While moneymakers like the New York Mets and United States Tennis Association, located within the boundaries of the 898-acre park, combine for a total of $2.5 million in annual leasing contributions (Mets paying just $155,000 in rent according to City Council figures), the neglect might cost much more.
“We have a tale of two park systems in this city, one that provides greater resources to the wealthier parks while leaving parks like Flushing Meadows in Queens behind,” said Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, chair of the Parks Committee.
FMCP has just 18 full-time workers and 35 summer employees, while Central Park has roughly 300 and is slightly smaller at 843 acres. There are also 135 full-time employees in Prospect Park, which is about 200 acres smaller than FMCP.
“While the park’s concessions generate more than $5.8 million in annual revenue for the city’s general fund, the city spends less than $2 million a year on maintenance in FMCP,” said Holly Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks.
According to the City Council, $100 million was donated to Central Park, $20 million to The High Line, and $40 million to the boathouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park, while Flushing Meadows Corona Park only received around $5,000 in the last year.
“Men in Black did more for those towers than our city,” said Peter Vallone, Jr. at the hearing, referring to the movie that was partially filmed in the park.
Vallone added that he is introducing legislation that would require that any park conservancy in the city bringing in over $5 million to “contribute 20 percent of those funds to parks in need.”
Joining Vallone was a panel of nearly all Queens council members, including Julissa Ferreras, Elizabeth Crowley, Jimmy Van Bramer and James Gennaro, who questioned representatives of the Queens borough park commissioner’s office.
Queens borough commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski defended the park at the meeting and said they are in fact running the park “very well.”
“This past year, the overall cleanliness went to 96 percent cleanliness in 2013,” she said, up from 93 percent in fiscal year 2012.
However, according to city records, the park was clean just 86.8 percent of the time, below the city’s 90 percent standard cleanliness rate.
“There are 16 PEP (Park Enforcement Patrol) officers in the borough and two in FMCP,” she said. “With the budget we will be able to double the officers, adding 17 borough-wide with four officers assigned to the park daily.”
According to Vallone, there are 75 PEP officers in Central Park.
“Going from two to four is not sufficient,” said Ferreras. “Four people don’t even control a movie theater right now or a parking lot.”
In addition, Ferreras asked Lewandowski and the panel representing the park to reach out to surrounding organizations to be brought in as volunteer surveyors.
“I think that would be a great way to reach out to our community,” she said. “Although we would all like the pavilion to be improved and all like the smell of the marina to go away, perhaps if I’m asking a mom or a dad in the park, that might not be their highest priority.”
Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, said the real problem is that the “City Council passes the buck year after year and continuously votes for these ‘park solutions.’”
“Our elected officials allocate a fraction of the funds needed to maintain and secure that park,” Croft said.
According to Croft, council members have consistently voted for the mayor’s budget, which allots just $283 million out of a $71 billion overall budget to 14 percent of the city’s overall land, namely parks.
Croft added that there are in fact no park enforcement officers, however it was reported at the meeting that there are currently two on duty with plans to bring in 17 over the next year.
“They’re trying to blame the mayor and they don’t want to take responsibility for passing the parks budget, which is what they’re doing,” he said. “They’re looking for other ways to fund these parks instead of doing their job.”