As the temperatures drops, activity around the park seems to slow down just enough to give us a moment to reflect on the past year and all that we accomplished. 2017 was a tremendous year for FGPC— we hired an additional full-time staff person, took on a team of two fantastic interns to support our summer programming, and welcomed two NYC Service Civic Corps Members in the fall to lead and grow our volunteer efforts during their ten-month term of service. In our final stretch of the year, we are planning for a monumental 2018 and cannot wait to share all we have planned for the year ahead. Before we get there, we want to reflect on five things that made 2017 incredible:
One of the greatest joys of my position as Director of Fort Greene Park involves the support I get from the community to fulfill the essential elements of my job description: keeping the park clean, green, and safe. There’s a lot of love for this park—harnessing that passion in constructive ways is far easier with an incredible partner in the Fort Greene Park Conservancy. In 2017, the partnership between NYC Parks and the Conservancy yielded a variety of successful collaborations, from extended summer hours at the Visitor Center to helping ensure broad and extensive public input on the design of Parks without Borders (PWB).
As I conducted my final round of interviews, I felt bittersweet—torn between the anticipation of finally being able to share my project with the public and the disappointment of missing out on so many potential insightful interactions. No longer equipped with an excuse to initiate conversation with perfect strangers, I now find myself seeking out interesting park users and then remembering with a wave of disappointment that I no longer have a use for their stories. Not only has this project taught me about the wide variety of unique qualities of Fort Greene Park but also about the value in getting to know people I might not typically encounter in my day-to-day life. I hope you enjoy this final addition to Humans of Fort Greene Park and find yourself having learned something over the course of the series.
I’m beginning to see a potential link between what Fort Greene Park means to park users and promoting environmentalism. The connection between spending time in nature and learning to appreciate both nature as its own entity in addition to the mental and physical health benefits of spending time outdoors is key to caring about the environment. However, other values less concretely linked to the environment such as family, community, and coexistence have been surfacing in these interviews. These findings have led me to believe that a potentially successful method of encouraging environmentalism could be framing environmental issues in terms of these seemingly unrelated values
As I get deeper into this project I’ve heard some thoughts that are consistent with expectations I had in developing the idea for this blog. As an environmental studies and psychology major, I’m very passionate about finding the intersection between how people feel about the “environment” as tangible, local green spaces along with more overarching views on protecting the planet and fighting climate change. I’ve found the common themes of individuals holding value in public spaces and urban green spaces exciting and as I move forward I hope to begin to see ways to connect other seemingly unrelated but equally prevalent park values like culture and community to environmentalism.
As I’ve continued to conduct interviews, the value of this experience has become increasingly apparent. I’ve been finding myself anxious for each workday to begin so that I can learn from the people with whom I might never have crossed paths were it not for this project. The lens through which I view the park has been shifting as well, with memories of conversations directing my eye to previously overlooked qualities. I hope your views on Fort Greene Park have been similarly affected, and if not, keep reading!
My second round of interviews did not disappoint. I never fail to be pleasantly surprised by how open and willing to chat Fort Greene Park users are. The passion they have for this space clearly comes across in a desire to share thoughts on the park with me, a perfect stranger. Some common threads are beginning to emerge regarding values that resonate with Fort Greene Park and parks in general, so consider whether these ring true with yourself as you read my next blog post.
One of most notable qualities of Fort Greene Park is the diverse and inclusive community of park users. The individuals who spend time here, both frequenters and newbies, truly paint the character of this space. With the hopes of getting a glimpse into the relationships visitors across all walks of life have with Fort Greene Park, I’ve set out on a "Humans of New York"-esque mission to interview randomly selected park goers. My objective is to encourage readers to discover meaningful connections with Fort Greene Park through the inspiring anecdotes of park community members that will in-turn improve environmentally friendly behavior and community engagement. I hope you as a reader find these blog posts both engaging and revealing about the values held by community members who all share an appreciation for Fort Greene Park.
All that glitters is not gold — sometimes it’s glass! One Map of Many Moments, the newly-completed glass mosaic map of the park, celebrates volunteerism and stewardship in Fort Greene Park. With the help of many neighborhood hands and minds, we worked together with local artist Amanda Patenaude to transform park trash into our community’s newest treasure.
We’ve got a lot to be thankful for in 2016—new partnerships with great neighbors like Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Kickstarter, and The Brooklyn Hospital; our biggest programming season ever, with over 60 free events; and the completion of our first capital project on Washington Park. All of this, in what was just our first year as a staffed organization. As a new year approaches, we know that we will still need to provide critical resources for the work that needs to be done in Fort Greene Park in 2017. So at our Third Annual Tree Lighting this weekend with the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, we asked Santa for a few things below that we would really, really love to find under the tree this year.
Our community has a lot to celebrate as the year draws to a close. Before we jump into 2017, here’s a reflection on a year of landscape changes at Fort Greene Park.
Installed in late May 2016, Outer Seed Shadow (OSS) #02 serves as a green space to discuss issues of coexistence, immigration, and cultural identity. It is the second of five gardens to be installed in each of the boroughs of New York City. The term “outer seed shadow” relates to plant migration, and is the region where there exists an influx of seeds from a species’ reproductive core, but where—due to adverse conditions—seed germination and seedling reproduction are complicated, causing a decrease of those species’ representatives in this region.
On June 30th, the Fort Greene Park Conservancy and the Brooklyn Hospital partnered to beautify the corridor between Dekalb Avenue and Fort Greene Place, connecting the hospital campus to the park both aesthetically and physically. Staff members at the Brooklyn Hospital—as part of their annual community day of service—generously volunteered their time and worked with the FGPC to create a beautiful mural for the fence. The hospital worked on the mural as part of its Good Neighbors campaign, designed to support community-focused programs—and to celebrate a joint artistic endeavor with its park neighbors.
The many jubilant children, parents, and caretakers who attended Fort Greene Park's weekly Kids Concert on June 29th were treated to the musical stylings of one of Brooklyn's most popular children's artists, Mil's Trills. Over 500 people filled into the grove of London Planes by the Monument Plaza, creating a palpable energy that permeated through all who were present and only increased as the performance went on.
Fort Greene Park’s garden beds need your help. We are launching the Fort Greene Park Volunteer Gardener program today to give area residents the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of horticulture while playing an active role in developing and nurturing the more than 35 gardens spread across the park.
Many of you may be familiar with Fort Greene Park’s remarkable place in American history. Formerly a strategic outpost in the American Revolution and War of 1812, our park played a critical role in the founding of our nation. On February 20th—with the help of the NYC Parks and Boy Scout Troop 237—Fort Greene Park was transformed once again into an early American stronghold, regalia and all.
Fort Greene Park faces an existential crisis; with each rainstorm, a little bit of the park washes away. Our park’s hill has been eroding ever since it was formed by glacial deposits of silt and debris some 20,000 years ago. The erosion accelerated on Feb. 16 when an inch of rain fell, including an unusually heavy amount in the late afternoon.
As the sun works its way to melt the two feet of snow that fell on Fort Greene Park last weekend, we wanted to take a moment to relive the wonder of the snow and community. With the chatter of an impending and possible record-breaking winter storm on our radar, the staff at Fort Greene Park prepared for the snow and the sledders to follow suit. Neither failed to disappoint. Hundreds of people came out to the Park over the weekend and took advantage of the slopes created tens and thousands of years ago from the retreat of the Wisconsin ice sheet. People went to all corners of the Park bringing, not only wooden and plastic sleds, but snowboards, surf boards, snowshoes, and a variety of homemade contraptions.
Christmas came slightly early to Fort Greene Park this year when the gates to the long-awaited Willoughby Avenue Entrance capital project were opened to the public on the evening of December 24. The $2.5 million capital project had some delays earlier in the year primarily due to necessary engineering redesigns crucial to protecting several major city water mains that run beneath the park. Last Monday, after a meeting between the contractors, representatives from Nancy Owens Studio, Fort Green Park Conservancy, and NYC Parks, the entrance and pathways of the project were deemed ready for public use a week before the New Year.
For many of us at Fort Greene Park, including myself, this is the first time all 30 acres of the park have been open to the public since we started working here, and it has been a thrill to explore a new part of our beloved park. Here are some things to check out the next time you walk through the Willoughby Avenue capital project area.
Last month, NYC Parks officially launched Parks Without Borders — an agency-level initiative “to make parks mroe open, welcoming and beautiful by improving entrances, edges, and park-adjacent spaces. First announced as part of Vision 3 in Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC, Parks Without is backed by $50 Million in Mayoral funding to make transformative changes that make parks more accessible, improve neighborhoods, and create vibrant public places. It’s something that’s been on our radar for quite some time — even though Fort Greene Park has some lovely, historic walls, it also has plenty of perimeter space outside those walls that we think could benefit tremendously from the Parks Without Borders treatment. Now that the program is live, we’re excited to share with you how we’re working towards ensuring that Fort Greene Park receives some of the funding that’s out there.