Originally published in Issue 10 - May 27, 1997
Private Support for Park$ Not Enough
At the request of the Parks Council, IBO has prepared an analysis
measuring the impact of private support on City parks through
a survey of eight major parks friends groups as well as the budget
of the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). The main findings
from the study are listed below:
DPR spending has been reduced significantly in the last ten
years. In constant 1996 dollars, DPR operating spending started
at $217.8 million in 1987, peaked at $221.6 million in 1988, and
fell to $152.2 million in 1996-a drop of 31.3 percent from 1988-96.
During this same period, private support for parks operations
has grown considerably, from $3.6 million in 1987 to $17.7 million
in 1996. In constant 1996 dollars, private support still shows
growth, rising from $5.0 million in 1987 to $17.7 million in 1996.
Private support is concentrated in only a few parks across
the City, however. The Central Park Conservancy, Bryant Park
Restoration Corporation, and Prospect Park Alliance accounted
for 73 percent of all private operating spending from 1987-96.
The increase in private operating support for parks, as well
as the combined spending of DPR and private spending shows that
private contributions have not made up for cuts to DPR's budget.
Despite the rise in private support, total operating spending
on parks, in constant 1996 dollars, has fallen from $222.8 million
in 1987 to $164.3 million in 1996. Much of this decrease is attributable
to the 23.9 percent drop in DPR's budget, from $206.5 million
to $157.2 million from 1991-1992.
Moreover, certain boroughs faced greater spending cuts than
others. Combined with private funding trends, which is skewed
in favor of two boroughs (Manhattan and Brooklyn), the change
in total parks spending has left the other boroughs with less
support, relative to a decade ago.
While it is clear that the City has not restored spending
to pre-1992 levels, a large labor pool has been made available
to DPR through the Work Experience Program (WEP). In 1996, over
5,000 WEP workers were assigned to DPR, each providing an average
of 18 hours of labor. By standard productivity measures, this
resource is equivalent to over 2,600 full-time employees. However,
the City limits the kinds of services that WEP workers provide;
they generally only clean Parks property and may not be used to
perform tasks previously performed by a paid Parks worker.
On a programming note, DPR spending for recreation has fallen
disproportionately (65.5 percent), in comparison to the budgets
for the general maintenance and upkeep of the park (24 percent)
and centrally managed programs (43 percent). Adding in private
support, which was $5 million in 1996, and was essentially zero
in 1987, the reduction in total combined recreational spending
is still 39 percent.
Copies of the full analysis are available by calling (212) 442-0632,
writing to the Independent Budget Office, 110 William Street,
New York, NY 10038, or by accessing the Publications section of this IBO website.