Senate Democratic Majority Keeps Parks Open For New York's Families

 

Fulfilling their promise to keep parks open for New York’s families, the Senate Democratic Majority reached an agreement for full restoration of parks funding to keep parks and historic sites open throughout the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Over two months ago, the Senate Democratic Majority passed a budget resolution restoring $11 million for parks operations to prevent the closure of  57 State Parks and reduced operations at an additional 22 State Parks. Today, a three-way agreement was reached with the Executive and Assembly on legislation to approve restorations called for by the Senate Democratic Majority. Restorations were also approved to Zoos, Botanic Gardens, Aquaria, and DEC campgrounds.

The use of parks for recreational activities generates $1.9 billion in revenue, five times the agency’s total budget.  Park closures would have a devastating effect on small businesses, restaurants, and other economic engines in communities dependent on  tourism revenue generated by state parks.

Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson said, “State Parks are part of our history and our future. Families depend on parks for recreation, and as the economic engine that drives our tourism industry, New York depends on them for its economy. Senate Democrats kept our promise to keep parks open for New York’s families. I commend Governor Paterson, Speaker Silver, and my legislative colleagues for standing up for our parks and the families who use them."

Senator Jose M. Serrano (D-Bronx/Manhattan), Chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation said, “The people of New York have spoken loud and clear-they don’t want their parks to close. With the sound source of revenue they provide, parks improve our economy with 5-to-1 return on investment to the state and improve the quality of life through affordable recreational activities.  I am proud to see my colleagues stand with me and pass this critical legislation that enables parks to open in time for the Memorial Day weekend.”

Parks and Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) Agreement Facts:

Parks:

·         $16 million expenditure for Parks including:

·         $11 million appropriation for Parks that faced closure including:

o   $6 million restoration of cuts to prevent the closure of 57 state parks and historic sites and reduced operations at an additional 22 parks.

o   $5 million for parks operations moved to the EPF in the Executive’s original proposal. 

·         $5 million in payments to local governments in the forest preserve. 

·         State parks will not be funded from the EPF.

·         Instead, parks will be funded from the General Fund by reprogramming Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) revenue to the General Fund for Parks Operations and reducing RETT revenue deposited in the EPF. 

·         By removing these items from being funded from the EPF, the integrity of the EPF as a capital fund is preserved since no parks operations would be appropriated from the EPF.

·         $9 million for Zoos, Botanic Gardens, and Aquaria ($4 million restoration).

·         $200,000 to prevent closing 6 DEC campgrounds and 1 educational facility.

Environmental Protection Fund:

·         $134 million in appropriation for the EPF.

·         $134 million in revenues including:

·         $119.1 million in Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) revenues.

·         $11 million in pre-existing Miscellaneous Receipts (approved in SFY 2009-10 budget). 

·         $4 million in New Revenue Proposals including:

o   $1 million in E-Waste Fees.

o   $1 million from increases to civil & criminal fines & penalties for ECL violations.

o   $2.1 million in Re-Structuring of the Fees for Hazardous Waste Generation.

§  $130 p/ton fee for hazardous waste generation. 

§  Capped at $300,000 annually in overall fee payments.

§  4,000- 10,000 tons of waste capped at $400,000 annually. 

§  Over 10,000 tons of waste capped at $800,000 annually.

Senator Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point) said, "During these tough economic times, families increasingly rely on our parks for affordable, safe, and family-friendly recreation close to home. Our commitment to fully restoring parks funding will save state parks and preserve them for children and families for generations to come."

Senator David J. Valesky (D-Oneida) said, “Our parks are the crown jewels of New York State. These state parks and historic sites are important not just for the recreation they provide, but are a critical component of our tourism industry, contribute to our quality of life and promote regional economic well being.  The Senate Democratic Majority has fought to save our parks, and as we move through the final stages of budget negotiations, I am pleased we were able to work together to make sure that our parks were saved.”

Senator Neil D. Breslin (D-Albany) said, “Restoring funding to parks will save the recreational environment that many New Yorker’s depend on. Thatcher Park is one of the most precious resources in my district that provide trails for summer hiking, mountain biking and fields for children to play.  Now we can keep Thacher Park open to give all families a place for recreation, education and cultural enrichment.”

Senator Darrel J. Aubertine (D-Cape Vincent) said, “From the day this was first proposed, I have worked with my colleagues in support of keeping our parks and historic sites open. The Thousand Islands and the Eastern Basin of Lake Ontario depend on these parks and historic sites for tourism. These attractions generate some $60 million to $80 million in economic activity in this region alone, so it is just financial common sense to make $6 million investment statewide to keep our summer economy moving.”

Senator William T. Stachowski (D-Lake View) said, “Parks are critical to families and the economy in Erie county and across the state. State parks are a vital component to our tourism industry, families depend on them for recreation and local businesses depend on the money generated from the millions of visitors who utilize them every year.  I am pleased that we were able to secure the funding to reopen our parks for Memorial Day weekend and throughout the season.”

Robin Dropkin, executive director of the parks and trails advocacy organization said, “Parks & Trails New York applauds the Governor and the legislature for finding a way to let our magnificent parks and historic sites reopen in time for the Memorial Day weekend. This is a great day for New York and for the 56 million people who visit NY’s state parks every year.  But the bad news is that we now have a compromised Environmental Protection Fund. We hope that the EPF is fully restored in the final budget, so that all aspects of New York’s environment are protected.”

Peggy Shepard, executive director of the West Harlem Environmental Action (WEACT) said, “It’s important that lawmakers were able to figure out a way to get the parks open and running this weekend and we hope there is still time to save programming at Riverbank Park. We fought too long and too hard for Riverbank Park to be held hostage in budget negotiations. It’s great they appear to have worked it out.”

State Parks Create Jobs And Strengthen Communities

Allegany Region –  1.9 million visitors, 860 jobs created and $62 million in related sales and output generated by Allegany, Lake Erie, Long Point and Midway state parks.

Saratoga/Capital Region – 3.3 million visitors, 2,929 jobs created and $249 million in related sales and output generated at Saratoga Spa, Thatcher, Grafton Lakes and Moreau Lake state parks, to name just a few.

Central Region – 2.3 million visitors, 1,620 jobs created and $134 million in related sales and output generated by Glimmerglass, Green Lakes, Verona Beach, and Chenango Valley state parks, to name just a few.

Finger Lakes Region –  3 million visitors, 1,776 jobs created and $141 million in related sales and output generated by Buttermilk Falls, Watkins Glen, Seneca Lake and Keuka Lake state parks, to name just a few.

Genesee Region – 1.2 million visitors, 675 jobs created and $58 million in related sales and output generated by Letchworth, Darien Lakes, Silver Lake and Hamlin Beach state parks, to name just a few.

Long Island Region – 19.9 million visitors, 3,992 jobs created and $410 million in related sales and output  generated by Jones Beach, Robert Moses, Montauk Point and Caleb Smith state parks, to name just a few.

New York City –  4.5 million visitors, 716 jobs created  and $61 million in related sales and output generated by Roberto Clemente, Riverbank and Gantry Plaza state parks, to name just a few.

Niagara Frontier Region -  10.3 million visitors, 4,701 jobs created and $569 million related sales and output generated by Niagara Falls, Evangola, Woodlawn Beach and Four Mile Creek state parks, to name just a few.

Palisades Region – 4.4 million visitors, 1,052 jobs created and $94 million in related sales and output generated by Harriman, Minnewaska, Bear Mountain, and Rockland Lake state parks.

Taconic Region – 3.1 million visitors, 957 jobs created and $102 million in related sales and output generated by Fahnestock, Hudson Highlands, Taconic and James Baird state parks, to name just a few.

Thousand Islands Region – 1.7 million visitors, 882 jobs created and $63 million in related sales and output generated by Cumberland Bay, St. Lawrence, Wellesley Island and Westcott Beach state parks, to name just a few.