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53° Good Afternoon

Fund smaller parks from the city budget

A man rides a Citi Bike at City

A man rides a Citi Bike at City Hall Park in downtown Manhattan. (May 27, 2013) Photo Credit: Natan Dvir

It's great news Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to ensure that the city's parks are maintained more equitably -- but a hot debate rages over how to make this happen.

De Blasio has supported a plan proposed by State Sen. Daniel Squadron of Brooklyn that would levy a 20 percent tax on wealthy private conservancies that help support public spaces like Central Park. Squadron would divert the money to more modest public greenswards.

It's an awful scheme that could easily backfire, leading generous donors to trim their contributions.

So here's a better idea: The mayor should just do his job.

He should carve out enough cash in his budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 to guarantee that smaller parks are adequately kept in shape -- with grass that's mowed, trash that's collected and repairs that happen quickly.

De Blasio included $80 million in his budget for capital spending on behalf of these spaces.

But Councilman Mark Levine of the Upper West Side, chairman of the parks committee, credibly argues that more money is needed for maintenance and operations.

He'd like to see a budget bump of $27.5 million to make sure public spaces from East New York in Brooklyn to Morrisania in the Bronx are as functional and well-kept as high-glamour locales like Prospect Park, the East River Esplanade and Riverside Park.

We hope the council coalesces around his request.

And there's another reason to support this proposal -- beyond the worthy idea that all 8.4 million city residents deserve a place to relax and breathe free:

Through much of the council's recent history, parks have been part of the annual Kabuki dance -- where the mayor proposed to slash community funding and council members rushed in to play the hero and restore it.

The process was usually rote -- but parks occasionally lost out in the scrum. De Blasio and the council have now sworn to forgo the dance. That's great -- but it means parks need a solid budget plan from the outset of talks.

If de Blasio means what he says about a more equitable city, he needs to make that happen now.


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