Giving testimony at a City Council hearing is a great way to make your voice heard to local government. Although the process may seem difficult, once you know the basic rules and procedures it’s actually a simple and effective way to help influence local policy. In this webinar we explain everything you need to know from how to check in, how to shape your messaging, to how long your testimony should be.
Watch "Going on the Record: Making Your Voice Heard to City Government" now, or reach the transcript, below.
There are a lot of ways to reach out to your City Council member these days. You could call their office or send an email to their staff. You could write a letter or sign a petition. If you’re short on time, you can even tweet! One of the most effective ways to have your voice heard, however, is to speak to your City Council member in person.
Participate in a City Council Committee Hearing! According to the City Council website, “It is there that proposed legislation is initially debated and members of other government branches and the public are given a chance to comment.” That’s where you come in. City Council Committees typically host public hearings once a month.
Here at New Yorkers for Parks we regularly draft oral and written testimony to share at City Council Parks Committee Hearings. We view these hearings as opportunities to build a case for increased funding for parks, advocate for programming and call for more park staff.
The public input process allows citizens to directly inform our elected officials. The truth is that feedback from constituents can shape the decisions made by our City Council. Furthermore, participating in the public process helps to ensure transparency- the more our officials hear from voters in their districts, the more likely they are to act.
Where do I start?
1) Find out who represents you at : http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml
The City Council website provides the address of your member’s legislative office, district office, email address and relevant phone numbers
2) Sign up for the NYC Council E-Newsletter to find out about upcoming hearings: http://council.nyc.gov/html/action/enews.shtml
3) Regularly check the NYC Legistar portal for calendar of hearings by committee: http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx
Oversight vs. Legislative Hearings
There are two types of hearings:
Oversight hearings allow the Council to convene agency officials to be questioned on a given topic. These hearings give the Council an opportunity to dig deeper into the roles and responsibilities of various city agencies, programs and projects and can be a platform for longer-term strategy around funding or future legislation.
Legislative hearings provide the Council with the chance to introduce new legislation and discuss the impact of proposed bills. Agencies, experts, advocates and members of the public are encouraged to attend these hearings to weigh in on the impact any given legislation will have.
How do I get to a hearing?
Once you find out which hearing you want to attend from Legistar, make sure to look up directions to the meeting. Most hearings are held at either City Hall or 250 Broadway, a city building across from City Hall Park. Arrive early and prepare to go through airport style security. Be sure to tell the security officials your purpose and destination. Once you enter into the room, you will need to find the Sergeant-at-Arms who is the city employee who will check you in. Depending on the hearing, you may be asked if you are in favor or against the given topic. The Sergeant-at-Arms will call you up to speak when it is your turn to provide public input.
What happens during a hearing?
First, the City Council Committee members will ask questions of program officials and agency staff. These officials will present their prepared testimony and participate in a Q & A with the councilmembers. Next begins the public comment period. This is the opportunity for organizations, like NY4P, and individuals, like you, to speak. The Sergeant-at-Arms will call on you.
How should I prepare my testimony?
A few pieces of advice. Keep it tight! Generally public comments are restricted to 2 minutes. Be sure to state your case early on so you don’t run out of time- we recommend you practice reading your statement in advance with a timer. It’s important to tell the Council which neighborhood you are from, how many residents you represent, and what kind of programming your community organization offers. Incorporate your community into your testimony by telling the elected officials that their decision is going to have an impact on more than just one resident. Finally, bring 20 printed copies of your testimony to the hearing. These will be distributed to City Council members and assure that your testimony is officially submitted on the record.
What should I expect out of the hearing?
City Council members have very busy schedules and may not be able to stay for the duration of the hearing. This does not mean that they won’t hear your testimony, but it is a good reason to remember to print and bring along copies. Remember, hearings are not a trial, but rather an opportunity to better understand a topic by listening to what expert organizations and community members have to say. Your opinion will help shape the decision-making process that takes place after the hearings.
NY4P provides lots of resources to park advocates and community groups in order to empower our advocate network. One of our greatest resources is our Advocacy Guide, created by NY4P with Partnerships for Parks and the Center for Urban Pedagogy. This guide is available in English and Spanish and maps out how to get funding for the parks and public spaces in your neighborhoods. It is available as a PDF download on our website and we are also happy to mail physical copies to you and your community members. NY4P will continue to host informational webinars to provide our constituents with the tools they need to advocate for their public spaces. Finally, we host borough meetings each winter to gather park users together in one space to think deeply about how we can shape the next fiscal year’s budget and upcoming mayoral and City Council elections.
Click here to sign up for our newsletter to receive information about upcoming borough meetings, webinars, council hearings and other NY4P events.
“When you're in these parks, you don’t even need to measure the air to know it’s polluted,” Ana Traverso-Krejcarek says while walking through the three small parks straddling the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in South Williamsburg. “This neighborhood has one of the highest rates of asthma in the city. And these are some of the only open spaces that this community has. So even though people want to get outside, and engage in healthy activity, it comes at a cost.”
As the Project Manager for the Green Light District, Ana spends a lot of time in these spaces, working with the community members who use and depend on these parks. The Green Light District is a ten year initiative of El Puente, a thirty year old social justice organization with deep roots in the local community. The initiative seeks to sustain, grow, and green Williamsburg’s South Side, and addressing its lack of quality open space is one of its main areas of action.
Environmental justice has been a core issue for El Puente from the beginning. In the 1990s the “Toxic Avengers,” a group of young environmental activists from El Puente, were instrumental in uniting with the local Hasidic community to stop the city from building a massive garbage incinerator in Williamsburg. Most of the trees in the south side were planted by El Puente years ago. The environmental activism lives on today with the national Latino Climate Action Network, and the locally-focused Green Light District.
To address park inequity, and to empower young people to understand and advocate for their open spaces, NY4P is working with Ana to educate El Puente’s Summer Youth Employment Program participants to gather and analyze data on their park spaces. They’re observing park conditions, and developing an understanding of why such conditions exist.
“The NY4P methods help people understand their open space better. They see what makes it healthy, and unhealthy. They see it with a more critical eye, and they can appreciate it better,” Ana explains. “It’s easy to take things for granted, but the more informed you are the more you can contribute to fighting for positive changes.”
“One of the most eye-opening things participants learned about was the 311 app. It’s a great tool to use for creating active citizenship,” Ana says, referring to NYC’s mobile app and phone service that connects New Yorkers with city government. The participants notified the city about trash and other maintenance issues that needed to be addressed, many of them using 311 for the first time.
“We also reached out to the parks manager to let them know what we’re doing. Now they know that the community is paying attention, but also that we are willing to help. We’re trying to get government to work with citizens, and the other way around.”
The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway cuts directly through the neighborhood, and both it and the Williamsburg Bridge funnel heavy traffic through the neighborhood every day. Most of the few green spaces in the neighborhood are right next to the expressway, exposing users to highly-polluted air.
In addition to studying open space, the young people at El Puente are also collecting air quality data, and will combine them to make a data-based argument for improved green space. “When our students tested the air quality, they found the particulate matter was five times higher than the average for this area of Brooklyn,” Ana notes.
“We need better open spaces to clean the air. Without clean air, we’re condemning families to live with huge costs,” Ana explains. Particularly for low- and middle-income families, the effects of asthma can go far beyond decreased health: there’s financial strain caused by health bills and lost wages, educational setbacks due to missed school, and the psychological burden of living with a chronic, and preventable, illness. The local Latino population is also suffering from higher than average rates of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. All of these issues make the need for quality parkland and open space especially pressing. “It’s a big matter of equity.”
As an urban planner with experience working with arts and culture organizations, working at El Puente with the Green Light District is a perfect fit for Ana. She believes in the work they do, and understands the power of data to affect change. “People deserve to have good parks, to have healthy places to take their children. And we need scientific data to support our case.”
One of the biggest changes El Puente is advocating for is the BQ Green, an ambitious project that would create new parkland by building over two blocks of the sunken Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The proposed project includes a baseball field, playgrounds, a lawn area for soccer and other activities, a pool, and a community center.
With an estimated cost of $100 million, the folks at El Puente and in the community know that making the BQ Green a reality won’t be easy. But they also know that quality open space isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity that all communities deserve. They’re working with Council Member Antonio Reynoso, the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn, the climate action group Mothers Out Front, and local community members to push for the park’s creation. In February 2017 they’re launching a campaign, and will step up the push to make the new open space a reality.
New Yorkers for Parks and the National Park Service (NPS) are honoring the 15th anniversary of 9/11 by planting three thousand daffodil bulbs on Ellis Island as part of the NY4P Daffodil Project. The planting will take place on Friday, October 14th from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm. The Project started in the fall of 2001 to serve as a living memorial to the lives lost in the attack, and to offer hope and beauty to the grieving city. Since then, over six million free bulbs have been planted citywide by more than 100,000 young students, parks and gardening groups, civic organizations, corporate volunteers and other New Yorkers. The Daffodil Project is one of the largest volunteer efforts in the city’s history.
Joining NY4P and NPS at the planting will be 36 volunteers from Ernst & Young as part of their “EY Connect Day” program, where employees volunteer with classrooms, community centers, and nonprofits such as NY4P.
“This is the perfect way to celebrate the resilience and perseverance of New Yorkers,” said Tupper Thomas, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Parks. “When spring comes to New York, visitors to Ellis Island will see Lower Manhattan - once the site of unbelievable destruction, now full of vitality - while surrounded by thousands of bright yellow daffodils symbolizing hope and renewal. It’s a testament to the power of New Yorkers, and the power of our parks.”
“As the National Park Service celebrates its centennial anniversary, the Daffodil Project is a great way to connect New Yorkers with more of their parks,” said Joshua Laird, Commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor. “Ellis Island symbolizes hope, freedom, and opportunity. And for the 12 million immigrants that passed through its doors, it was a new beginning. The national parks belong to the public and are places where people can go to not only connect with nature and history, but also to find companionship, healing, and hope. We are grateful to New Yorkers for Parks for bringing this program to Ellis Island.”
In 2007 Mayor Michael Bloomberg named the daffodil the official flower of New York City, stating, “The Daffodil Project makes the City a more beautiful place every year, and brings us all together by serving as a living memorial to the victims of September 11th."
For more information contact Megan Douglas at 212-838-9410 ex.310, or email@example.com
New Yorkers for Parks (NY4P), the citywide advocate for parks and open space, today announced that its Board of Directors has named Lynn B. Kelly as the organization’s new Executive Director. Kelly is currently the CEO and President of Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden in Staten Island, a role which she has held since 2010. She officially starts on December 1 and will succeed outgoing Executive Director Tupper Thomas, who announced her plans to retire earlier this year.
“We are thrilled to welcome Lynn Kelly to New Yorkers for Parks,” said Joel Steinhaus, Chairman of New Yorkers for Parks. “NY4P has evolved over the past century to fit the context of our city. Today, pressures of density, affordability and equity make sufficient investment in our parks and open spaces complicated and challenging. Now, more than ever, our city needs a strong advocate for open space, and we believe Lynn can be that voice.”
“As a lifelong New Yorker, and native of Staten Island, I have always wanted to make this city better for all New Yorkers,” said Kelly. “This opportunity allows me to use my varied experiences, skills and networks to build a stronger case for parks and open space. Parks and open space are essential urban infrastructure, and we have to start talking about this issue through that lens, including health, economic development, and social justice.”
Combining strong business acumen and public sector experience with a passion for helping to strengthen her community and New York City, Kelly led the revitalization of Snug Harbor over the past six years. Most recently, she successfully led the charge to increase baseline operational funding for the institution in the city budget, while also executing a master agreement with the city – something which had not been accomplished in over a decade.
Snug Harbor, a distinguished Smithsonian affiliate, provides programming in horticulture, agriculture and the visual and performing arts, and attracts over 500,000 visitors to its 83-acre Staten Island campus annually. Today, Kelly oversees the operational and managerial needs of this nationally recognized site, which is comprised of 26 buildings (five of which are historical landmarks), 350,000 square feet of space, two and a half miles of roads, a two and a half-acre farm, and eight diverse botanical gardens.
“I am very pleased that Lynn has agreed to join this important organization,” said Thomas. “As someone who has devoted her career to working to improve our parks and open spaces, I am so encouraged NY4P was able to find someone like Lynn. She understands the critical importance of these issues to the success of our city, and I look forward to helping her transition into leading the organization.”
Prior to Snug Harbor, Kelly worked as a Senior Vice President at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). During the last three of her ten years at the NYCEDC, she also served as the President of the Coney Island Development Corporation. Kelly led the redevelopment of Coney Island, establishing the first ground-up amusement park in more than 50 years from start-to-finish in 100 days, a feat which illustrates her efficient and results-oriented leadership style. Because of her work, an amusement ride, Lynn’s Trapeze, was named after her at Coney Island’s Luna Park in 2010.
A tireless champion of her city’s causes, Kelly has a demonstrated facility with navigating the intricacies of New York City government and has skillfully developed relationships with various constituencies – from lawmakers to artists to business groups, governmental and quasi-governmental agencies, and civic and community stakeholders. Her dedication to public service has been evident throughout her impressive career, which began when she was a graduate student and served as Deputy Director of the Art Commission of the City of New York, in City Hall.
Kelly received a B.A. in Metropolitan Studies from New York University’s College of Arts and Sciences and a Master of Public Administration in public policy from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of NYC & Co., where she is also the Chair of the Culture and Attractions Committee. She is also a board member of the NYCEDC, serving on its Real Estate and Finance Committee.
“After 9/11, people needed parks. They needed a place to gather, and they wanted to help the city. The Daffodil Project gave them a way to do that.”
Eileen Remor, Director of Arsenal Operations for NYC Parks, has been involved with the Daffodil Project since its inception in fall of 2001, when NYC Parks came together with New Yorkers for Parks to heal a grieving city. Eileen and other Parks staff, including then-Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, had the idea to do a big bulb planting to honor the victims of 9/11. They soon found out that NY4P board member Lynden Miller was thinking the same thing – she was planning a large-scale daffodil bulb planting.
“I have a theory,” Eileen says, “that a good sign of a great idea is when multiple people have it at the same time.”
When NYC Parks and NY4P officially announced the Project and opened it up to volunteers they were overwhelmed with responses. That fall they planted over 1.5 million daffodil bulbs with the help of 10,000 volunteers.
Eileen began working in the parks world in 1999, at Partnerships for Parks, a joint program of NYC Parks and the City Parks Foundation. As an Outreach Coordinator she worked directly with local community members and organizations, helping them to improve and steward their open spaces. She saw firsthand how empowering it is for individuals to engage with their parks in a physical, tangible way.
“After 9/11, people needed parks. They needed a place to gather. And they wanted to help the city. The Daffodil Project gave them a way to do that.”
When asked what the most exciting moments of the Project have been, Eileen talks about the ways she’s seen it help individuals in deeply personal ways.
Eileen coordinated a planting event with an NYC firehouse that was hosting Slovakian Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. PM Dzurinda was in town to run the NYC Marathon, but also made time to visit the firehouse of a Slovakian-American firefighter who died on 9/11. “At the event there was one man in particular who was very passionate about the planting, taking a lot of joy in it,” Eileen recalls. It wasn’t until years later that she learned that the man’s brother, a firefighter, was also killed in the attacks.
“When I’m riding the bus in the spring and I hear people around me exclaiming, ‘Look at how beautiful those flowers are!’ it makes me feel really good,” Eileen says. “Even if they don’t know who’s planting them, people benefit from having that beauty in their lives.”
With over 17 years working for NYC Parks, and a front-row seat for much of the Daffodil Project, Eileen has a clear vision of how the Project can benefit the city. She emphasizes how it helps children by teaching them about 9/11 and how New Yorkers came together in the aftermath. “With the Project kids see firsthand how powerful it is, and how parks can help people heal. If they experience tragedy or loss in their own lives, they know that they have ways of healing.”
“I grew up in New Jersey, near the Jersey Shore. I have lived in New York since January, 1988. Prior to 9/11, I had fantasies about moving to Hawaii or San Francisco,” Eileen explained. “But as a result of the attacks on 9/11, I was determined to remain in my beloved city and help make it come back stronger and better than ever.”
“New Yorkers never forget our own.”
Mayor de Blasio made a very generous offer of $100 million to Norm Brodsky to purchase the last piece of property necessary to complete Bushwick Inlet Park. Yet with only 19 days until the offer expires, Mr. Brodsky still has not accepted it.
The city promised the park to the community as part of the 2005 rezoning which brought about a huge increase in the population of Williamsburg. 11 years later, the city is making good on its promise. With this deal Mr. Brodsky stands to make a significant return on his original investment, and the community will get the open space they need.
This parkland is not a luxury. Using our Open Space Index methodology, New Yorkers for Parks found that the total open space in Community District 1 is sufficient for around 85,000 people - just under half the current population. Even a fully built-out Bushwick Inlet Park, as proposed, provides only 60% of the amount of open space that Community District 1 residents need. With many hundreds more residential units soon to come, the completion of this park becomes even more imperative.
If Bushwick Inlet Park is not fully built, it will set a terrible precedent for the city. Communities across New York are facing significant increases in population that will put greater strain on existing open spaces. Without the creation of new, quality parkland, these communities will suffer.
We applaud the city for making good on its promise, and we encourage Mr. Brodsky to accept the offer. If we truly care about New York communities and neighborhoods, we must make sure they have the open space they need to thrive.
Being in a room with the staff at the District 4 office at Mill Pond Park in the Bronx, one can’t help but smile. Their energy and optimism is infectious. Ask them about their job, and instantly they’ll tell you about why they love their work, how they know it’s important to the community, and how their mutual respect for each other keeps them coming back year after year.
Clinton Johnson is a parks supervisor Level 2, and has been at the department since 1984; Kendra Thompson is a Parks Supervisor Level 1, with the department since 1998; and John Ogendengbe is a City Parks Worker, with the department since 2007. They all began as temporary seasonal employees and worked their way up through the ranks. They understand how entry-level employees, upper-level management, and everyone in-between work best together. Despite their different titles and levels of responsibility, a few basic but essential principles unite them: their understanding of the importance of their work, their commitment to success, and their respect for each other.
In the following transcript from our interview, you’ll learn why Clinton, Kendra, and John think parks are so important, how parks and parks employees bring communities together, and how this motivates them every day.
NY4P: “What is the role of parks in New York City?”
Clinton: “Parks play a very important role. They are expanding with the mayor’s plan to make parks more pleasing for the inner city, and to make them diverse, to give these neighborhoods open space and greenery. The city has done a great job of improving these parks, and now our biggest issue is sustainability. It can be difficult to maintain the quality of these parks. It’s a 365 days a year job. There’s never a time that they don’t need work, and it can be difficult to keep them up to the standard of quality that we all aim to achieve. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so it’s a matter of sustaining our parks to keep them running well now and in the future.
John has to clean ten to 20 sites by 11:30 every morning. That’s our goal every day, because there’s so much to do every day. We send out seven crews daily, with one CPW and one Parks Opportunity Program participant each, on a good day. The work often rolls into the next day, and we could put more permanent staff to good use. Our sites are subject to inspection every day, and our CPWs take a lot of pride in making sure they don’t fail. It’s always a race to get everything done. We have a lot of very dedicated staff that don’t always win every day, but we all know that we have to run the race no matter what.”
John: “It’s important to the health of our city to have great parks, and having great staff is key. You have to motivate the staff, and explain their role. When they know what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it, then they love it.
It really starts at the top. Mr. Johnson will come out and work with us and get his hands dirty. We really work together. Having managers that motivate and work with you makes it a great place to be. I tell the POP participants to not look at it as a temporary job – it’s a real job, and I encourage them to take advantage of the programs that the city offers. There are always opportunities to grow, and it could turn into something permanent.
This summer I’m going to a pool where I’m going to be a seasonal supervisor. So I’ll be gaining that experience, and eventually that will help me move another step up in the department. There are always opportunities to learn and achieve more if you just keep working at it.”
NY4P: “What’s your favorite part of the job?”
Kendra: “My favorite part is passing our site inspections. We don’t always get to enjoy the sites, because we’re there to inspect them and are always on the lookout for what needs to be done. But we do get to see the public’s response, and we know they appreciate what we do. They are delighted that their parks are looking up, and we get people coming up to us all the time and thanking us. And we let them know that we need them to help us, too. Because these parks are here for the community, and we all need to work together. In the Rec centers we have kids and seniors that really depend on them and love having the pools to go to. During the summer we have the lunch program in some parks. In this neighborhood we have folks that are less fortunate, and a lot of kids may not get enough to eat if it wasn’t for the lunch programs.”
John: “One of my favorite parts of this job is definitely seeing the lunch program and knowing that people can eat. Another part of this job that I love is just interacting with people in the parks. I always try to smile and talk to people if they look like they need it, because you never know what someone is going through. Just talking to someone can really change their day. And it helps me, too. This way we really get to know the community.”
Clinton: “We all love the community service projects we get. People are often surprised to see volunteers doing the work. They don’t realize how much we depend on volunteers to help us and our parks.”
Kendra: “We had 150 volunteers in one playground, and the work they did was indescribable. They filled 300 trash bags in one day.”
Clinton: “We try to tell the public how important community service is to our parks. That it took 150 volunteers to do all of that work, and normally we only have one staff person. Our full-time staff is 20, with seasonal staff it’s 40. What the volunteers can do in one day could take for months for us. These volunteers and community service projects have become an important part of how we get the work done. We simply cannot do it all, because we do not have the resources.
CC Sabathia, the Yankees pitcher, recently donated $2 million to renovate a baseball field in Claremont Park here in the Bronx. The park was in pretty bad shape. There was a lot of flooding in the field, and the irrigation system needed to be fixed. It looks great now. So the help we get from the community – whether it’s donating time or money – it really makes a difference.
Our staff needs to have a lot of training to do their jobs. They have to understand horticulture, tree maintenance, field maintenance and more. If I had 50 more Johns I wouldn’t need so many volunteers!”
John: “You see, you care because you want to do it. You love it, you love doing it, and you’re always trying to improve. Even on your days off you can’t stop looking at parks and thinking about what needs to be done.”
Clinton: “I was on vacation abroad and I caught myself inspecting a park without even realizing what I was doing. It becomes a part of you.”
NY4P: "Why are you still here, working in the Parks Department?"
Clinton: “I love it. I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve learned a lot. Now I get to enjoy teaching the newer folks in the Department so that they can love it, too.”
Kendra: “We teach each other; it’s a cycle. We have great temporary and seasonal workers, and we’d love to hire them full-time. They’re qualified and they have the passion, which is what we need to thrive. When you work with people like that, you can get a lot done. There are a lot of people that would love to have jobs with the Parks Department, and who would be really great at it.”
Clinton: “There are people that care, that have the hunger, and you wish you could hire them. You want to have them long-term because you see their potential, and you see what they could do if they had the chance.”
John: “I was always spending time in parks when I was a kid. Parks are better now – today we’re taking more pride in our parks. Parks are safer, and there aren’t as many physical problems. You can sit down and have a nice meal in a park. Kids learn a lot in parks, they gain social skills, and it gives them a place to be. You meet your best friends in parks, you meet parents and families. That’s how an area becomes a community. And that’s what keeps me motivated and excited to come to work every morning.”
Kendra: “People are using parks now more than ever. People have to interact with each other when they’re in a park, they have to get to know each other. You can’t stay strangers. Parents get to know us, and kids listen to us because they know who we are, and they know we’re watching out for them. We take a lot of pride in what we do. It’s not just work; it’s community building.
There’s a real learning curve in teaching the community what we’re doing and how to respect it, especially in areas where they don’t have a lot of other areas to play. For example, kids may be so excited to have a field to play ball on that they run around on it even when it’s muddy and we have it closed off, and they end up destroying the grass without meaning to. So we have to communicate with the community and with the kids and tell them why they need to wait until the field is dry. We need the community to understand what it is that we do and how it all works. But once we have that communication, and once the community understands, then we can really work together to make these into places where everyone can play and enjoy themselves.”
NY4P: “What do people need to know about NYC parks, how we can protect and improve them going forward, and what role staff plays in this?”
Clinton: “I would say that everything we create, there should be a system in place to maintain it. We need to be focused on planning for sustainability. With the rezoning in Jerome Avenue there will probably be a lot more people living there, which means that we’re going to need more parkland. But we’ll also need more staff to maintain the parks, because even the parks we have now are going to be much more heavily used.
We have to pool our resources across districts periodically, and we have to make tough decisions and prioritize what needs to get done. We don’t have enough people here to maintain things as well as we’d like to. Because we always aim for the best, and we always see the potential.”
Kendra: “We strive to do achieve our goals every day. The supervisors will get out there, help the CPWs and get dirty if we need to. But then we can’t do our own jobs as well. Our staff really wants to work and to make a difference. We’re all really happy to be here, even on the days when the work feels overwhelming, because we all know it’s important.”
John: “People see opportunity and they work their heart out. We need to make sure we nurture those people, and continue to give them opportunities to work, and to be engaged with their jobs and their parks.”
In addition to the significant increase in visitors, you may also see new faces taking care of your park. Every spring the Parks Department brings on hundreds of seasonal staff to work through the busy summer months. In a major win for NYC parks, this year Mayor de Blasio added funding for three times more funding for seasonal staff than last year, which means that we can expect significantly increased maintenance this year and hopefully for years to come.
The Parks Department picks up around 120 tons of trash every day in the summer, and on extended holiday weekends it’s even more. Parks workers also stock and clean bathrooms, mow lawns, do basic equipment repairs, and more. In short, there’s a lot of work that goes in to taking care of our parks in the summer.
Some seasonal staff begin work in April, readying ball fields, mowing grass, and preparing for summer. A few months later more come on to work at beaches, pools, and neighborhood parks. The city council added additional funding to keep beaches open for an extra week this year, so you can expect to see parks workers and lifeguards until September 11.
Perhaps you’ve also noticed that some of the staff you usually see in your local park aren’t around this time of year. The Parks Department offers a “Step-Up” program, where select permanent employees receive a temporary promotion and raise by moving to a beach, pool, or high-use park and supervising seasonal and entry-level employees throughout the summer. The Step-Up program gives dedicated, dependable staff the opportunity to learn new skills and puts them in a good position for a permanent promotion.
Even with all these feet on the ground, the Parks Department appreciates feedback from the community. They’re very responsive to 311, so if you see anything that needs to be addressed, don’t hesitate to report it!
NYC parks and open spaces have a lot of programming going on all summer long, most of it free. You can find out more on the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation website, and the City Parks Foundation calendar.
Believe it or not, that’s just a small slice of what’s going on. Many park “friends-of” groups have a Facebook page, and it’s a great way to find out if there’s anything more happening in your local spaces.