The city has doubled the budget for its Community Parks Initiative (CPI) — a citywide program to improve under-funded parks in densely populated and growing neighborhoods with higher concentrations of poverty — Mayor Bill de Blasio and Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver announced Tuesday.
The funding includes money for the full renovations and maintenance of two local green spaces. A $5.4 million revamp is in store for Gravesend’s Lafayette Playground, and Lt. Joseph Petrosino Park in Bensonhurst will be infused with $4.5 million from the Initiative
Local pols, including Councilman Mark Treyger and Councilman Vincent Gentile, who both advocated for the inclusion of southwestern Brooklyn in CPI, applauded the announcement at a press conference at Lafayette Playground yesterday.
“Parts of our neighborhood have historically not seen attention and resources to improve recreational opportunities and quality of life benefits for residents,” said Treyger, who is on City Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee. “I am proud to announce that our concerns about parks in southwest Brooklyn have begun to be heard.”
The push for additional Parks funding from elected officials came in concurrence with Bensonhurst Bean’s ongoing reporting on the dismal and dangerous conditions of two of our area’s largest green spaces: Bensonhurst Park and Calvert Vaux Park. At the time, Gentile and Treyger criticized the mayor’s office for neglecting these recreational spaces as well as the rest of southern Brooklyn in CPI — despite the fact that Bensonhurst parks have been historically underserved.
In total, CPI will now invest $285 million in capital dollars through 2019 – along with a sustained annual commitment of over $2.5 million in expense funding – to improve neighborhoods’ quality of life by revitalizing 67 community parks that have not undergone significant improvements in decades.
“I appreciate that the Department of Parks has responded to my comments about funding reaching neighborhoods in all of our city’s regions,” added Treyger at yesterday’s conference.
Lafayette Playground, located at Stillwell Avenue between Bay 43rd Street and Benson Avenue, currently stands as an empty triangular concrete space. Part of the Initiative’s program includes scoping meetings planned for Spring 2016 that will give neighborhood residents the opportunity to provide their input on design and programming for the playground’s redesign.
Assemblyman William Colton predicted that improvements would go a long way towards enriching the overall quality of the neighborhood.
“This is a great opportunity and it is very exciting because parks service families from toddlers to seniors,” said Colton. “Families go there with their toddlers and get the opportunity to enjoy fresh air, exercise, and family togetherness. And when people get older, the grandparents and seniors have the opportunity to go to the park, socialize, and enrich their lives. It is an investment in our future when we invest money in parks.”
Similarly, Lt. Joseph Petrosino Park — a heavily utilized play space on New Utrecht Avenue formerly known as Satellite Park — hasn’t seen any improvement since 1993, when it underwent a $700,000 renovation on its handball courts, basketball courts, and playground.
At yesterday’s conference, Gentile spoke of the value of giving Bensonhurst’s smaller parks, like Lt. Joseph Petrosino, the attention and care they deserve.
“We all know about the big parks in our neighborhoods, and, as elected officials, we are able to give these parks much of the financial attention they need to keep our grass green and our local sports teams happy,” said Gentile. “But what happens to those smaller, quieter parks we have come to appreciate because we can just get up from our homes, walk over to them, and relax? I’m talking about that park you know that’s right down the street where you go to be at peace outside for a couple of hours. Parks like that need to be cared for too, and that’s why I’m very happy to have my district participate in the Community Parks Initiative.”
The parks department’s major capital improvements to these spaces will be complemented by immediate targeted improvements – high-impact, fast-action enhancements such as new pavements for basketball courts, new plantings, and aesthetic improvements.
In addition, significant investments by the City Council for gardeners, maintenance workers, and community partnership, parks in the CPI initiative will receive critical operating support to sustain the capital investments. Additional staff and resources will be allocated across critical categories including community outreach, capital and planning, recreational programming, and park maintenance.
Launched by de Blasio in October 2014, CPI is NYC Parks’ first major equity initiative and part of oneNYC, the mayor’s plan for a just and strong New York City. The additional mayoral commitment of $150 million in the 2016 fiscal years, brings the administration’s total investment in CPI to $285 million, promotes the full recreation and reconstruction of 67 parks through 2019. Thirty-five of these parks were announced by the Mayor in 2014, 12 more were announced at yesterday’s press conference, and 20 more sites will be named over the next three years.
“Every New Yorker deserves access to clean, safe green spaces, no matter what neighborhood they live in. By doubling our investment in historically underserved neighborhood parks, we are significantly improving the quality of life of families and children across this city,” said de Blasio. “Our sustained investments in additional neighborhood parks will expand the Community Parks Initiative’s impact to 3 million New Yorkers – ensuring countless more families and children will have a revitalized park right in their neighborhood.”
Elsewhere in southern Brooklyn, Bergen Beach Playground was also selected as a CPI beneficiary.