Introducing Clean & Green!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Our latest publication is here! Clean & Green answers the question, Who takes care of our parks? This visual explainer will deepen your knowledge of the parks system in NYC, and make your advocacy work easier and more effective.

Clean & Green is based on NYC Parks Annual Report on Park Maintenance. Many thanks to Councilmembers Brad Lander and Mark Levine for funding this report, and helping make our park system more accessible and easier to understand. 

Participatory Budgeting 2017 Winning Projects

Monday, June 12, 2017

By Kim Ahrens, NY4P Communications Intern

The effect of 2017 Participatory Budgeting funds on your parks and open spaces.

This past April, New Yorkers made their voices heard in the capital process, and there were many wins for parks, playgrounds, and open spaces throughout the five boroughs. Each year, community members can propose projects for park improvement with the use of Participatory Budgeting (or PB) funds. In the 2016-2017 PB cycle, 31 of our 51 City Council Members participated in the process, allocating at least $1 million of their discretionary capital dollars to be decided on by residents of their districts. When the final results were in, 24% of all PB funds went towards parks and open space construction and improvement projects. Over $9 million will now be spent on improving public open spaces, such as a playground and courtyard upgrade at P.S. 125 in District 7 and a new play yard for Ditmas Park in District 40. To see the full list of this year’s winning projects, visit the Council’s PB website.

What is Participatory Budgeting and how does it work?

Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process of how to spend a portion of a public budget. The system originated in Brazil and has spread throughout major cities around the world, including New York. It allows community members to propose specific projects and ideas that they would like to be funded. Council Members in each district have the opportunity to participate in PB by allocating at least $1 million of their budget towards allowing their community members to propose their ideas.

Proposed ideas are encouraged beginning in the fall and is followed by a long process of informative public meetings. People are able to vote on the projects they want funded in their district in late March/early April. This year, each voter was allowed five votes and the top five projects voted for received the needed funds from their Council Member until the funds were exhausted.

How can I get involved?

The first step in proposing a project for your community is researching if your council member participates in PB. If they do not, you can encourage them by asking them to commit to the PB process this summer. If you reside in one of the 31 districts that already participate in PB, then your first step is to decide what may benefit your community. Anyone over the age of 14 can propose a project to be covered by PB funds. Identification is not required in order to propose a project. District residents are encourages to attend the public meetings held in the late summer and early fall to become informed and educated on the projects proposed within your districts. Voting is also open to anyone within the district who is 14 years of age or older, and identification is also not required.

Other ways to get involved include organizing meetings to promote and encourage your proposed plan to gain support from other community members. Informing other community members about the benefits of PB is beneficial as many members are unaware of the power they have in PB. Another opportunity is becoming a budget delegate, which involves volunteering to further research proposed projects before finalizing the ballot. Find out more about becoming a budget delegate and their roles in PB later this summer.

What’s next?

Keep an eye out in your local parks and open spaces as to what can use improvement to benefit your community. Make your ideas a reality by proposing your project in the next PB cycle and gain support from your fellow community members! For more information on ideas for park improvement you can propose to your council member for the next PB vote, check out our “How Can I Improve My Park?” guide and webinar.

Who Represents Me: Demystifying the City Council

Monday, June 12, 2017

The webinar, “Who Represents Me? Demystifying the City Council” is now available to watch online! You can read about what we covered, below.

Who Represents Me?

2017 is an election year in New York City! Here at New Yorkers for Parks we want to prepare our constituents for the upcoming races and make sure we have an informed electorate ready to prioritize parks and open space. As an independent advocacy organization, we inform, lobby and influence key decision-makers when it comes to our city’s open space. Some of the most important decision-makers when it comes to parks are the City Council members. In this post, we will discuss how to find out who represents you in the city, how to contact them, and how to get involved in the elections.

Our Elected and Appointed Officials

The following officials represent you in New York City:

Mayor- Bill de Blasio. The mayor is the head of the executive branch and administers all city services and oversees the $85 billion city budget. The mayor is limited to two consecutive four year terms. Having been elected in 2013, Bill de Blasio is up for re-election this fall. The mayor represents all five boroughs.

Borough President- On the other hand, each borough has a singular representative known as the Borough President. Borough presidents advise the Mayor, advocate for key issues in their borough, appoint community boards, comment on the municipal budget, and while they are elected, they generally serve ceremonial positions. Each borough president does have a discretionary budget to fund projects within their borough and influence the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP. Therefore, if you are advocating for a particular park project in your community, it is beneficial to have the support of your Borough President.

Public Advocate- Letitia James. The public advocate is first in line to succeed the mayor and serves as a direct liaison between New Yorkers and the city government, acting as the “watchdog” for the electorate. As with the Mayor, the Public Advocate represents all five boroughs and is elected every four years, and may serve two consecutive terms.

Comptroller- Scott Stringer. The comptroller is the chief fiscal officer and chief auditing officer of New York City.The Comptroller can serve three consecutive four year terms, and monitors the performance and finances of the city agencies, contracts, and city debt.

Community Board- On a more local level, we have our community boards. Community boards are appointed advisory groups, with 59 total boards spread across the five boroughs. Community boards are made up of up to 50 volunteer members who are appointed by the borough president, half of whom are nominated by the City Council members who represent the district. While the community board members are not elected directly by New Yorkers, they do advise on land use and zoning, comment on the city budget process and engage constituents on development of or opposition to specific projects. They serve no official authority to make or enforce laws, however.

City Council- The City Council is the lawmaking body of New York City, with 51 members representing the 51 City Council Districts across the five boroughs. The City Council serves as a check to the Mayor, monitoring city agencies, making land use decisions, approving the city budget proposed by the mayor, and proposing and passing laws. City Council members are limited to two consecutive four year terms. It’s worth noting that after a four-year respite City Council members can serve a third term if they are elected.

City Council

The head of the City Council, known as the Speaker, is currently Melissa Mark-Viverito. The Speaker of the City Council sets the agenda and all proposed legislation ultimately passes through her office.  The City Council is made up of 35 different committees. Each City Council Member is obligated to sit on at least three committees. The Parks and Recreation Committee, for example, is chaired by City Council Member Mark Levine, from District 7, but he also is part of the committees on education, finance, governmental operations, housing and buildings, and rules, privileges and elections. Our City Council members are very busy! This year, they are even busier than usual because it is an election year.

City Council Districts

Every decade, following the census, the districts are redrawn to conform to demographic changes and to ascertain that the map is in compliance with the “one-person, one-vote” constitutional requirement. There are a few different ways to find out your City Council District.

  • Who Represents Me? is a great place to start! This easy to use website allows you to enter your address and will provide the name and contact information of your city, state, and federal elected officials. This is a wonderful, one-stop shop resource.
  • New York City Council. is the official website of the New York City Council. On the homepage, you can enter your address or search on a map for your district. The search engine will provide the district number, member name, borough, party and list of represented neighborhoods.

Contact City Council

On the City Council website of each member you will find the contact information for their District Office and their Legislative Office. The District Office is typically located within the representative’s district and you should contact this office with issues particular to your community as the staff on site can provide constituent services in the neighborhood. The Legislative Office for all 51 members is located at 250 Broadway in Manhattan. The Legislative Office houses staff focused on broader policy work. Most City Council members also have personal, separate websites or blogs that can provide up-to-date information concerning news in your district. Some members offer newsletters and many are active on social media.

Contact Your City Council Member

In an election year, it is a great opportunity to get to know your City Council member, and the other candidates running for the seats, as they are looking for their constituents’ support. If you would like to engage with incumbent or new candidates, you can write letters to their office, make phone calls, and even invite them to community events you are hosting. It is not guaranteed, of course, that each member will have time on their schedule to meet every constituent who reaches out, but New Yorkers for Parks has a few tips to increase your chances of getting some facetime with your City Council Member.

  • Contact and build a relationship with key staff. You should get to know the Chief of Staff, Scheduler and Office Manager of your Council Member. You can call the District or Legislative office to identify these key staff members, or find this information on the Council Member’s website. These key staff members have access to the official’s calendar, speaking events, and can help arrange a meeting with your community group and the representative.
  • Join Participatory Budgeting (PB). PB is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. City Council members choose to join Participatory Budgeting in New York, giving at least $1 million from their discretionary budget for the community decision-making process. Currently, 31 of the 51 City Council members are part of the program. This being an election year, it is a great time to talk to your council member or candidates about why you either support and appreciate their participating in PB, or for the 20 districts that don’t participate, why you think they should! Participatory Budgeting allows New Yorkers to decide where to spend our capital dollars on “brick and mortar” projects, so if you have some projects in mind, use your leverage in this election cycle to advocate for PB.
  • Attend and testify at City Council Hearings. City Council hearings are a great opportunity to submit and read public testimony to your elected officials concerning various park-related topics. NY4P’s webinar “Going on the Record” gives you the inside scoop about how to successfully testify at a City Council hearing, including everything from how to check in at the building to how to make a compelling case. Check it out here!

Community Board versus City Council Districts

We are represented by elected City Council Members and appointed Community Board members. However, the areas that these two bodies represent are not identical. In other words, your City Council District is different from your Community Board district. We admit that these distinctions can be confusing. At NY4P, we typically research and advocate on behalf of New Yorkers according to their City Council Districts. For example, our City Council District Profiles look at open space allocation and demographics of the 51 City Council Districts. We choose to look at City Council Districts for a very specific reason- your City Council Members are the officials with money you might need to accomplish a park project. Each Council Member has a discretionary funding budget and legislates on issues concerning land use and rezoning in your community. In our growing, developing city, your park and open space priorities are intrinsically tied to the funds and priorities of your City Council Member. Just another reason to get out and vote this fall!

2017 Election

This year, the mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough presidents and city council members are all up for election. The City Council primaries will be held September 12, 2017 and the general election November 7, 2017.

Track the Candidates

There are over 200 candidates officially running for public office this fall. There are many different ways to keep track of the candidates and identify their positions.

  • New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB). The CFB is a great, official place to start. The CFB website provides information about the elections, voting, voter services, and candidate services. You can find the “Candidate List” under the “Campaign Finance Reports” tab in the “Follow the Money” section on their homepage to see the updated list of people running for office. If candidates have officially joined the Campaign Finance Program by filling out a Candidate Certification and agreeing to participate in the city’s matching funds process, they are listed as “Participants” on the Candidate List.
  • Local newspapers. City Limits, City and State, DNA Info, and Gotham Gazette a few examples of news outlets across the city that are keeping a close on the races.

Open versus Incumbent Seat

One of the trickier facets of a City Council election is determining if your district seat is open, and therefore will definitely be filled by a new candidate, or is held by an incumbent, who is seeking re-election against new candidates. Your district seat is open if the current council member has reached the limit of their terms. Remember, in the New York City Council, the council member can serve two consecutive four year terms. It’s important to note that some councilmembers were eligible to serve for three terms under a rule change that took place in 2008, but those rules are no longer in place, and we are back to a two-term system. In 2017, of the 51 districts, 7 of them are going to open seats. These 7 members are term limited and a brand new batch of candidates are running for the seat. The remaining 44 members, if they want to keep their seat, are running for re-election as an incumbent, against a batch of new candidates. Why is this important? Although this is not always the case, usually the most contested elections are for the 7 open seats. The candidates are new, seeking support, and want to hear from constituents. This is where you come in! We want to stress, though, that every single incumbent member needs to be re-elected to hold their seat. In fact, there are already some hotly contested seats and lots of exciting news stories to follow. If you care about parks and open space, all 51 elections are important!

Your To-Do List

  • Register to vote
  • Track candidates on the Campaign Finance Board website
  • Read the NYC Voter Guide, published by NYC Votes each fall
  • Find your polling site and know what to expect on voting day
  • Get involved! Volunteer at poll sites, register as a poll worker, or volunteer for a candidate
  • Support the New Yorkers for Parks Public Realm Bill of Rights and demand that our elected officials prioritize parks and open space!

Lynn Kelly's Statement on the Paris Climate Agreement

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Today, the first day of hurricane season here in New York, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. Let’s not forget what climate change did to our city nearly five years ago: Superstorm Sandy ravaged communities, destroyed homes, and took lives. 

Our parks and opens spaces are quite literally the first line of defense against extreme weather events. Resilient beaches and waterfronts protect us from flooding and storm surges; parks and green spaces provide clean air and relief from sweltering heat; and healthy street tree systems temper the urban heat island effect, absorb storm water run-off, and clear the air of carbon.

But all of this will be lost if we don’t take decisive action to curb the effects of climate change.

New Yorkers are as resilient as the city we call home and we will not back down. Today New Yorkers for Parks is reaffirming our commitment to creating a healthy and sustainable city through the principles laid out in our Public Realm Bill of Rights for New York City, and we’re asking you to join us.

The Bill of Rights includes the right to a healthy environment and a resilient city, where all New Yorkers can lead safe and healthy lives. When we start with a shared understanding of what our public realm rights should be, we can commit to the actions - small and large - that we'll take together. If you agree, add your name and show that you support a public realm that protects and sustains all New Yorkers.

The day after Superstorm Sandy, my heart was broken. At Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden in Staten Island, where I was President at the time, the damage to the park and many nearby neighborhoods was indescribable. But over the following days and months, as I saw New Yorkers come together to help each other and repair their city, I was filled with immense hope and pride that I continue to feel to this day.

Thank you for your support, and for everything you do for us and future generations of New Yorkers. Add your name to the Public Realm Bill of Rights today, and join us in committing to a safe and healthy city!

Lynn B. Kelly
Executive Director, New Yorkers for Parks

Last Chance to Testify on the City Parks Budget

Monday, May 22, 2017

This Thursday, May 25 is the last chance for the public to give testimony to the City Council on the upcoming fiscal year city budget. The Committee on Finance hearing will begin at 10 am, with the public comment period slated to begin at 1 pm. 

Want to brush up on how to give testimony? Our webinar (and transcript) tells you everything you need to know, from how to check-in, how long it should last, to how to shape your messaging.

Want to learn more about how you can influence the city budget? Find out how it all works, including opportunities to make your voice heard, here

Don't have time to give testimony? Add your name to our letter to the Mayor and City Council and let them know you support a strong budget for NYC's parks.

Take Action: Tell City Hall to Fund Parks

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

The petition is closed. Thank you to everyone who participated!

The Mayor and City Council are in the final stages of negotiating the city budget, and we need to make sure that New York's parks and open spaces aren't left out. Park use is at an all-time high, and New Yorkers depend on our public spaces more than ever before.

Join us in calling on Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to fund critical maintenance staff; protect the GreenThumb community gardening program from major staff and budget loses due to federal budget cuts; add new Partnerships for Parks staff to support community parks groups; hire new Urban Park Rangers; keep our street trees healthy and safe; and support visionary parks projects. Write to your Council Member and the Mayor today!

Who Represents Me: Demystifying the City Council

Monday, May 08, 2017

It’s an election year in NYC, and there are number of city council seats that will be filled by all new representatives next January. How can you figure out what council district you live in, and who might be running for office? Join NY4P at noon on Thursday, May 25 for our lunch-hour webinar as we walk you through all of the steps to understand how to find out who represents you, and how to reach them.

RSVP today! 

Daffodil Project on NY1

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

On April 13th NY4P's Emily Walker, Director of Outreach and Programs, joined Marlene Pantin of the Red Hook Conservancy on NY1 to talk about the Daffodil Project and its power as a tool for community engagement and beautification. Watch it on NY1.  

Public Realm Bill of Rights for New York City

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

On April 17th, at the NY4P x NYC citywide advocacy meeting, New Yorkers for Parks unveiled our Public Realm Bill of Rights for New York City. The bill lays out the principles the City should follow in creating and maintaining quality open space for all. 

If you missed the meeting you can still get an in-depth look at the Public Realm Bill of Rights in our short webinar

The vast majority of the Public Realm Bill of Rights is based on the input we've gathered from parks and open space advocates across the city over the past year and a half of outreach through our How's Your Park? and NY4P: Boro x Boro meeting series.  

City Parks Budget Update

Monday, April 10, 2017

On April 3rd the City Council released their response to Mayor de Blasio’s FY18 preliminary budget, and it includes some great wins for parks. Under the strong leadership of Parks Committee Chair Mark Levine and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the City Council has demonstrated their commitment to open space.

The City Council budget response includes:

$6 million for 80 additional Parks Enforcement Patrol officers

$9.55m to continue funding 150 critical gardeners and maintenance workers left out of the Mayor’s budget for the third year in row

$1.7m to permanently expand the City’s beach & pool season by a week past Labor Day;

$30m to support additional Parks Without Borders Parks projects;

$3m for 50 new Urban Park Rangers, more than doubling the current 30;

$1m for 10 more Partnership for Parks outreach coordinators; and

$2.6m to expand funding for street tree pruning, allowing the City to return to the 7-year pruning cycle needed to keep trees healthy and streets safe

Mayor de Blasio is now reviewing the response and will soon release his Executive Budget, when the City Council will have another round of hearings. We’ll keep you posted!

While we’ve seen a great commitment to green space from the City Council, an issue of major concern is the potential cut to federal Community Development Block Grants. NYC’s GreenThumb community garden program gets 43 percent of its funding from the program, and the White House has proposed to cut those funds completely. GreenThumb would have to lay off a significant portion of its staff, and have much less money for supplies and tools. This could have a hugely negative impact on the over 500 community gardens that depend on GreenThumb. We’re still waiting to see what the final federal budget will be, and how it will affect New York’s gardens.

You can view our March 21 testimony to the City Council on the parks budget here, and read Council Member Mark Levine's opening statement here

Want to learn more about how the city budget is decided? We cover the entire process, including opportunities for the public to get involved, in "How to Influence the City Budget."