By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
While Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota are presenting their cases to the public on who should be the city’s next mayor, one north Brooklyn lawmaker said he wants whoever is elected to give park users a break.
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Greenpoint-Wililamsburg) said he will call on the next mayor to decrease membership fees for city-operated athletic facilities, including city-run recreation centers, ball fields and tennis courts in public parks. The fees for recreational memberships increased in July 2011, Lentol said.
“These fee hikes are pricing people out of the means to lead a healthy life,” Lentol charged. “In these tough economic times disposable income is hard to come by and city rec centers have long been known to be the most affordable option,” he said.
The city’s Parks Department operates dozens of membership driven recreational centers in Brooklyn. The agency also requires groups to obtain permits to use ball fields in city parks for organized sports, such as little league baseball.
Lentol’s call for action comes in the wake of a report issued by the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) analyzing the membership and revenue data of the New York City Parks Department’s athletic facilities.
The report concluded that the budget shortfall, which the fee increase was intended to close, had severely fallen short. The fee increase was projected to result in $6.3 million in revenue for 2012, yet IBO’s report uncovered only $1.1 million in revenue.
The report also highlighted a drastic decline in memberships for 2012 as a result of the fee increase. The most significant decrease of 52 percent was seen in memberships at recreation centers, where adult and senior fees doubled, according to Lentol.
“The city needs to find other ways to close budget shortfalls while not hurting the health and wellness of the public. I applaud the IBO for this report and hope the next mayor makes the right decision to lower the fees,” Lentol said.