Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Volunteers make the problem worse.

City Birder Rob Jett drew my attention to the post below from A Walk in the Park, and wrote to me about our Litter Mob in the Midwood: "I think what you do is really good, to a point. My opinion of the current situation with the department of parks is best summed up in the following piece from the blog A Walk in the Park."

Let The City Manage Its Greenspaces


A park watchdog says that volunteers who clean up their local green-spaces for free — like those with the new Cadman Park Conservancy — are giving the city a reason to slash even more funding from its already cash-strapped parks, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

Geoffrey Croft, who founded the New York City Park Advocates in part to ensure the city’s parks get their fair share of budget dollars, says it’s okay for residents to help keep parks clean, but they shouldn’t go to far.

“What these groups don’t realize is that they become a part of the problem,” said Geoffrey Croft, founder of NYC Park Advocates. “People have given up on getting the city to do its job.”

Croft said that public-private partnerships encourage the city to let citizens pay park maintenance instead of using tax dollars — a dangerous trend that is increasing the gap between the parks that have and those that have no while sending the Parks Department’s budget spiralling downward.

In fact, the city’s 2012 budget for Parks is $233 million, down from $238 million in 2011 and $258 million in 2010, leaving the caretakers of parkland with continually dwindling resources.

“I don’t think anyone has problems with people planting flowers and doing minor stuff, but when you get into taking over the role of a city agency, the disparity is a huge one,” Croft said.

The Cadman Park Conservancy formed earlier this year to fill in where the city can’t keep up. A band of locals on a barebones budget are planting flowers and fund-raising for drastic landscape improvements.

Compare this to entities like Central Park Conservancy, which privately funds most of the Manhattan oasis’s $37.4-million budget, or even Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is required by state mandate to be self-sustaining.

Brooklyn Bridge Park, with its massive $16-million annual budget, isn’t run by the Parks Department, but by the city-run Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation.

The corporation is pushing — against the community — to fund the 1.7-mile waterfront park by building luxury condos within the park’s footprint.

And that, says Croft, doesn’t bode well for city parks.

“Some groups raise money to plant flowers and some manage multimillion-dollar operations of parks,” Croft said. “But the big story is that the city refuses to fund its parks, so they’re forcing individuals to do it.

Well, I share this opinion 100%. So yes, Mr. Croft, we realize we are part of the problem. We are just too disgusted with the state of things to stand back and watch.

Am I happy to be volunteering my time and the time of others to de-litter the woods of Prospect Park? No! I'm mad as hell. But I do not see doing nothing as a solution.

In the meantime I have received several emails from Eugene Patron, press director of the Prospect Park Alliance, taking issue with my previous post. I do not have his permission to reproduce his email here, and as a courtesy, shall not; but I look forward to airing more sides of the issue if and when other parties consent to being quoted.

Why will nobody talk on record?


frank@nycg said...

I can't even read on. This argument is as sick as a rat in my toilet.

Ok. Now I will read on.

Mal Content said...

I think that to be a 'citizen'...to want to live in a particular town and society requires that you take responsibility for those things in your social and physical environment over which you can add value or where you can improve upon an existing service...democracy is always about giving more back to the society in which you live,when you are able....so that society will help you when you are aged or infirm or ill...and you add value in the ways than you can...this surely is the great American dream? what about all those volunteer fire stations scattered across this great country? Would your critics suggest they be closed because they are not funded by government?
What about organisations such as Habitat for Humanity with whom President Carter works...should they close down because they are not funded by government?
All of life is in a single rose...

"God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars. ~Author unknown, commonly attributed to Martin Luther

Its certainly the great South African dream...and anyway...the US is facing the same economic crisis as everyone else and its both a facile and a futile argument to suggest that the Park services will be cut because you pick up litter...they will be cut anyway...and I'm sorry...but picking up litter,wherever and whenever you see it is a sacred duty!!
With respect to Mr Croft...he needs to pull his cranium out of his colon
Bravo Marie!!

frank@nycg said...

I agree with the disparity in parks which will be evident in neighborhoods with high income and low. But then, consider donations that support local parks (which support one's property values and general lifestyle) as local, optional taxation for valuable services.

Much as malcontent stated, Parks services were bad already, and are going to get worse. The difference between the next decade and say the 70s is us. Are we going to let failing government fail us, or are we stepping up to support what is important to us?

We govern the park by being present. Should the police be in there chasing out people? I am not sure, lest I be chased out as well? By being present, we provide an invaluable social factor to the woods, the human woods, that cannot be easily converted to dollar for services.

As we have seen, there may be an alternate government in the woods. This part of the park has been ceded to other entities by NYC government. We are talking about opening it up, bringing it back. To some degree the problem is about money for policing, trash pick up, etc. But isn't it more than that? Is it not about declaration?