Factors Affecting the Department of NYC Parks and Recreation
Parks not only provide humans with pleasant environments but are also about a healthy environment which promotes social capital, community cohesion, and individuals’ physical health. 14% of the New York City is comprised of public parks which are spread throughout the Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Bronx (Corbett, 2016, p. 15). These public resources are maintained by the City of New York’s Department of Parks and Recreation. There are several external factors that affect the Department’s undertakings such as finances, environmental factors, as well as pests and diseases.
New York City (NYC) Parks, another name used to refer to the City of New York’s Department of Parks and Recreation has a long history in the maintenance and management of one of the biggest urban park systems in America. NYC Park was formed over 300 years ago after the construction of its premier park, Bowling Green, in 1733 located in lower Manhattan (Corbett, 2016, p. 16). Currently, the NYC Parks is in charge of over 2000 playgrounds and parks which cover 29000 acres across the five boroughs. Most of the parks and playgrounds where created during the 20th century with government support in funding. This paper will examine some external factors impacting the NYC Parks which influence on the Department’s decisions and possible responses to the factors discussed.
2.0 External Factors
To begin with, the Department has in the past dealt with financial factors under different models. Initially, the New York Parks department was funded by the government through public funds. From the 1970s, private funding grew popular as several groups joined hands to support particular parks as conservancies. Today, the form and amount of financial support affects the safety and quality of the parks and recreational centers.
A reduction of the funding to the NYC Parks from the state caused effects to the parks maintenance and management. The 1970s budget crisis saw the Parks Department suffer a cut in its budget as it was deemed as an unessential resource. As a result of the drastic reduction in maintenance funds, the staff numbers were significantly affected leading to less admirable and shabbier parks. It would be noted, therefore, that shortage of finances within the NYC Parks department would lead to less maintained recreational centers as the personnel responsible for cleaning, planting, and pruning are reduced (Corbett, 2016, p. 17). This move especially affects neighborhoods with residents who fall into the lower income category.
The lack of maintenance of the Parks and recreational areas attributed to financial difficulty often results to criminal activities such that residents would fear walking through such places at night. In addition, drug dealers would take advantage of the lack of strict management of the NYC Parks (Corbett, 2016, p. 18). The department would on the other hand loose its ability to purchase new land for extension. These areas would also become home to homeless people using the park as their accommodation. This would lead to the Departments decision to look for other ways, and involve interested stakeholders, to mitigate the situation so as to the make parks and other recreation centers more pleasant.
2.1.1Responses to the Financial Factor
While some Parks have succeeded in flourishing even as the NYC Parks Department budget remain low, others face awful conditions. The NYC parks and recreation Department would respond to budgetary constraints in various ways. For instance, just as the flourishing parks do, the private financing from conservancies would be a major boost to the department. According to Corbett (2016, p. 19) private financing is becoming the status quo in park investments, hence precipitating the reduction in government finance dependence. Such groups include the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, Prospect Park Alliance, Central Park Conservancy, Bronx River Alliance, the Randalls Island Parks Alliance among others.
Another response from the NYC Parks department would be to push the city to increase their expense budget. A raise in funds allocated from the government would enable the department to hire more employees on fulltime basis. According to the City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation, 75% of the current staff who are responsible for maintenance are on a Job Training program which provides a temporarily and seasonal employment. Again, the department would use the increased budgetary funds to champion renovations through physical enhancements and further constructions.
Moreover, presenting and passing legislations could be increase the efficiency of the Parks’ system. It is conventional knowledge that to mitigate financial challenges, accountability should be highly considered. Therefore, the data for various Parks operations and their neighborhoods should be maintained. As a result, the levels of security within the parks and recreation areas would increase within their physical boundaries. Also, the number of conservancies and other private donors’ data should be made available together with their full support records. By so doing, the spending of funds either from private or public capitalization in projects that will improve parks and recreational areas would not be misappropriated. Budgetary transparency, therefore, attributed to proposed legislations would impinge strict measures of tackle the financial factor that affects the NYC Parks Department.
2.2 Environmental Soil Pollution
Urban gardens have gained popularity in New York City over the past few years. These gardens are often located in areas with low rates of fresh vegetables intake, areas with limited access to the same, and where there are high levels of poverty. The urban gardens hence, provide a series of benefits to the community. Just like these gardens, plantations in parks and recreational areas experience elevated concentration of contaminants such as lead (Pb). The increased concentrations of contaminants could be attributed to human activities like coal or oil combustion, waste incineration, uses of paints containing the lead component, lead gasoline and various other metals (Namkoong, Hwang, Park, & Choi, 2002, p.23). Exposure to soil contaminants on vegetation in parks and urban garden could raise the possibility for children and adults to get vulnerable to danger.
Highest amounts of concentration in Parks are associated with Pb in areas close to roads. There is a relation between higher Pb soil contamination and traffic. The reason for this concentration in soil is because of the low mobility of Pb metal and its steadiness.
(Galušková, Bor?vka, & Drábek, 2011, p. 55). Higher contents of Pb in several parks show the elevated results in areas where parks are in close vicinity to traffic lights than in recreational areas that are located in the outskirts of a city.
This factor relating to environmental or soil pollution has affected the NYC Parks Department. The department has had concerns in addressing the likely exposure of the recreational centers to contaminants. Exposure to these metals not only possess as a treat to human life but also to the growth or sustainability of the vegetation in Parks and recreational centers. Therefore, the department would consider various responses in order to reduce avoidable soil contamination.
Initial planting requirement by the NYC Parks expects that the soil used meets the specifications of the Park (Galušková, Bor?vka, & Drábek, 2011, p. 58). However, soil specifications especially the PH levels are bound to change subject to the afore-mentioned human activities. This is evident through the examination of the association between Parks or garden characteristics and soil contaminants concentrations. The examination of these association would help the NYC Parks make use of the necessary resources for testing the soil frequently and coming up with the likely mitigative actions for reducing soil contamination.
2.2.1Responses to the Environmental Soil Pollution Factor
According to some studies, urban community gardens as well as parks and other recreational areas would greatly benefit through efforts to diminish soil exposure to Pb. NYC Park could respond to this situation by considering importing uncontaminated soil along with compost without high Pb concentrations or other metals or contaminants. In addition, the department would consider gardening their plants in raised beds (Peper, et al, 2007, p.102). This practice would help in the maintenance of the beds through adding the uncontaminated compost frequently in order to reduce soil contamination.
Another response that NYC Parks need to consider, apart from soil testing, is soil nutrients tests. Even though researchers may urge that soil testing is the main way to know whether Park soil in a certain area has high Pb concentration, other indictors of soil contamination like high PH, elevated Zn concentration as depicted in soil nutritional test, and absence of raised beds would be an efficient way to identify specific concerns through conducting soil sampling. This would help in using a lower analytical cost in case budgetary resources become limited. The alternative tests would therefore, enable the NYC Parks reduce human exposure to the dangers involved and at the same time become a cheaper decision.
2.3 Pests and Diseases
Historic parks, landscapes and garden have many pests and diseases that affect shrubs and trees. While some pests and diseases are specific others serve as a host to many plants within the parks. While they form part of the ecosystems, introduction of pests and diseases in recreational places could cause problems because natural predictors may often be absent and the trees may also lack natural defense mechanisms against the organisms (Surgan, 2002, p. 80). In addition, Park pests and diseases spread very quickly and may, as a result, reach propositions which are fatal or harmful to the shrubs or trees.
The NYC Parks has not been an exception to the external affect of pests and diseases. While the control of trees’ pests and diseases may be done, some of the substances used could pose as a danger to human beings. Recently, the department was reported to have been steadily increasing the use of RoundUp, a weed-killer which has a vital ingredient linked to cancer (Pang, 2016, pp. 1). The NYC Parks uses RoundUp as the most frequent herbicide to control unwanted vegetation in recreation parks, on median strips, and highways.
Conversely, another factor affecting the NYC Parks relates to pests and plants diseases causing harsh impacts on trees. In some seasons, trees shade a lot of leaves and the plants’ canopy is dotted with brown. According to the Parks’ Department spokeswoman, Maeri Ferguson, this is referred to as Anthracnose, a tree pathogen. It is a fungal disease which affects the London Plane trees (LPs) but rarely fatal. However, the disease reoccurs annually and later the tree recover without any fungicides control measure; which may often harm humans. If the disease occurs for several years, the infection may lead to damage of the trees over time.
2.3.1 Responses to the Pest and Diseases Factor
To respond to the use of hazardous pesticide, RoundUp, the NYC Health Department suggested to the NYC Parks department to consider other methods of weed control since RoundUp was not only cancerous but also proved to contain glyphosate, a main ingredient in RoundUp, which causes kidney damage when combined with other metals in warm climate (Pang, 2016, pp. 8).
Also, NYC Parks conduct proactive inspections programs in order to inspect disease or pests-affected trees. For instance, in the past, to control the quick spread of oak wilt, 3000 oak trees were looked at so as to deter the disease from spreading beyond the prior infection site (Sutton, 2017, pp. 3). The NYC Parks also took the decision to inspect all similar trees that grew within the boundary either along the streets or in the parks. Further, collaborative efforts were made alongside Green-word Cemetery, NYSDEC, and Cornell University’s Plant Pathology Lab in a bid to share information and coordinate response.
Integrated Pest Management procedures could also be followed to the latter in response to the need of keeping the parks from pests as well as having the parks safe in a most humane way possible (Radcliffe, Hutchison, & Cancelado, 2009, p. 12). It is the responsibility of the NYC Parks to use pesticides as regulated by the state. The Department should always strive to use methodologies that are least toxic, in the mechanical, chemical, and biological control of pests or diseases for a healthy, safe environment (Godbey,et al, 2005, p. 152). The ecological consequences of an invading pest should always be weighed against respective treatment options. Again, the availability of equipment, resources, staffing, and supplies in the assessment and treatment of pests and diseases should be considered.
All pests and diseases control measures should prevent the public from any exposure. The safety of staff, public, and the environment are important aspects. Hence, precautions such as putting signs to notify the pubic of upcoming or ongoing pesticide application and been able to submit NYC Parks Herbicide Information Card or a copy of the pesticide’s label upon request. Additionally, those charge with pesticide application should be able to stop or reschedule the activity to a later date in case of any unfavorable changes in site conditions.
The NYC Parks faces many factors that impact their operations some of which are external factors as discussed. The financial impacts facilitate the development, growth and maintenance of the parks and recreational centers. Lately, capitalization of such developments is mainly from friendly groups or conservancies and some funds are also received from the government’s budgetary allocation which was initially down-sized. However, accountability is needed as a response to the financial impact. Again, a move to push for a higher budgetary allocation should be made in order to employee more fulltime workers to help maintain the parks and recreational places.
On the other hand, environmental soil pollution is another factor taken into consideration. Mostly, the pollution is attributed to high lead concentration imitated by vehicle and this happens in areas near traffic. Importation of clean soil and composite as well as considering other soil contamination elements other than lead are likely responses to the factor.
Pests and diseases also serve as external factors that impact the NYC Parks Department. Some pests could be considered an integral part of the ecosystem. However, if their presence causes destruction and harm to both trees and human then, the likely measure should be taken. Such measures include use of pesticides or fungicides though some of the ingredients may be harmful to the public. As a response to this factor, human-friendly pesticides should always be used. Proactive inspection programs should be undertaken to survey the likely effects caused by pests and diseases. In addition, Integrated Pest Management procedures should be observed when handling pests and disease control.