Advocating for park funding is a heavy lift during the best of times— let alone during a global pandemic. But in New York City, on Friday, March 13th, where a campaign rally months in the planning was about to launch, the quick-thinking staff of the Play Fair Coalition quickly shifted gears.
Director of Outreach & Programs Emily Walker and Director of Research & Policy at New Yorkers for Parks (NY4P) Lucy Robson explained their nimble, creative pivot during a recent Peer-to-Peer Citywide Park Nonprofit Network online discussion that City Parks Alliance hosted on March 18: “Play Fair is a multi-year advocacy campaign for parks leading up to the mayoral election in 2021. In 2019, we kicked off the Play Fair campaign by focusing on a significant increase to the expense budget for the NY Parks Department, which would secure funding for much-needed maintenance, gardener and park worker positions in the city budget.”
Surpassing most people’s wildest expectations, the campaign succeeded in getting $44M added to the NYC Parks budget – the biggest increase in more than 3 decades.
“After ramping up for this year, the 2020 campaign was set. We had planned to gather on the steps of City Hall to show the force of our coalition, which now includes over 250 organizations. Suddenly the Play Fair Coalition found itself amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We pivoted to a digital rally on Twitter instead and posted videos of coalition members calling on the city to increase the NYC Parks budget by $200 million.”
Lucy and Emily’s quick thinking and creative response to their fundraising dilemma opened the floodgates of ideas for their peers to jump into further conversation among the growing national network.
Executive Director of Parks & People in Washington, DC, Steve Coleman, said of City Parks Alliance’s peer-to-peer webinar: “It was inspiring to hear the story of New Yorkers for Parks lifting up the parks when they are both most desperately needed and in some ways most difficult to support. We shared the story of their digital rally and successful budget advocacy with many of our partners here in DC, along with ideas and innovations that other citywide park partners shared from across the country. We are all wrestling with the special challenges of this public health crisis.”
Coleman went on to say, “On a practical level, the virus has revealed a fundamental shortfall in our civic life that parks and park partnerships can in some ways uniquely help fill. While many public health leaders are telling people to get fresh air while practicing social distancing, there has been very little guidance about exactly how to do that. We are developing materials to help counter our outdoor illiteracy and use nature safely to help counter the virus.”
The Peer-to-Peer City-wide Park Nonprofit Network webinar was a reminder of how invaluable it is to cross-fertilize important and transferrable work across America and beyond — especially now.
The next network online discussion is slated for early June; registration details will be posted on our events page once available.
View more information about the NY4P’s Play Fair Campaign here.