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Park Dividends
June 4th, 2010

Gotham Gazette parks writer Anne Schwartz filed this post.

The Daily News today highlighted the economic powerhouse that is Central Park. A few interesting statistics from the article:

– More than 35 million people visit the park a year, sometimes more than 200,000 on a weekend day. Thatís more than Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks combined.

– Hotels near the park account for 37 percent of all hotel rooms in the city and employ almost 14,000 people.

– Between 1997 and 2007, the average value of properties on the blocks between Central Park West and Columbus Avenues increased 73 percent faster than the average value of properties between Columbus and Amsterdam.

In a recession, mayors and governors tend to target parks as an expendable luxury, even though park operating budgets account for a minuscule percentage of the overall budget. But as a number of studies have shown, when parks are well-maintained, attractive and accessible, the economic boost they provide Ė in increased real estate values, tourism dollars, jobs and tax revenues — far outweighs the cost of upkeep.

After being left to ruin (along with the rest of the cityís parks) in the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, Central Park was restored with the help of private donations by the Central Park Conservancy, a public-private partnership that now runs the park under a contract with the parks department.

But most of the city’s parks rely on city funding, which the mayor’s budget for the coming year proposes to cut by nearly $30 million. The reductions would be achieved largely by leaving hundreds of fulltime park jobs unfilled and cutting seasonal positions, making it harder for the already stretched department to keep the parks clean and green.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg understands the role of parks in revitalizing the city and has put more far resources into parks than his predecessors, but if this cut goes through, it would be the deepest reduction in the parks department operating budget in nearly two decades. Park advocates, led by New Yorkers for Parks, are lobbying to restore $20 million to the budget. The final public hearing on the Executive Budget is Monday, June 7.

By on June 4, 2010, 2:24 pm
In category: City Hall,Gotham City,Parks,Public Finance | Comments Off

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