Unions to City Hall: Save Jobs, Fund Parks!

DC 37 President Shaun D. Francois I leads a coalition of presidents and parks advocates at the Feb. 28 City Hall rally to demand an additional $100 million in Parks funding. Photo: Clarence Elie-Rivera

By DIANE S. WILLIAMS

DC 37 joined 40 parks advocacy groups and lawmakers for a noon City Hall rally Feb. 28 to demand $100 million in funding for public parks maintenance and safety in the FY 2020 city budget.

“This is a no brainer — better parks makes for a better city. Our members keep city parks clean and safe for 130 million people who use them each year,” said DC 37 and Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I. “Our city should lead the country, setting the standard for well-maintained, beautified public parks.”

DC 37 is part of the Play Fair campaign that calls for the mayor to add $100 million to the city budget for year-round Parks Dept. maintenance, cleaning and gardening jobs.

Francois and City Council’s Parks Committee Chair Barry Grodenchik, led chants and cheers with DC 37 presidents Dilcy Benn of Local 1505, Harrison Campbell of Local 957, Joe Puleo of Local 983. They and over 150 activists came to tell Mayor de Blasio and City Council: “Fund our parks! Save our jobs!”

The union represents City Park Workers, Gardeners, PEP Officers, Urban Park Rangers, City Seasonal Aides, Associate Park Service Workers, Lifeguards and their Supervisors, Climbers and Pruners, Uniformed Park Supervisors and Motor Vehicle Operators.

The Parks Dept. oversees 30,000 acres or 14 percent of the land in New York City, but the agency only gets $534 million, less than .06 percent of the annual city budget. Advocates said the city can do better.

Grodenchik convinced 40 of the City Council’s 51 members to co-sign a letter urging de Blasio to add extra funding now. He said, “Dozens of city parks have received millions in capital improvements but without adequate funding for maintenance and safety, it’s a waste.”

“Budget cuts over the years have decimated the Parks’ unionized workforce,” Benn said. “Adding funding could reverse that trend and provide job security for 150 City Parks Workers and Gardeners and their families.”

Play Fair and the union said an additional $100 million would fund:

  • $10 million for permanent jobs for 100 City Park Workers (CPWs) and 50 Gardeners, providing stable year round employment and maintenance crews.
  • $6 million for 80 additional Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Officers for safer parks, public pools and beaches.
  • $47 million for 48 of the largest parks would have dedicated crews to maintain, beautify, and ensure safer parks.
  • $18 million for crews at smaller neighborhood parks to clean parks and relief stations.
  • $3 million for 50 new Urban Park Rangers for educational tours and safety patrols.
  • $4M for urban forestry maintenance to thwart climate change.

Parklands are not a luxury. Urban parks temper climate change and remove over two million tons of carbon emissions each year for cleaner air and ecosystems in New York City.

“Parks are essential infrastructure,” said Joe Puleo, president of Local 983. “Funding Parks will improve the environment and communities. Well-maintained and safe public parks improve the mental wellness and health of everyone who uses them.”

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