“Restore the $8 million!” parks advocates plead to City Council (UPDATED)

Artist Evan Schukis enjoys the view from Fairmount Park.

Schoolchildren joined the Philadelphia Parks Alliance at the city budget hearing yesterday for the Department of Parks and Recreation, demanding that the city hold up its end of a promise to fund parks by another $8 million.

“Restore the $8 million! Restore the $8 million!” the audience inside City Council chambers yelled every time another Council member started asking questions of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DeBerardinis and his deputy commissioners.

That figure is the amount of revenue from a 2008 parking tax increase passed by Mayor Michael Nutter that was supposed to serve as a dedicated funding source for parks through the Department of Parks and Recreation, raising its budget by more than 40 percent over four years to $71.4 million in 2013.

Instead, the department’s current proposed budget for 2013 is $47.8 million, with $2.1 million of it resulting from an accounting change, not increased allocations.

“We came out in support of [the parking tax increase] because the revenue was promised to go to the parks,” said Frank Chance of Friends of Clark Park, one of an estimated 180 organizations within the alliance. “As you know, there was a little bit of an economic crisis after that and the money went to other things. We know about economic crises and were understanding at that time, but it’s been four years.”

“We haven’t seen one cent,” said Lauren Bornfriend, executive director of the alliance. “Enough is enough.”

It’s no secret that the expansive Fairmount Park system has received the same level of funding – give or take $2 million or $3 million – for the past four decades. Since the early 1970s, the city has annually allocated $12 million to $15 million per year, according to the city’s longtime Fairmount Park top official, Mark Focht.

Chance and others said that the recession also resulted in a steep increase in park usage — between 20 and 30 percent over the last four years. The circumstances put added stress on park facilities and make the lack of a funding increase sting even more.

“Park usage is up, but the park is suffering from it,” Michael Burch of east Parkside agreed. “You can clearly see that mowing the grass isn’t happening on a regular basis. There are no trash cans in the park. The picnic areas are looking really shabby – you can see holes in the roofs. It’s clearly suffering from a lack of maintenance and care, and that’s endemic to the entire park system.”

Safety slacks

Councilman Curtis Jones, who oversees more park land than any other district council person, also raised the issue of safety.

“In my district alone in our park facilities, we’ve had four homicides, seven rapes, 63 robberies, 67 aggravated assaults, 840 thefts and five auto thefts. That only resulted in, in parks, 92 arrests and in rec centers, 55 arrests,” he said.

DiBerardinis said that the department is in the process of addressing those concerns and has begun by increasing the number of facilities equipped with surveillance cameras from two to 25. The department will also begin to meet monthly with police command staff to identify recreation centers most in need of increased security.


NYPD looking for man they say assaulted elderly…

      The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Hispanic male 20's wanted in connection with…


Three arrested after allegedly assaulting off-duty officer in…

Three men were arrested early Saturday morning after allegedly assaulting an off-duty officer at a Bronx bodega, and the NYPD is asking for the public's…


Healthcare union creates vibrant West Indian Day Parade…

Volunteers worked almost around the clock through the weekend, putting the flashy finishing touches on hundreds of costume pieces 1199SEIU members will wear while marching…


Top 10 most hipster college campuses

Hipsters are everywhere these days. You can't walk down the anywhere anymore without seeing a pair of skinny jeans on a handlebar mustachioed 20-something, a…


Theater: Discouraging 'Poor Behavior'

Theresa Rebeck's latest off-Broadway play, about two couples sparring on a weekend getaway, repeats a few mistakes of her past.


Chef Todd English arrested for DWI in the…

Celebrity chef Todd English is facing DWI charges after a traffic stop on Sunday.


Box office: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is 2014's…

This weekend "The Guardians of the Galaxy" passed the fourth "Transformers" movie to become the highest grossing film of 2014.


Spears back with controversial ex?

Is Briteny Spears back with Adnan Ghalib?


Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.


Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.


3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.


NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top


These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…


When it comes to dating, height matters

Does a man’s height really matter when it comes to dating? Unfortunately - according to a new study - the answer looks like it’s yes.…


10 free apps to make traveling easier

Finding the nearest bathroom, calculating currency exchanges and locating your departure gate must have been difficult for travelers of previous generations. But we wouldn't know,…


How to get a seat upgrade to business…

It used to be much easier to upgrade your coach seat to business or even first class, but rigid rules and tighter schedules have made…