Parks1 is a sister project of New Yorkers for Parks, an advocacy group which tackles issues such as protecting and preserving open spaces and conducts research about the state of public spaces. Parks1’s aim is to make New York City’s park system best in the nation, Krebs said.
Parks are like apple pie and baseball, he said. No one is against parks, but candidates and elected officials are often unaware of the condition of lesser-known neighborhood parks or the need for increases in budget.
“Our flagship parks are beautiful,” Krebs said. Central Park, Bryant Park and Prospect Park deserve all the attention they get, he said, but because of those parks’ high visibility, politicians and the public alike assume that all parks are in such good condition.
Restrooms in Central Park would never be locked, Krebs charged, because there would be an uproar. So it’s not fair to ask residents of poorer neighborhoods to deal with undesirable park conditions, he said.
The Parks1 campaign asked elected officials to sign a pledge to increase the parks’ budget and staff and to let parks keep park-generated revenue. Currently, the parks’ budget is only 0.4 to 0.5 percent of the city’s budget, Krebs said. The campaign sought to increase the budget to 1 percent.
Also, increased funds for park maintenance could come from park concessions funds. Currently, revenue generated by parks flows into the city’s general funds. “Letting the parks keep what they earn would make an immediate difference in neighborhood parks,” Krebs said.
Public Advocate Besty Gotbaum has joined the Parks1 campaign. As a former parks commissioner from 1990 to 1993, Gotbaum is a natural ally. As commissioner, she saw the parks budget cut by as much as a third, said Anat Jacobson, Gotbaum’s press secretary.
More than ten years later, there are still many parks in terrible condition. Parks are filthy and equipment is broken, and “the community winds up losing out,” Jacobson said. The parks budget “ends up on the chopping block sooner rather than later.”
For Krebs and his allies at Parks1, the campaign will go on. People have “a right to hold elected officials accountable for the conditions of their parks,” he said.