District Council 37, Parks Advocates, Elected Officials Blast Cutbacks at NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation

Mar 31, 2011, 14:57 ET from District Council 37

Union leaders, community groups and elected officials slam City plan to convert full-time Parks workers into part-time, seasonals, close public pools early, and other steps that will diminish quality of city parks.

NEW YORK, March 31, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- District Council 37, AFSCME, the city's largest public employee union, along with its local unions representing more than 1,500 workers at the NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation, community parks advocates and City Council members, spoke out today on the steps of City Hall and at a City Council hearing against proposed massive cuts to the NYC Parks Dept., which will have disastrous consequences for the quality and safety of the city's parks, green spaces, recreation centers and pools citywide.

Union reps pointed out that the NYC Parks Dept. has a bloated management budget, having added 94 new high-level management positions – an increase of 50% – over the last four years. Yet the department proposes converting full-time, year-round field workers – the people who do the work to maintain and safeguard New York City's parks and recreation infrastructure – to part-time seasonal positions, and closing pools two weeks early this summer.

Speakers noted that these proposed cuts are being made at a time when the city has a $3 billion dollar surplus.  DC 37 Associate Director Henry Garrido said, "The proposed cuts will cause the quality of city parks to suffer with decreased services; increase the dangers of everything from falling trees to criminals; disproportionately impact lower income communities; deprive millions of children and their families of pools to escape the heat in the hottest weeks of the year; and undermine the capital budget, which is creating new parks."

Dilcy Benn, president of NYC Attendants, Park Service Workers, City Park Workers & Debris Removers, DC 37 Local 1505, said, "Changing city park workers and other park workers from full-time, year-round employees, and having us work only 6 months out of the year, will cause the quality and upkeep of our Parks to greatly suffer. Garbage won't be picked up, broken glass won't be swept, benches won't be re-painted, and trees and plants won't be cared for. If this work isn't done, our parks will fall into disrepair, which will negatively impact the quality of life for city residents."

Peter Stein, president of NYC Lifeguard Supervisors, DC 37 Local 508, said, "It is irresponsible for the city to close public pools two weeks early this summer. In addition to depriving millions of new Yorkers – teenagers, children, parents, adults of all ages – a place to go during the hottest days of summer, closing pools early will create health risks for those without any other recourse to escaping the summer heat."

Sirra Crippen, president of NYC Dept. of Parks Gardeners, DC 37 Local 1507, said, "A good amount of greenery in our Parks is already in poor condition because we don't have enough Gardeners. If we were to become 6-month employees, plants will not be cared for, lawns will not be tended, and the overall park landscaping will not be maintained. This will make our parks less attractive to visitors and possibly even turn them into eyesores. We can't let that happen."

Other speakers included Henry Garrido, Associate Director of DC 37, AFSCME, AFL-CIO; City Council members from Queens: Jimmy Van Bramer (26th District), Elizabeth Crowley (30th District), Daniel Dromm (25th District), and Julissa Ferraras (21st District) and Brooklyn: Vincent Gentile (43rd District), Mathieu Eugene (40th District) and Letitia James (35th District); Jackie Rowe-Adams, Pres., DC 37 Local 299, AFSCME; John Huber, Pres., NYC Dept. of Parks Climbers & Pruners, DC 37 Local 1506; Eddie Rodriguez, Pres., NYC Clerical-Admin. Employees, DC 37 Local 1549; Geoffrey Croft, New York City Parks Advocates and Daryl Pleasant from Community Voices Heard.

District Council 37 is New York City's largest public employee union, with 125,000 members and 50,000 retirees.

Zita Allen, Communications Director
Molly Charboneau - Rudy Orozco

SOURCE District Council 37