Go Outside Once A Week

Relief fund launched for NYC parks after dire status report

Riverside Park in Upper Manhattan (Shawn Hoke/Flickr)

Only two days after an alliance of New York City park– and open-space-oriented nonprofits released a report sounding the alarm over the coronavirus-related budget cuts and private donation dips, the NYC Green Relief & Recovery Fund has launched to help fill in the gaps.

Parks in New York City soak up stormwater, provide much-needed green space in a city of mainly hard surfaces, and serve as both places for a community to gather as well as event spaces. Their benefits are well known and much-touted, but the deficit created in the city’s finances by the coronavirus pandemic has slashed the Department of Parks & Recreation’s budget to 1970s levels; a decade that left the city’s parks disastrously under-maintained and full of trash.

In a call today, Dan Garodnick of the Riverside Park Conservancy noted that the collection of 25 nonprofit groups partnered with the city are expecting a $40 million private donation shortfall. The decrease in paid staff will lead to an inability to oversee volunteers, and at a time when the crowds are out in record numbers, any maintenance deferral will lead to more and more damage done to these outdoor spaces. Normally, nonprofit groups provide over 100,000 volunteers to help care for parks and gardens within the city, as well as contributing $150 million annually. The alliance estimated that these budget cuts could shrink maintenance in fiscal year 2021 by up to 150,000 hours, and parks and gardens could see 541,000 fewer trees, shrubs, and perennials planted.



Accordingly, the new recovery fund (to be administered by the nonprofit City Parks Foundation) is intended to help make up the projected shortfall while encouraging policymakers to take action. $2.3 million has already been contributed at the time of the fund’s launch, and seven major donors have already signed on: The Lily Auchincloss Foundation; the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; The J.M. Kaplan Fund; The JPB Foundation; the Leon Levy Foundation; the Libra Fund, and The New York Community Trust.

Private citizens are invited to donate as well as funds, institutions, and companies, et al. A process has also already been laid out for disbursing donations: “Funding will be available to nonprofit and volunteer stewardship groups through a competitive application process. Grants of up to $100,000 will be available to larger nonprofits and multiple nonprofits applying together can access up to $150,000. Volunteer-led groups can apply for small grants of up to $1,500.” Interested groups can apply for relief on the same page.

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