One Playground Renovation Underway, More to Come

The first phase of a $2.75 million renovation of Dome Playground in Borough Park, Brooklyn officially started on Thursday morning. Kevin Jeffrey, commissioner of Brooklyn Parks and City Councilmember Brad Lander attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the project, which is expected to last for about one year.

It has been slow and difficult for park projects in the city to get underway, and the Parks Commissioner, Mitchell J. Silver, is trying to make some changes as quickly as possible. But advocates say the effort is being constrained by money.

“The park department needs to be better funded for operating costs, maintenance, of very large and very complicated portfolio,” said Alec Appelbaum, a spokesman for New Yorkers for Parks, an advocacy group for the city’s parks. “At the end of the day, the ability of the department to maintain and build playgrounds and parks quickly is limited by the amount of money they have.”

The city’s efforts to speed up park projects started last June, when a report by New Yorkers for Parks released a survey that compared the speed and costs of capital projects by the park department with that of other government agencies. The study concluded that the park department is not that efficient in how it completes its projects, both in terms of how long it takes to complete them and in terms of staying within the budget.

The advocacy group is happy the city has acknowledged its survey. “After we issued our report in the summer, the commissioner took it very seriously, reflecting on it, and centralizing on key design decisions,” said Appelbaum,

However, advocates say, the Department of Parks and Recreations needs more money to renovate all of the city’s parks that need to be improved.

Park advocates are focusing on the city’s executive budget for fiscal year 2016, which is expected to be released on May 7. “We are going to respond to that and see if it has the money that maintaining parks needs,” Appelbaum said.

The city council called for an additional $30 million in funding for the park department after the city’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2016 came out in mid February. Councilmember Mark Levine pointed out in a press release in March that although the additional funding may “all sound like an extravagant shopping list”, the total amount would only push the Parks Department budget from 0.55 percent to 0.57 percent of the city’s total budget.

Last year, the city added $15 million for the park department to its final budget after the city council urged that an additional $34 million be added to the preliminary budget.