The NYC Park Advocates and local unions gathered today on the steps of City Hall to protest proposed cuts to Parks Department funding in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's executive budget for the 10-11 fiscal year.
"These cuts will be devastating," said Advocates spokesman Geoffrey Croft.
In the proposed budget, the Parks Department's allocation in city funds is $230 million, a nearly 13 percent reduction from last year's budget, $264 million.
This will entail the loss of 748 full-time jobs ( 20% of the current full-time workforce) and 450 seasonal jobs, as well as several services, according to the New York Park Advocates' calculations.
Several speakers at the rally called attention to the increasing number of privatized parks, whose upkeep costs are subsidized by neighborhood residents. In poorer neighborhoods, this is often not a viable option, pointed out President of the Brooklyn Bridge Defense Fund Judi Francis.
"We will not have parks any longer if we keep cutting the budget," Francis warned.
"In the current economic situation... now more and more people are using parks," Croft said, pointing to public parks' roles as a source of free recreation and exercise.
"Most people don't have the money to fly to the Hamptons, the Bahamas," he added. "These are our backyard."
Rallyers pointed to the fact that in 1960, approximately 1.4% of the city budget was devoted to the Parks Department, while in the new proposed budget would devote only .37 percent.
The Parks Department has lost a greater percentage of its workforce than other city agencies in the last 40 years, according to the NYC Park Advocates.
"We need to stop this downward slide," said retired park ranger Steve Rayfield at the rally.