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De Blasio sets face-lift for disadvantaged parks

Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference

Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference on Sept. 25, 2014, in Manhattan. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

Parks in dozens of the city's less-glamorous neighborhoods will get a $130 million face-lift under a plan announced Tuesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The 35 parks in 28 areas are in "densely populated . . . neighborhoods with higher-than-average concentrations of poverty," the mayor's office said.

They include Longfellow Garden in the Bronx, Ten Eyck Playground in Brooklyn, Sol Lain Playground in Manhattan, Grassmere Playground in Queens and Arrochar Playground in Staten Island.

The news conference, attended by local grade schoolers, was held at Flushing's Bowne Playground, which has pockmarked asphalt and aging equipment.

"This park, honestly, needs a lot of love," said Tupper Thomas, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, an advocacy group.

"Let me ask you a question, all the children, do you want us to spend more money on parks?" de Blasio asked the assembled youngsters.

"Yes!" they cheered.

"There you go! The people have spoken. Because of their demands, we will now spend more money on parks, because that's how democracy works," the mayor said.

About $80 million of the $130 million comes from funds allocated during the waning days of de Blasio's predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.

Several of the speakers, including the mayor, Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, criticized the past administration's parks policy, which they suggested gave short shrift to poorer communities.

"It just wasn't a priority," de Blasio said.

A Bloomberg-era parks commissioner, Veronica White, said on that the administration made $5 billion in capital park investments, "with the vast majority" in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and northern Manhattan.

De Blasio and other advocates did not rule out an idea floated last year to tithe wealthy conservancies like those that manage Prospect and Central parks to help fund parks in poorer neighborhoods.

In the past, de Blasio backed such a plan -- state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn) proposed a 20 percent tithe -- but Tuesday he said only that he expects them to voluntarily kick in money and "all ideas are on the table."

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