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By Emily Walker

Update: The Play Fair Rally scheduled for May 22 and noted below has been canceled due to limited space in City Hall Park. New Yorkers for Parks is pivoting to a Day of Action, to begin at 10:00am in front of the City Council building at 250 Broadway.

Between now and the end of June, the New York City Council and the Mayor’s Office will be making critical decisions about the budget for NYC Parks. You can help us advocate for our city’s natural forested areas and wetlands and ensure they receive the funding they need to thrive.

How can you help?

Join us at the Play Fair Rally in City Hall Park on Monday, May 22 from 9:30am – 10:30am. More information about the event can be found here!

Join us on Wednesday, May 24 at the City Council Committee on Finance Executive Budget Hearing. You can sign up to testify here, or submit written comments until Saturday, May 27 at 10am. See below for more tips on how to write testimony.

Sign the 1% for Parks petition, and spread the word!

Call your local City Council Member and ask them to commit full funding for this year’s Play Fair budget platform, which includes $3.5 million for the management, restoration, and care of our natural forested areas and wetlands. Not sure who your local Council Member is? Find out here! There are more resources about calling your elected officials below.

Tips on calling your local Council Member:

Each Council Member has two offices – a District office and a Legislative office. The District office is a great resource for local issues and concerns. The Legislative office handles the Council Member’s citywide and policy work. For calls about the City Budget, we recommend you contact their Legislative office. You can look up the contact information for every City Council office.

Keep it brief! Here are the basics of what to say when you speak with a staff member:

  • Share your name, address, and phone number. You can also share if you volunteer in a local park or civic organization.
  • Tell the staff member that you are calling to ask that your Council Member commit to funding the full Play Fair budget platform for the FY24 City budget.
  • Share that you are particularly concerned about the $3.5 million needed to help manage natural areas in NYC Parks.
  • Thank the Council Member and their staff for their time.

Tips on testifying to the City Council:

  • Go here to sign up to testify at the final Executive Budget Hearing.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page, and select the method by which you will be testifying.
  • Provide your name, email address, and phone number.
  • Under the “Select a Hearing” drop-down menu, click: “Wed, May 24 @ 10:00 AM – Committee on Finance”.
  • Under “Subject of Testimony”, you can put “FY24 Parks Budget and Natural Areas”.
  • If you are part of a community organization, you can select “Other”, then provide the name of your org. If you are testifying as an individual, select “Self”.
  • You’ll then have the option to upload your written comment in DOC or PDF format.

If you plan to testify in-person, please note that you will have 2 minutes or less to share your comments. Keep it brief and to the point!

Here are some tips on what to include in your testimony:

  • Introduce yourself, and your organization if applicable. We also recommend you share your local park or natural area, and highlight your local City Council Member.
  • Make your ask early! State that you are in support of NYC Parks receiving the full Play Fair funding for the FY24 city budget, and that you support the allocation of 1% of the City budget to Parks.
  • Highlight that we are asking the City to commit $3.5 million for natural areas in this year’s budget.
  • Tell a story about what you’ve seen in your park! Park users, volunteer Trail Maintainers, and former natural areas interns have a unique perspective on the need for increased funding to care for our natural areas, and your firsthand experiences are important to share with our decision makers.
  • This funding is critical for ensuring that our natural forested areas and wetlands can be properly maintained. Forested natural areas make up 24% of the city’s parkland portfolio, but receive an annual average of 0.7% of the NYC Parks expense budget, and 0.84% of staff resources to manage.
  • A recent report released by the NAC found that the average number of staff in forested natural area care is 33 – imagine if all of Central Park was forested, there would only be 4 people working there.
  • Thank the City Council for the $2.5 million they allocated last year for our natural areas, and thank them for advocating for an increased allocation for this year.

See the testimony that the NAC submitted at the Preliminary Budget Hearing in March.

Thank you for your help advocating for our natural areas!

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