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De Blasio: Five neglected city parks to get $150M renovation

Astoria Park in Queens is one of five

Astoria Park in Queens is one of five New York City parks to be renovated for about $30 million each under a plan announced Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, by Mayor Bill de Blasio. This photo from March 9, 2013, also shows the Triborough Bridge (since renamed the RFK Bridge) connecting Queens with the Bronx across the water. Photo Credit: AP / Beth J. Harpaz

New York City plans to spend $150 million to fix up five parks serving neighborhoods that Mayor Bill de Blasio lamented had long been neglected.

With dozens of children fidgeting in the background, de Blasio and his parks commissioner said work on parks to build hiking trails, soccer fields, running tracks and more is expected to be finished by 2020.

“Talk about something that was fundamentally unfair,” de Blasio said at a news conference in St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx. “The people that needed it the most got the least, and we all know that for years and years our city government didn’t look at all five boroughs equally and the way our money was distributed didn’t reflect where the people lived, so here’s a chance to right some wrongs.”

The parks to be renovated — each for about $30 million — are St. Mary’s, Highbridge Park in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, Betsy Head Park in Brooklyn’s Brownsville, Astoria Park in Queens and Freshkills Park on Staten Island. In total, those parks serve about 750,000 people, who live within walking distance. There are about 1,700 parks in the city.

A de Blasio initiative announced in October committed $285 million for parks in poorer neighborhoods.

City Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan), the chamber’s parks chairman, said “we’re going to be there for communities who desperately need these wonderful green spaces to be brought to life.

“Let’s be frank, a lot of folks aren’t going to be able afford a weekend in the Hamptons,” he said.

De Blasio would not rule out the possibility of tithing private foundations set up for parks like Central and Prospect that serve richer neighborhoods, in order to fund parks in poor neighborhoods.

“Join us in doing it, we won’t have to put mandates on you,” de Blasio said of his messages to the foundations and conservancies. “We’ve made some progress. The conservancies are doing some of the right things now. There’s more they can do.”

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