Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Canarsie, Flatlands parks and playgrounds get lowest grades in city

Rami Ibrahim loves the swings and the basketball court at Power Playground, the park near his home in Flatlands.

The park’s litter is another matter.

“The basket is right there,” said Ibrahim, 11, as he stood contemplating the trash which was strewn about. There was a styrofoam cup, a Swedish Fish wrapper, a losing lottery ticket. “It’s not good.”

Nor are the overall ratings for parks in Brooklyn’s Community District 18. For the past three years, the area has earned the city’s lowest marks for cleanliness and general conditions. This year, its scores lagged far behind the rest of the city.

Only 47 percent of small parks and playgrounds in the area — which includes Canarsie, Flatlands, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Mill Island, and Marine Park — earned passing marks during the last fiscal year, according to Parks Department data. That tally was 13 percentage points lower than any other district in the five boroughs.

“I’m sort of flabbergasted about how we ended up at the bottom of the pile,” said Nancy Walby, chairwoman of the community board’s parks committee. “I have a boatload of questions.”

The data comes from the city’s Parks Inspection Program, which rates parks on more than a dozen indicators from litter, weeds, and graffiti to the condition of benches, play equipment, and landscaping.

A spokeswoman for the Parks Department said they are “looking into all areas throughout the City,” but declined to respond to questions about the disparity in District 18.

Local officials and park advocates said a lack of adequate city funding was at the root of the problem, especially since 2008, when the economy soured and the parks budget was cut.

But they praised local parks staff for doing the best they can with limited resources. “From the parks manager to the plumber to the maintenance worker, they’re visible 24/7,” said Paul Curiale, president of the Mill Basin Civic Association. “The problem is there’s not enough of them.”

Dorothy Turano, the area’s district manager, agreed. “Are they dancing as fast as they can? I think so,” she said. “If there is a problem, they work feverishly to address it.” Turano suggested that the district’s large amount of parkland makes maintenance more difficult. Two large parks in the area, Marine Park and Canarsie Park, together account for nearly 1,000 acres.

According to a recent report by New Yorkers for Parks, most thriving parks are backed by active volunteer groups. Kaceen Jordan, an outreach coordinator at Partnership for Parks, which helps residents form such groups, said volunteer activity was low in District 18.

“It’s a weird dynamic in District 18,” Jordan said. “There’s pockets of involvement, and some of it is really good, but with these smaller parks, we haven’t been as successful in developing relationships.”

A version of this article was published in the December 20th, 2011 edition of the Daily News, on page 6 of the Brooklyn section. Here's the online version and pdf of the print version.

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