Will Nassau's Parks -- Active and Passive -- Weather The Fiscal Storm?
Our friend, Bruce Piel of Park Advocacy & Recreational Council of Nassau brings us up-to-date on the year-end state of the public parks in America's oldest suburbs.
Nassau County Closing Parks
In an economic climate that makes accessible and low cost public parks more important than ever, Nassau County has decided to close its parks, ranging from 2 days a week for North Woodmere , Garvies Point, Grant Park, Old Bethpage Restoration Village, Cow Meadow, and Tackapushka, to monthly closures for Inwood, Reverend Makey, and Battle Row, among others. Other parks will have their hours reduced.
This will have two effects. First, those that need these facilities the most, the unemployed, under-employed, young families with children and fixed income seniors will lose recreation opportunities that would ease their burdens. Secondly, the only people that will enter the closed parks would be the ones we least want to see there, youths abusing alcohol and drugs, homeless and mentally disturbed who need help, drag racers, etc., etc.
Of course, the administration will blame the economy and the need to reduce costs when that same economy would argue for more open parks and recreation programs.
County Parks Losing 90 Annual Employees to Public Works
Effective January 2, 2009, all remaining maintenance employees will be transferred from the park system to DPW reducing the remaining employees to approximately 163 to report to the 12 or so Deputy Commissioners or equivalents giving them a “span of control” of about 14 to 1. That ratio can usually be found between workers and first line supervisors everywhere else.
Though the county insists the transferees will still be handling park tasks, the reality will be, parks will be at the “bottom of the food chain” when requesting their services. This is what happened when the rangers were renamed public safety transferred to the police department and when the Parks electrical, plumbing and carpentry shops were transferred to DPW.
County Hiring Part Time & Seasonal Cashiers To Work In Parks
These new positions will not report to Park Directors but be responsible to the County Treasurer ’s Office. Thus they can’t be used when not collecting money. Why aren’t they continuing to use current part time and seasonal employees? Allegedly, because they do not have the necessary skills. Before hiring a part timer or seasonal employee why doesn't the county test them for cashier skills (its called arithmetic) giving parks capable workers that can be used for other tasks as well?
While our county executive campaigns for an appointment to State or Federal Office our County parks continue their downward spiral with no end in sight. Had enough? Email, call or write to your county legislator and demand adequate personnel, equipment and supplies to keep our county parks alive. Our parks need this and we need our parks.
Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau)
246 Twin Lane East
Wantagh , NY 11793
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While the views expressed by Mr. Piel on behalf of PARCnassau are his own, we cannot help but wonder why Nassau County's parks, in good financial times and bad, appear to be the step-child of the county.
Back in the day when the county's coffers were overflowing (read as, the county was borrowing far beyond its means to repay), the parks were neglected. And when the bottom fell out of the county's finances? Well, we all see the results -- parks that lack adequate, if any, maintenance, rapidly decaying infrastructure, and former open/green spaces that have literally gone to seed, our tax dollars paid toward Parks & Recreation (or so it says on that tax statement), notwithstanding.
And by the way, whatever happened to the rehab and revitalization work that was to be done in our county parks -- active and passive -- with monies from the two multi-million dollar environmental bond acts? Just where did that bond money go?
Now is not the time to abandon our public parks, or, for that matter, to forgo public works projects which can create jobs and stimulate the economy. Indeed, now, more than ever, America's first suburb needs to reinvest in itself, using its vast resources, from the nature of its once magnificent parks to the nurture of its always high-spirited people, to reinvent suburbia.