Fact Sheet: Concession Reform
The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) awards concessions on city parkland which consistently net significant amounts of money that are directed into the city’s general fund. Since 1993, Parks concession revenues have doubled: from $31 million to $62 million. Park concessions range from Yankee stadium to hot dog carts.
While this revenue stream has increased, the city has consistently cut park maintenance and operations budget. Staffing levels have dropped to all-time lows.
New Yorkers for Parks (NY4P), a parks advocacy group, blames years of chronic disinvestment for deteriorating maintenance and the absence of park staff: gardeners, plumbers, recreation staff, as well as compromised infrastructure: public bathrooms, water fountains, swimming pools. The condition of NYC parks will NOT improve without additional resources for the DPR.
New York City boasts the nation’s largest municipal park system, over 28,700 park acres, yet per capita spending on parks ranks far below other major cities.
Legislation put before City Council by NY4P calls for a dedicated fund for park maintenance and operations. The concession revenue generated by parks is the logical source.
NYC can look to other park systems throughout the country for models of dedicated park concession revenue. In New York City, the Central Park Conservancy, Randall’s Island Sports Foundation, Hudson River Park Fund & Battery Park Conservancy are all able to retain at least a portion of the revenues generated by concessions within the parks that they manage.
Important Checks and Balances
Concession reform, while important, will only help the DPR if implemented appropriately. To be successful, any concession legislation must include the following checks:
· Revenues must augment and not substitute public funding.
· Concession revenue must be dedicated towards park maintenance.
· Checks must be put in place to safeguard parks against possible over-commercialization as well as to ensure appropriate public input on local concessions.