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The Ultimate Guide for Advocating for Parks and Natural Areas in NYC’s Budget

By on March 13, 2024

Three Forest for All coalition members hold Tree Equity signs with FFA logo

By Emily Walker, Senior Manager of External Affairs

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. With devastating budget cuts last fall to the budget for NYC Parks, the need to reach our decision makers about the importance of funding our parks and natural areas is more urgent than ever. 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 advocate for NYC’s natural areas?

  • Join us at City Hall at 1pm on Thursday, March 21 for the City Council Committee on Parks Preliminary Budget Hearing. You can sign up to testify here, or submit written comments until Sunday, March 24 at 1pm. See below for more tips on how to write testimony.
  • Continue to sign and share the Play Fair letter to Mayor Adams against cuts to the budget for NYC Parks, and sign the petition demanding 1% of the City budget for Parks.
  • Call your local City Council Member and ask them to commit full funding for this year’s Play Fair budget platform. Read below for more details about the FY25 budget requests to support the management, restoration, and programming of our natural areas citywide. Not sure who your local Council Member is? Find out here! There are more resources about calling your elected officials below.
  • Like, comment on, and reshare #SaveNYCParks and #PlayFair social media posts by the Natural Areas Conservancy and our coalition partners between March and June this year.

The NAC’s 4 main budget asks for improved support for NYC natural areas: 

  1. End the hiring freeze at NYC Parks and restore agency staffing to pre-Covid levels.
  2. Restore $2.4 million in permanent, baselined funding for the citywide Trail Formalization program.
  3. Restore $2.5 million in permanent, baselined funding for 51 forestry management staff whose jobs are set to expire in June.
  4. Save and make permanent 50 Urban Park Ranger positions set to expire in June. 

How to testify to the NYC City Council:

  • Go here to sign up to testify at the March 21 Parks Committee Preliminary 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: “Thu, Mar 21 @ 1:00 PM – Committee on Parks and Recreation”.
  • Under “Subject of Testimony”, put “FY25 Preliminary 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!

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 FY25 city budget, and that you support the allocation of 1% of the City budget to Parks.
  • Highlight that we are asking the City to restore $2.4 million for the eliminated Trails Formalization Program, and a restoration of $2.5 million to preserve 51 critical forest management staff lines to support the care of our forested 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 report released by the NAC last year 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 City Council Committee on Finance oversight hearing regarding the Mayor’s budget cuts last December.

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 here.

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 FY25 City budget.
  • Share that you are particularly concerned about the $2.5 million needed to help manage natural areas in NYC Parks, and restoring the eliminated $2.4M Trails Formalization program.
  • Thank the Council Member and their staff for their time.

Thank you for your help advocating for our natural areas!

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