In the News: Mixed Reviews for Park Conditions

by Anne Schwartz, November, 1999

The City still has a long way to go in maintaining its large parks and natural areas, according to a summertime survey of large parks by The Parks Council, a nonprofit parks advocacy group. Researchers looked at lawns, natural areas, trees, paths, ball fields, tennis courts, bathrooms, benches and drinking fountains in ten large parks, two in each borough. The study, conducted with Columbia University, found that only 65% of the parks' facilities were in acceptable condition. This is up from 56% last year, but still significantly lower than the 87% acceptable rating of the small parks and playgrounds, by the Parks Department's own surveys.

Parks Commissioner Henry Stern told the Daily News that last year's Parks Council survey prompted the Parks Department to begin its own inspection sof city parks larger than six acres. He said the department came up with an acceptable rating of 71%. Mark Caserta, director of public policy at The Parks Council, noted that Parks Department inspections of small parks and playgrounds have led to a significant improvement in conditions in these heavily used areass. "We want to see all parks inspected and managed effectively," he said.

Anne Sounds Off: Indiscriminate West Nile Spraying

There has been a lot of concern about potential harm to human health from the recent malathion spraying for mosquitoes that may carry West Nile virus. But what of the city's wildlife? Many city parks, especially in Queens, were sprayed repeatedly. There was a reason the Feds quietly asked the City to keep its helicopters away from Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Malathion doesn't selectively target mosquitoes. In addition to reducing all insect populations--an essential link in the food chain--it may harm wildlife in other, yet-to-be-discovered ways.

Dr. John Tancredi, cheif of natural resources at Gateway, said, "We advocate using IPM (Integrated Pest Management). He said the refuge has been monitoring for the mosquito that carries West Nile, collecting blood samples of "anything that's alive," and has federal approval to use a bacterial larvicide if needed. "Under any circumstances, mosquito control should be directed at larvae before the mosquitoes hatch," he said. In case West Nile remains a threat next year, the City should have ready a smarter, biologically based plan instead of bombarding the parks and streets with pesticide.