As an advocate for fiscal responsibility, especially as our recession has deepened, I certainly appreciate that the State is facing an unprecedented budget crisis and must prioritize spending. However, I was profoundly disappointed to hear that the Governor proposing to close dozens of state parks, a move that would affect hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers while producing minimal savings.
The $6.3 million saved through proposed park closures would amount to a fraction of 1 percent of the state’s $8.2 billion budget gap.
Worse, on the same day these cuts were proposed, the state announced $7.7 million in taxpayer-funded grants to help private developers. Clearly these funds could save every park, beach and historic site on the chopping block in New York State.
As someone who does pro bono legal work for the Friends of Oakland Lake, an area parks group, and someone who has been supported for public office by the Sierra Club and has served as a board member of the Bayside Historical Society, I strongly believe that we must do all we can to preserve our green spaces and historic places.
In fact, cuts here may backfire because our parks and historic spaces are significant draws for tourists who bring in valuable commerce and revenue for both the private sector and state coffers. Why would we want to deter this economic activity?
State Parks has had its budget slashed 40% over the last two years- these further cuts and closures are nothing short of draconian.
Instead, there should be more public-private partnerships, New York City-style franchises and concessions and cultivating of parks foundations to help cover this gap. I would encourage the state legislature to promote innovation and incentives before allowing these closures to proceed. Our parks, green spaces and historic places are too important to our environment, our culture, our quality of life and our economy.
Vince Tabone, Esq.