Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is calling on the Parks Department to rescind the sharp increase in admission fees at 32 neighborhood recreation centers. In a letter to the Parks Commissioner sent Wednesday, de Blasio challenged the rationale for an increase, which led to a major drop in membership at rec centers and an overall drop in revenue for the agency. De Blasio called the fee hike a “black mark on the City’s public health record” that undercuts anti-obesity efforts.
Read the full letter below:
September 26, 2012
Commissioner Veronica White
New York, NY, 10065
Dear Commissioner White:
The Parks Department could not have made a more fiscally imprudent and socially counter-productive move in raising fees at neighborhood recreation centers. Recent reports indicate that revenue plummeted by $200,000 after the Department doubled registration fees at 32 recreation centers. Records show that more than 50,000 New Yorkers canceled their memberships when the annual admission fee for adults skyrocketed from $50 to $100. The reduction shows a clear budgetary breaking point in this punitive approach to raising revenue—one that we must immediately correct.
While these increases may seem modest compared to those at private health clubs, the ballooning membership fees are clearly prohibitive for New Yorkers who rely on these centers. Half of the 36,153 senior citizens who previously used our recreation centers dropped their membership when their fees jumped. The rush to squeeze revenue from recreation centers that serve low- and middle-income New Yorkers stands in stark contrast with our parks’ historic mission and the needs of New Yorkers in all five boroughs.
This fee hike is a black mark on the City’s public health record. Assessing a hidden tax on exercise defies medical science and common sense. By raising fees, the Administration has undercut its own anti-obesity policies. I count myself a supporter of many of the City’s anti-obesity efforts, but their success depends on encouraging healthy lifestyle choices like regular exercise. It may not be cutting edge policy, but it works. This must remain a critical part of our public health efforts.
I urge the City to promptly rescind this fiscally and socially irresponsible policy, and return the fees to their previous level.
Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate for the City of New York