Coronavirus-related budget cuts and an increase in use may be to blame for the growing garbage problem across New York City green spaces. As Gothamist reported, the number of 311 complaints about garbage and litter increased by 120 percent from the same period last summer. To address this increase in green space litter and to encourage New Yorkers to “show your park some love,” the city’s Parks Department launched a new “Toss Your Trash” campaign last week.
Courtesy of NYC Parks
The anti-trash campaign will include ads on LinkNYC kiosks and signs in grocery stores and at park entrances. The agency is also creating over 100 “highly visible branded trash corrals” in picnic and barbecue areas at parks. Parks staff will also be distributing trash bags to visitors to encourage them to throw out their garbage.
“Now more than ever, our parks and greenspaces are places of refuge and we have been working hard despite the ongoing pandemic and budget reductions to keep them clean for all to enjoy, ” NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver said. “We are urging all New Yorkers to help out by disposing trash in designated receptacles, or taking it with them when they leave.”
Park use is up across the city, with residents enjoying one of the safest activities remaining as the city slowly recovers from the pandemic. But this increase in visitors is putting additional strain on park management during a time when budgets across the country are being slashed because of COVID-19.
Earlier this summer, New York City’s budget cut $84 million in Parks Department funding this year because of the financial crisis, a 14 percent cut from last year, as the New York Times reported. The agency was unable to rehire about 1,700 seasonal workers this summer because of the cuts, resulting in fewer workers available to clean the parks.
Parks told the Times that maintenance hours have been reduced by 25,000 hours per week, with crews working on 400 fewer sites per week.
“We know how important the park is to our community right now, especially in the summer months,” Sue Donoghue, President of Prospect Park Alliance said in a call for cleanup volunteers. “Prospect Park is showing serious signs of wear and tear, and without our normal workforce, we need our community to pitch in and help keep this cherished green space thriving.”
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Editor’s note 9/2/20: This post has been updated to include a correction about the positions unable to be extended by NYC Parks because of the budget cuts; they were seasonal, not full-time jobs.