Photo via Geoff Stearns on Flickr
A report released Tuesday by the Center for an Urban Future found that while city parks are seeing record use by the public, officials have underinvested in their basic maintenance and infrastructure for decades. The average city park underwent its last major renovation in 1997, despite being on average 73 years old. The think-tank estimates an investment of $5.8 billion over the next decade is needed to address the repair and replacement of existing infrastructure, a number which does not include the cost of constructing new structures.
“The subway system isn’t the only vital piece of infrastructure in New York that is aging and in need of investment,” Jonathan Bowles, executive director of CUF, said in a statement. “Parks in every borough are experiencing infrastructure problems brought by age and magnified by record usage and decades of under-investment in parks maintenance.”
Most parks are at least 50 years old, with the average Brooklyn park is 73 years old, Manhattan is 86, the Bronx is 74, Queens is 72 and Staten Island 51. A quarter of NYC parks are at least 84 years old. And across the five boroughs, 20 percent of the parks have not undergone a major upgrade in 25 years.
According to the report, “invisible infrastructure” like inadequate or damaged drainage systems and retaining walls, are creating some of the biggest issues. Out of the 65 parks surveyed by CUF, nearly half of them had clear drainage problems more than two days after a rain shower, including flooded areas and under-water pathways.
The retaining walls which hold vertically support the park and prevent landslides and erosion are nearing “the end of their lifespans.” Plus, the report found that few have been comprehensively inspected until just last year. Reconstructing walls at just eight parks could cost more than $20 million.
While it applauds Mayor Bill de Blasio for launching the Community Parks Initiative and Anchor Parks Initiative which have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to underfunded parks, the report says more needs to be done. It found the Parks Department does not have enough staff members. There are 39 plumbers for the entire parks system and about 150 gardeners citywide for nearly 20,000 acres of parkland—which works out to one gardener to every 133 acres.
The report details 21 recommendations to revitalize the city’s parks. Some of these include increased funding in the Parks Department budget, finding new revenue streams and creating a citywide parks conservancy to fundraise for parks projects. CUF also recommends creating a City Parks Board to outline five-year and ten-year needs for the parks system, as well as more long-term goals.
Read the full report here.
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