Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Staffing the Swappable Park

You wouldn't run a library or senior center without staff, yet that's exactly the model of how our area parks are run. As a study by the RAND Corp said about LA's parks, "Supervisied activities draw more people to the park" I know every year the CB4 Parks committee asks for staff and every year they don't get any. Our Parks Dept is very underfunded so hiring  recreation  staff may not be possible, but  here are other ways to staff a Swappable Park...
-BID Plaza/ Conservancy  Parks 
Our BIDS and Conservancy Parks have upteen staffers for cleaning and security, add to that all their staff for events programming and gardeners and hanging baskets. . And then there's their staff who act as Art Curators.

Hanging Basket Flatiron Bid

 How about they spend a bit of money on day to day staffing for a Swappable Park ? With their Game On  Active Recreation   the Downtown Alliance BID has transformed Water Street into a Swappable Park, they also have staffed their swappable park. I talked to one of the staffers who said they had multiple staffers keeping an eye on their locations.
Game On staffer on right

-Funding by Parks Conservancies for Swappable Parks in Neighborhood Parks and Playground
Chelsea/Flatiron area BIDS and Parks Conservancies manage some of the richest parks/public spaces in the country, their combined budget is over $46 million dollars a year A NYT article quoted Tupper Thomas of New Yorkers for Parks, she met with representatives of nearly a dozen parks conservancies and said : ...All of these conservancies are more than happy to start to figure out how to get some other kinds of funding into these parks.  Jenny Gertsen director of the High Line has said "Our main priority is to the neighborhood and the community, and we're interested in seeing how we can serve them either on the High Line or off the High Line." - link
You'll find a suggestion for a Worth Square swappable  park here. Currently Madison Square Park maintains Worth Square Park. How about in  lieu of funding it, staffing a swappable park at Worth Square  would be of benefit to everyone in the community.

80/20 Staffing:
Currently maintenance workers and porters at parks do maintenance work and cleaning . I suspect these are not the kind of jobs that rate really high on job satisfaction.
How about all new hires get a new job opportunity. 80% of your job is the standard job description. The other 20% is to be a recreation specialist for a day a week. Rather then just pick up leaves all the time, suddenly parks employees will get to be part of play 1 day a week. The employees will be happier and parks users will be happier, our parks will now have staffing allowing for Swappable Parks and a greater range of activities to meet EVERYONES needs, in every age range and many more active recreation opportunities. BTW existing employees should be allowed to opt in to the 80/20 system.
If you seed a swappable park with recreation staff from the High Line or 80/20 Park employees staffing for a day or two a week, you can expect people who live in the neighborhood to volunteer also. The Jefferson Market Garden has over 50 people who volunteer to sit and greet people coming to the garden. The Oasis Garden and Clinton Garden's in Hell's Kitchen has volunteers who keep the gardens open to the public on weekends. If you give parents the possibility of better recreation opportunities for their kids hopefully they step up to volunteer. 

Volunteer at Jefferson Market garden(right)