Koo Gives Budget Testimony Concerning FY 2021 Parks Budget
City Councilmember Peter Koo (D-Bayside, College Point, Flushing, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Fresh Meadows, Whitestone), chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, yesterday testified before the City Council’s Finance Committee that the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Fiscal 2021 Executive Budget totals $509 million, which represents a $78.4 million decrease when compared to last year’s budget amount of $587 million.
“We all understand that Parks’ fiscal position has entirely changed since the release of Fiscal 2021 Preliminary Budget and since our hearing just 2 months ago. COVID-19 has upended the lives of millions of New Yorkers and forced our budget priorities to shift to combat the spread of the virus and disrupted the funding for crucial Parks initiatives,” Koo testified.
“Despite this pandemic’s devastating impact on our city, public parks remain open and continue to offer physical and mental health relief. For many residents, they have become the only green space they can go to get some fresh air, which has never been so important. At this moment, we are experiencing an increased use of public space, and decreasing staff capacity may drastically harm conditions of parks and put visitors at risk.
“Moreover, the proposed cuts of $57.9 million in Fiscal 2020 and Fiscal 2021 combined, will not just leave the agency with historically low staffing levels, but it will have a profound impact on our kids, youth and entire families.
“We need to keep in mind that in the midst of this pandemic our parks and open spaces are essential for millions of residents of this city – and they should be treated as essential in this budget. Again, it is my hope that we can work together to ensure that parks are treated in this budget as the critical infrastructure that they are.”
Williams Calls For Expanded Aid for the Homeless
Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams yesterday in testimony before the City Council’s committees on General Welfare and Finance regarding the FY 2021 executive budget, called for expanded aid to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness amid the COVID-19 pandemic, through making available additional housing for necessary isolation as well as providing sufficient resources for the city’s homeless shelters.
Williams noted the executive budget includes $60 million in cuts to the Department of Homeless Services, with a $35 million reduction in hotel spending.
“I find this ironic and alarming given the need to isolate homeless individuals to stop the spread of COVID-19. This funding needs to be maintained so that people experiencing homelessness who need to isolate themselves can have single-occupancy rooms, rather than the double-occupancy, which only puts them more at risk of contracting and spreading the Coronavirus,” said Williams.
Williams said reports of the unsanitary living conditions at City homeless shelters and safe havens are alarming and only increase the likelihood of the virus spreading.
Addabbo Thanks Advocates Fighting Against the Williams Pipeline
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth, parts of South Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Woodside, The Rockaways), yesterday thanked advocates who successfully fought against the controversial Williams pipeline that would have carried fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania through New Jersey, running beneath New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean before connecting to an existing pipeline system off Long Island
“I believe the state’s denial of the Williams Pipeline is consistent with its previous concerns regarding the project and is a great victory for our environment. I have joined many opponents of the pipeline, such as my constituents in Rockaway, in highlighting the unwarranted need for this costly Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) pipeline project, better known as the Williams Pipeline, since it was announced,” said Addabbo.
“Now, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has denied the project because it would not meet our state’s water quality standards. I would like to thank all of the advocates and volunteers who came together to protect our environment from a project that would be obsolete in the near future, as we are innovating new ways of providing clean energy for the New York.”
Lee, Queens Borough Cabinet Briefed on Food Insecurity, Open Streets Program
Acting Borough President Sharon Lee and the Queens Borough Cabinet she chairs today will hear a presentation from New York City’s COVID-19 “Food Czar” on the City’s efforts to stem the tide of food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) will deliver a presentation on the City’s Open Streets program, under which certain streets are closed to vehicular traffic and open to pedestrian and cyclist use to facilitate social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis.
This meeting will be conducted virtually, with Borough Cabinet members participating via videoconference.
The meeting is slated for 9:30 a.m., today May 19. It will be live-streamed to the public on the Borough President’s website at www.queensbp.org/community-boards.