neighborhood parks and surrounding areas. These neighborhood-based plans will be tailored to the unique land-uses and character of each of the City’s neighborhoods, so that we can plan for what each community wants and needs.

    In addition, in October 2003, the Parks Department and the City Parks Foundation (CPF) launched the Catalyst for Neighborhood Parks Program, a four-year, $25 million initiative to build community involvement and foster the improvement and expansion of parks and open spaces in four selected regions of New York City. This unique public/private partnership strategically combines the resources of CPF, Parks, and local communities to affect positive change, not only in the parks, but in the neighborhoods that surround them. Administered by Partnerships for Parks, the program provides a wide range of resources over a four-year period to improve these parks from the inside out, working with local communities to develop and sustain commitment to long-term change and stewardship. These programs will serve as a model for citywide efforts.

    The four areas that are the focus of these efforts are:

    • The High Bridge, the oldest bridge in New York City, closed since the early 1970s, and Highbridge Parks in Manhattan and the Bronx;
    • Seven parks along the Queens waterfront in the Astoria/Long Island City region
    • 70 acres of parkland and a recreation center in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn
    • The four historic Harlem parks in Manhattan: Marcus Garvey, St. Nicholas, Jackie Robinson, and Morningside Parks.

    My Administration welcomes the opportunity to work with all community leaders and advocates for Parks, including New Yorkers for Parks, to develop a plan the looks at the changing parks and recreation needs of neighborhoods citywide."

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?
How would you fund your actions?

"I believe that a park can only be enjoyed by the public if it is clean, safe and has working facilities. For this reason, the Parks Department monitors City parks in two different ways to ensure that the facilities meet acceptable standards. The first, the Parks Inspection Program (PIP) is a comprehensive, outcome-based performance measurement system that generates frequent, random, and detailed inspections of our parks and playgrounds. Administered by the Operations and Management Planning (OMP) division, this program provides Parks & Recreation management and the public with a broad indicator of the condition of City parks. The program, which has been designed to reflect conditions encountered by the public when using Parks facilities, features a team of trained inspectors that use hand-held computers and digital cameras to conduct nearly 5,000 inspections per year. Each site receives a rating of "Acceptable" or "Unacceptable" based upon the condition of specific park features. Whenever the Parks Department learns of an unacceptable rating, it works quickly to remedy the issue. In fact, the Parks Department’s maintenance program is often readjusted based on the results of these inspections.

In addition, each of the City’s 59 Community Boards has at least one supervisor who performs daily inspections of the parks in the district.

Funding for these inspections and the staff is included in the adopted budget."

b. What would be your plan to move from roaming crews to fixed crews for parks maintenance?

"Because New York City’s parks are far from monolithic, and many parks have unique needs, there is no one model for maintaining the over 28,000 acres of parkland that the Department administers. Nevertheless, my Administration has expanded the use of this model in certain instances, with one good example of the benefits of the fixed post model being the Neighborhood Parks Initiative (NPI), a partnership between Parks, New Yorkers for Parks, the Central Park Conservancy, and the City Parks Foundation. This program funds an Assistant Gardener and a Playground Associate at 28 sites across the City. At these sites, there is staff on location 7 days a week working to bring improved horticulture and recreational programming to these neighborhoods. However, though fixed crews can provide a benefit to some areas, they are not the only method by which parks are maintained."
c. What funding / programs would you use to increase the full-time parks maintenance staff?

"We have added funding for full-time staff to help maintain new park additions. In addition, using $40 million in City funds, my Administration created and funded the Job Training Program (JTP) to provide work experience and job training for public assistance recipients, as well as basic maintenance and increased presence for parks and playgrounds across the City. These crews, which are both fixed post and mobile, provide valuable training while helping to make parks across the City cleaner and more usable."

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?

"Over the last three years, Parks has expanded its support of recreation and amateur sports through its direct youth programming, by providing the facilities for other youth service organizations, and by forging new partnerships with other service providers. For example, the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) uses parks fields throughout the city for practices and games. Over 17,000 youths participated in PSAL programs at Parks facilities. Over 75,000 children from little leagues use our fields each year. Our recreation programs directly serve approximately 160,000 every year. In addition, the City Parks Foundation runs free track & field, golf, and tennis programs in parks throughout the City. The Department has also added professional staff to ensure that all the 36 City-run recreation centers are fully staffed and have comprehensive after-school recreation programs."

· 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?
"The Parks Department has developed strong collaborative relationship with its fellow agencies, and particularly with the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) and the Department of Education (DOE), so that children throughout the City are able to take advantage of the magnificent parks throughout our City.

DYCD: As part of the Mayor’s Out-of-School Time (OST) initiative, DYCD is working towards creating a comprehensive, coordinated system for OST programs. Parks has participated in and will be a beneficiary of the recent RFP that identified qualified organizations that will provide high quality, specialized programs funded by DCYD, to youth in Parks recreation centers.

DOE: During the 2005-2006 school year, Parks will work with DOE on the Learn-to-Swim program that will take place during the school day. Swimming lessons will take place at six Parks recreation centers in three ten-week sessions. Through this newly created pilot program, 4,500 children will learn swimming skills in the first academic year. This is just one example of the Department’s many collaborations with DOE, which also include the Mayor’s Cup Championships in Track & Field and Cross Country that Parks initiated and runs with DOE and the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA), and the Association of Independent Schools.

In addition to its collaborations with DYCD and DOE, the Parks Department has collaborated with other agencies on several other projects, including:

Shape Up, New York: This program, a partnership between Parks and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Health and Hospitals Corporation, is a free family fitness program offered at parks sites, community centers and housing sites around New York City. Fitness classes are open to adults and children and cover activities such as step aerobics, fitness walking, light weights, stretching and toning exercises. Shape Up New York is designed to encourage the development of healthy lifestyles and help improve participant self-esteem through energizing physical activity in a non-competitive environment.

Step Out, New York City: This program, a partnership with DOHMH, the NYC Commission on Women’s Issues, the YMCA, and the Police Athletic League, is in its second year. The program, which takes place in July and August at over 80 locations throughout the City, encourages New York City residents to get up and get out for family and community-oriented walks. Walks range in length from one to two miles and are held three times a week (two evenings and Saturday morning). Step Out, New York City encourages parents and their children to increase their physical fitness while at the same time join with their neighbors and friends to explore their community together."

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?
"One of the great legacies that the Olympics would leave is privately-funded world-class parks and recreation facilities that New Yorkers could enjoy for generations, and the City would certainly commit to making sure these facilities stay in excellent condition so that they could be enjoyed by the public. However, New York City was not chosen to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games and a decision has not been made regarding whether the City will bid on the 2016 Olympics."

4. Community Gardens

· What specific actions would you take to reduce the cost of the annual insurance premiums that community gardeners must pay?
"Parks is actively working with the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition and other gardening groups to reduce the cost of gardening insurance."

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?
"The City encourages all businesses, including sports teams, to support parks and youth programming through the adopt-a-park capital program."

· How would you provide more multi-purpose facilities for amateur sports and recreation?
"Parks’ capital program is renovating athletic complexes in all five boroughs and is aggressively increasing the number of artificial turf fields to improve safety and playing conditions, expand the number of playing fields, extend the playing season to year-round, and reduce the maintenance requirements for these fields. For example, using Lower Manhattan Development Corporation funds, the City has replaced asphalt at Sara D. Roosevelt and Columbus Parks, with the latest technology in synthetic turf, creating a vastly improved playing surface. At East River Park, four existing dirt ball fields at Houston Street have also been reconstructed and improved.

Along with our efforts to improve and expand existing facilities, we are also constructing new athletic facilities for public use. Earlier this year, I opened Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island. This $42 million facility – built through a 1:1 ratio of public and private funding, and with a final $10 million naming sponsorship by New York City financier Carl Icahn -- meets International Amateur Athletic Federation specifications for accommodating local, national and international track and field events. It offers a standard 400-meter surface running track, flanked by covered spectator seating and overlooking the East River. Since it opened, Icahn stadium has hosted a number of events for City youth, including the 2nd Annual Mayor’s Cup Outdoor Track & Field Championship.

In May 2004, I opened the Chelsea Recreation Center in Manhattan. Originally begun in the 1970s, construction of this center was suspended because of the City’s fiscal crisis, and a succession of mayors was unable to get the project jump-started again. Nevertheless, my Administration completed this $22.4 million project, and the new 56,500 square-foot center boasts six floors of facilities, including a swimming pool, a gymnasium with full-size basketball court, and a computer resource center.

In Queens, I recently opened Fort Totten Park, a new 49.5 acre park that includes a Civil War-era battery, 11 historic buildings – several of which have been designated a New York City historic district, a 13-acre parade ground with soccer fields, and pathways with views of the Long Island Sound. Fort Totten will host events throughout the year, including Shakespeare performances, concerts, children’s performances, and sports leagues. Additionally, the Flushing YMCA’s outdoor pool located inside the park will be open to adults, teams, and families several days a week. Urban Park Rangers will also offer weekend tours of the property’s historic features.

Parks is currently constructing a pool and ice rink facility at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The construction of this Olympic size pool and NHL regulation ice rink was funded by my office and Borough President Helen Marshall at a cost of $55 million. The Economic Development Corporation is overseeing the construction, and we expect this facility to be open in fall 2007.

Finally, my Administration is moving forward with plans to transform the Park Slope Armory in Brooklyn into a multi-purpose athletic and recreational center. Take the Field, a non-profit organization that has been rebuilding public school athletic facilities in New York City, is leading the initiative in collaboration with the Departments of Homeless Services and Education, to convert underutilized space at the Armory into a multi-purpose athletic, recreational, and educational center."

6. Waterfront Parks

· How would you improve upon recent investment in the NYC waterfront?
"My administration, more than any other in memory, has dedicated significant resources to ensure that the City and its residents fully utilize the plentiful resource that led to New York’s founding—its waterfront access. We are creating waterfront parks and greenways in every borough, new private ferry services are thriving with more to be launched, the cruise industry is expanding to the Brooklyn waterfront, thousands of units of housing for residents of all income levels are being constructed, and trash will once again be transported by barge. These changes are the result of the administration’s singular focus on reclaiming a waterfront that had in recent decades become a blight, as well as the dedication of significant resources to clean harbor water through investments in wastewater infrastructure and combined sewage overflow reductions.

A significant part of my Administration’s waterfront economic development strategy has focused on relocating non-marine dependent facilities, both City-owned and private. For example, in West Harlem, the Economic Development Corporation is relocating a parking lot to accommodate a portion of the West Harlem piers redevelopment, which will include a recreation area, open space and waterfront access. Similarly, in the Sherman Creek area of Northern Manhattan, the Mayor’s Office and EDC are working to redevelop the area and improve waterfront access, including by removing a City-leased surface parking lot.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which is leading our environmental efforts along the waterfront, has allocated significant financial resources to upgrade sewage treatment plants and to improve combined sewer overflow controls. In addition, following the Long Island Sound Study, which developed a phased strategy for reducing nitrogen discharges into the Sound and Jamaica Bay over a fifteen-year period, DEP affirmed the studies’ targets and committed significant financial resources to achieve them. The Department has developed plans to upgrade all five of the City’s water pollution control plants and has already begun construction on two of the plants, with construction at the three remaining plants to begin shortly."

· What are your plans to ensure that citizens in all five boroughs have access to waterfront parks?
"At the same time as my Administration’s economic development strategy has focused on the waterfront, we have incorporated parks and recreation space into urban planning on a scale never seen before. Significant progress on our efforts to encourage public use of the waterfront in all five boroughs has already been made and can clearly be seen. Here are some examples:

In the Bronx, we: have broken ground on Barretto Point Park and Lafayette Park, two parts of what will be an 8 mile greenway in the South Bronx; announced a plan to create another new waterfront park in the borough as part of the overall redevelopment of the area surrounding Yankee Stadium

In Brooklyn, we: are continuing the construction of Brooklyn Bridge Park; creating the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, which will stretch from Pulaski Bridge to Erie Basin; will create a 2 mile waterfront park and 54 acres of open space as part of the rezoning of the Greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront.

In Manhattan, we: opened phases 1 and 2 of Hudson River Park, and have begun the next phase of construction of what will be a 550 acre park; completed construction of the interim Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, a 32-mile path that rings the borough; completed the restoration of four ball fields in East River Park; unveiled a plan to create a 2 mile esplanade and bike path as part of the redevelopment of the East River Waterfront just north of South Street Seaport.

In Queens, we: are developing the Queens East River North Shore Greenway, which will connect 8.5 miles of waterfront greenspace from the Pulaski Bridge to Flushing Bay; created the City’s first official surfing beach off the Rockaways.

In Staten Island we: opened Ocean Breeze Pier at Midland Beach, the largest steel and concrete recreational pier built in New York in over a century; completed over a $7 million improvement project at Conference House Park, which sits on the Raritan Bay; are restoring Tappen Park as part of the overall plan to redevelop the Homeport.

These projects are just part of my administration’s overall agenda to improve our city’s waterfront and, I assure you, I have every intention to continue these efforts in the future so that New Yorkers can look upon their waterfront as a source of pride."

· How would you fund the especially costly maintenance of waterfront parks?
"As I stated earlier, for many of our new waterfront parks, including Brooklyn Bridge Park and the new park to be created as a part of the Greenpoint/Williamsburg rezoning, we have established dedicated funding mechanisms and comprehensive maintenance plans. Many smaller scale projects can be adequately maintained by existing staff."

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)?
"The Parks Department continually partners with the National Park Service on programs designed to encourage the public to take full advantage of our beautiful national parks. In some instances, the Department schedules events to coincide with programs taking place at neighboring national parks."
· What is your vision for Governors Island?
"In January 2003, my administration and the State finalized an agreement with the federal government to return the 172-acre Governors’ Island to New York. The plan includes the creation of Governors’ Island National Monument, which will encompass approximately 22 acres, including historic Castle Williams and Fort Jay. Governors’ Island is a national treasure and I am very pleased to have reclaimed this island, which few New Yorkers have been able to visit over the past two hundred years.

The development of the Island, which is being administered by the Governors’ Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC), a corporation formed jointly by the City and the State, presents a major opportunity to develop and program an island that is at once isolated and proximate to both Manhattan and Brooklyn. While, as per the terms of the agreement with the federal government and the City’s needs, Governors’ Island will include a variety of educational, recreational, and cultural uses, it is also our hope that the Island will serve as the host to one or more unique, world-class institutions (e.g., scientific research centers) that can provide a variety of benefits to the City in return for access to this unique natural asset. Governors’ Island will also feature a continuous public path along the 2.2 mile waterfront perimeter and an historic 40-acre public park. GIPEC is currently evaluating responses to a request for expressions of interest and plans to release a conceptual framework for the island in late 2005."