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Neighbor to Neighbor: Most mayoral candidates silent on parks pledge

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The Parks 2001 Committee sponsored a reception and forum on July 31 in the lovely Downtown Athletic Club, to give mayoral candidates an opportunity to speak, specifically, on the subject of increasing the budget for the Department of Parks and Recreation.

As the New York City budget stands, the D.P.R. budget has been cut to 0.4 percent. The Parks 2001 Committee, a coalition of hundreds of vitally interested park volunteer groups, individuals and possible park sponsors, is asking potential elected officials to sign a pledge to support 1 percent of the city. budget to D.P.R.

The previous week, the Queens Coalition for Parks sponsored a similar Meet the Candidates Night at York College, during which many candidates running either for the City Council or the office of Borough president of Queens, did make that written commitment.

So far, however, the only mayoral candidate who has made a similar commitment is City Council President Peter Vallone (D-Astoria). He was permitted to speak first at the July 31 event since he had made a previous commitment and could not, therefore stay for the entire forum. He was not able to answer questions directed to the other candidates present: Herman Badillo, Fernando Ferrer, Mark Green, and Alan Hevesi.

I will tell you we received no 1 percent commitment, or any other percent commitment, from any one of them. They all said they recognize the importance of parks with regard to the quality of life of nearby communities and the city itself. They waxed nostalgic about the importance park activities had been in their own and their families’ lives. They said they could foresee unlimited benefits from additional, properly administered funding for the D.P.R. There could be reduced crime by increased paid D.P.R. representative presence, better lighting maintenance and increased supervised youth activities; health improvements for park users who would come there more frequently with the assurance of additional safety; and grown educational and job opportunities. Then they all added the big but the population of New York City has increased so much, so rapidly, we simply could not make D.P.R. one of the most serious priorities. Control of crime has been spectacular -- and must been sustained and even improved (and no, not one of those candidates committed to the well-deserved pay increase the police have earned).

There are so many people coming into New York without affordable housing for them, there are now thousands of homeless in our city. So many people here now with children and no more room in the schools, new schools and more teachers must be a priority. So many more people in our city of different races, cultures, etc., that we need more programs to teach people how to get along. So many more people in our city who have insufficient job training toward meaningful careers, we need added dollars for that., So many more people in the city who need additional health care, they cannot be neglected either. All the panelists agreed that all these folks will benefit by going to the parks more. Then came another big but.

But, we all know that when people are permitted to use the parks, they sometimes wreck things, and all too often neglect to even clean up their own debris. Mr. Ferrer tells us that if he is elected, he’ll make sure to tell them they have to make sure to leave the park area clean, and he’s sure they will do so...as they do now in the Bronx at his instructions? If that doesn’t work, the group of candidates jointly agreed the answer will be to continue using volunteer help. Did all of you volunteers who have been begging for help hear that

In the meantime, keep the pressure on.

Reach columnist Barbara Morris by e-mail at TimesLedgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 7:20 pm, October 10, 2011
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