Did you know that it costs the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation $507,000.00 to construct a new Bocce Court? Doesn’t this seem to be a tad bit too expensive?
Last week I attended a meeting of Queens Community Board 7’s Parks Committee. The Parks Department came before the committee to get approval on three projects. The first project was to construct an additional Bocce Court in Bowne Park right next to the existing Bocce Court. You can imagine my shock and dismay when Parks Department representatives said it was going to cost tax payers $507,000.00 to construct the new court. How could adding some new benches, creating a court out of wood, cement, etc. cost taxpayers $507,000.00?
Equally shocking WAS the fact that construction of the court would take about a year, and the existing court would be closed for the entire time the new court is built. What this means is that residents of Queens County who use the old bocce court will have to be inconvenienced by having to go somewhere else to play Bocce for a year. This seems to be a bit harsh. Surely the Parks Department could find a contractor to build this new court cheaper and much quicker than one year.
When members of the committee questioned Parks as to why the cost to construct the court was so high, they merely answered, “because that’s how much it costs.” That type of answer is unacceptable. Another project that came before the committee that night was the renovation of a historic building in Fort Totten Park, where the total cost for the renovation would be well over one million dollars. While I can understand the high costs of repairing a historic building, I cannot understand nor accept the cost of $507,000.00 for a Bocce Court.
What that meeting showed me is that the New York City Department of Parks and recreation lacks transparency and accountability. In a bad economy, we must ensure that all projects are spending the taxpayers money wisely. (Did you know that the Parks Department takes 1/3 of the total cost of the project off the top for what they call design services. The public has no idea where that money goes or what it’s being used for.)
There are many other parks projects in Queens that people have questioned how the funds are being spent. I felt it was time someone brought attention to this problem. I call upon Comptroller John Liu to do an immediate audit of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation expenses to ensure that our parks are being taken care of properly and that our taxpayer money is spent wisely.
Matthew Silverstein is the Democratic State Committeeman of the 26th AD and the 2nd Vice President of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance