Dominic Ortiz owns a running store in Fresh Meadows, Queens. He is also president
of the Quantum Feet Road Runners Club, which organizes group runs and sponsors
races. So when he heard about the new Adopt-a-Park law the city recently approved,
he was immediately interested in the possibility of the store and club adopting
sections of the greenway that connects a number of parks in Queens. In addition
to providing good publicity for his store, he said, "it would help promote
our running club, which is a separate entity than the business. It would get
people running in Queens â€“ hopefully help us as we help them."
is one of 30 individuals or groups who have expressed interest in adopting
a park since the law was passed unanimously by the City Council and signed
Mayor Michael Bloomberg in early September. The law authorizes the parks commissioner to make agreements with individuals or groups
to sponsor a park, playground, ball field, or other park space or facility -- even
park equipment like a lawnmower -- by donating a specific
amount of money or labor. The payments are to be used only for the sponsored
The program does not include parks that already have conservancies or trusts
contributing more than $500,000 a year.
Many groups and individuals already
help out in their local parks, playgrounds, and gardens by cleaning, weeding,
organizing activities for kids and paying
for the upkeep of plantings, benches, ball fields, and other park elements.
program is intended to reach out to more people and businesses and create a
way for smaller donations to be directed to a specific park, according to Councilmember
Joseph Addabbo, who chairs the parks committee and introduced the legislation.
The law also provides a more transparent process for tracking the donations.
Parks department has three months to put the program in place. Department spokesman
Chris Osgood stressed that volunteer efforts and sponsorships that
already exist will continue. The department views Adopt-A-Park as a way to
package and promote the philanthropy and volunteerism that is already benefiting
parks. The department is developing a menu of opportunities for people to get
involved, Osgood said, depending on the amount donated. This could range from
adopting a bench or tree to a whole park or playground. Small and appropriate
signage would recognize contributions ; no parks would be
Adopt-A-Park is directed particularly at the smaller parks in the outer
boroughs that have most felt the impact of the decline in public funding for
and recreation over the past 15 years. While many parks could benefit, the
law could create a new set of inequities, bringing funding to parks in areas
have more businesses or well-off residents.
There is also the danger that increased
donations may reduce the pressure on the city to fund what is truly a public
service. Councilmember Addabbo said, "Written
into the language of Adopt-A-Park is the fact that this is not to be in lieu
of budgetary funding. We didn't want an influx of volunteers
and funding, and out of the back have the funding taken out of parks and put
somewhere else." He said that the council's oversight
during the budget process would be a check on any attempt by the city to reduce
its appropriations for parks because Adopt-a-Park can pick up the slack.
groups or individuals interested in Adopt-a-Park can call 311 or Councilmember
Addabbo's City Hall office at 212-788-7069.
For more information, check the New Yorkers for Parks website.
Anne Schwartz is a freelance writer specializing in environmental issues. Previously, she was the editor of the Audubon Activist, a news journal for environmental action published by the National Audubon Society, and an editor at The New York Botanical Garden.
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