Sharing the Benefits of Urban Green Spaces

The New York Times reports??that New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation has not followed reporting requirements intended to shed light on the underfunding of parks in low-income areas of the city. In 2008, the New York City Council passed Local Law 28 of 2008??requiring ??a full park by park disclosure of the amount of outside funding the city was receiving from non-governmental entities and spending on individual parks. By most accounts, including that of former councilman Alan Gerson who helped pass the law, the city’s efforts have fallen well short of the disclosure requirements. The required disclosure process was intended to shed light on the disparity in funding of green spaces in wealthy and low-income areas of the city, as many believed parks in wealthier communities were receiving a greater share of funding. Unfortunately, as Gerson says, the city’s action to date “doesn’t reflect a real effort to comply with the law.”

Environmental justice is as much about environmental burdens as it is about benefits – including equal funding for parks and other enjoyable green spaces throughout our cities.??The Times notes that disparities are most evident when comparing Manhattan and the outer boroughs – which are home to most of the EJ communities in New York City. Pelham Bay Park, in the Bronx, is the largest green space in the city ??? three times the size of Central Park ??? but its budget is “far smaller” than other parks throughout New York City.