Reverse Funding Cuts to NYC Parks to Improve Community Well-being

Testimony & Public Comments

June 18, 2024

On Tuesday, June 18, Policy and Advocacy Associate Jenny Veloz submitted testimony to the New York City Council’s Oversight Hearing on Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture. On behalf of CCC, the testimony calls out significant cuts to NYC Parks funding and advocates for the City’s budget to allocate 1% of its total funding to parks in order to ensure proper maintenance and care, support community gardens, and create greenspace equity across the city.

Read the testimony below.


Testimony of Jenny Veloz, Policy and Advocacy Associate
Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York Submitted to the New York City Council
Oversight Hearing on Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture
June 18th, 2024

Since 1944, Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York has served as an independent, multi-issue child advocacy organization. CCC does not accept or receive public resources, provide direct services, or represent a sector or workforce; our priority is improving outcomes for children and families through research and advocacy. We document the facts, engage and mobilize New Yorkers, and advocate for solutions to ensure that every New York child is healthy, housed, educated, and safe.

We would like to thank Chair Krishnan and all the members of the Committee on Parks and Recreation for holding today’s oversight hearing on community gardens and urban agriculture.

The pandemic elevated the importance of city parks, particularly as families sought safe and public opportunities to engage children.1 Parks provide a vital service for families and children, helping promote play, exercise, and positive mental health. Children explore and learn in playgrounds and natural areas. In a city where few residents have access to a backyard, parks are an invaluable resource that foster physical and mental health, provide spaces for social interaction, and mitigate climate crisis.

The budget cuts to NYC Parks this year and the proposed budget for next fiscal year jeopardize the very heart of our communities. The NYC Parks budget has been cut by 5%, or $25 million, for this fiscal year. The FY25 Preliminary Budget is nearly $55 million less than this fiscal year’s budget. Years of underfunding have presented challenges for NYC Parks employees in keeping parks clean, safe and accessible. The hiring freeze and reduced budget will result in nearly 1,000 fewer parks works, making it impossible for the agency to ensure parks are safe, clean, green, and resilient across the city. NYC Parks has fewer workers than it did before the pandemic despite increased demand and clear need for these spaces

These cuts will make it even more difficult for the already understaffed, under-resourced Parks Department to carry out the basic work needed to ensure parks are equitable and accessible for all New Yorkers. CCC joins the Play Fair Coalition in calling on the City to fulfill the Mayor’s commitment to increase the New York City Parks budget by 1%.

Increasing the Parks budget by 1% would ensure that parks are clean throughout the year, safer for children and families to enjoy, and provide relief from heat due to a protected urban forest.2 Increased funding will also allow the NYC Parks to maintain programs and initiatives, like GreenThumb, that allow youth to learn about urban agriculture and community gardening their neighborhoods.

There is a critical lack of City investment through grant funding or programming to effectively support urban agriculture and gardens. In particular, there is a lack of resources to ensure easy and equitable access to land, healthy soil, and clean water sources. Growing spaces such as gardens, community land trusts, and urban farms are critical green spaces that provide benefits including increased access to and production of locally grown fresh food; minimizing contributions to the climate crisis and lessening air pollution; increased community education and well-being; mitigating stormwater run-off; and driving local economic activity. Therefore, it is disappointing that GreenThumb, the one City department that does focus on providing resources to community gardens, is consistently underfunded.

As the largest urban gardening program in the country, GreenThumb provides environmental, social and economic benefits and allows individuals to take pride in their community gardens. GreenThumb also provides technical assistance, supports and resources to ensure long-term success. Participants in the program gain skills like composting, environmental stewardship, and urban agriculture. Youth get a sense of pride and ownership in their gardens, while making a positive, healthy impact on their neighborhoods and communities.

Given the many positive impacts of the program, CCC joins the NYC Food Policy Alliance in calling for an investment of $2.6 million towards GreenThumb in the FY25 City Budget to support the hiring of additional Community Engagement Coordinators and seasonal staff members and to increase the distribution of resources, including the delivery of compost, topsoil, and lumber, for community gardeners. Community gardens serve as vital green spaces and address critical challenges such as food security, environmental sustainability, and community well-being.

New York City has a responsibility to make sure that our parks are safe, clean and equitable for all New Yorkers, as well as ensuring funding for programs that offer youth a place to learn the positive health and social impacts of urban agriculture and community gardens.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

1 New Yorkers for Parks. “1% for Parks Impact Report.” March 2023. uploads/pdf/NY4P-1-Percent-for-Parks-Impact-Report.pdf
2 New Yorkers for Parks. “1% for Parks Impact Report.” March 2023. uploads/pdf/NY4P-1-Percent-for-Parks-Impact-Report.pdf

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