I’m beginning to see a link between what Fort Greene Park means to park users and their thoughts on environmentalism. There is a connection between spending time in nature and learning to appreciate it and the mental and physical health benefits of spending time outdoors. However, other values, less concretely linked to the environment, such as family, community, and coexistence have been surfacing in these interviews as well.
Feel free to consider my musings (clearly those of an environmental studies major) or just continue reading for the sake of learning about some cool people and a cool park!
Verhia was nice enough to stop on her walk through the park along Myrtle Avenue to share some of her experiences with me. A long-term Fort Greene Park visitor, she’s lived between Myrtle and North Portland for 24 years.
“Sometimes I read books or sometimes it’s barbecues here or I sit over here or I walk up the stairs and do exercise in the morning.
This is a monument, up there is a monument of army people that died and are buried here. It means a lot of soldiers fight for this country and they rest in peace here. They’ve been cleaning it up and planting flowers here. The park mainly stays the same but I see different races. You feel more comfortable here with a mix of races, it’s a community. I have four sisters in the army so the monument represents our life. For me as well as my family.
If I could change one thing it would be to have more spots for senior citizens because this is a park of families. Every generation will spend time here. If the park wasn’t here, I don’t know where we would go. Everyone has a spot in the park. Everyone has a place. Everyone feels at home. People are playing basketball over there, barbecuing over there, exercising over there, playing chess over there, everyone loves it. The park really gives people a peace of mind, an escape. Physically and mentally. You know you come here to talk and it just, stays in the air. That’s peace of mind. It keeps the kids out of trouble and off the streets.
The park has looked cleaner and more maintained compared to how it used to be. The Conservancy is doing its job, yeah, definitely."
Rick joked about my interview snacks being gluten free as he pulled over his bike to talk to me by the basketball courts. He’s 34 years old and lives in Bed-Stuy.
"I usually spend my time here playing soccer or getting the view. [Do you feel a sense of ownership?] Yes I’m a taxpayer and the parks are public spaces and everyone should generally find a way to use them. Hopefully it makes them happy enough, albeit it’s never going to be perfect, that’s impossible. I don’t know the history of the park but it’s a nice play to be. I don’t have a cool abstract answer I'm sorry *laughs*.
I haven’t noticed any changes. [Gentrification] Probably that’s happening. I don’t live so close to the park but I pass through all the time on my way to work and sometimes for events or whatever. [What are your thoughts on parks and the environment?] I don’t think they’re necessary but I hope that it helps and that people can appreciate green spaces, urban dwellers can appreciate the modest green spaces we have to be more aware of those issues. Yeah, I mean I’m certainly a progressive pro-environmental person so whatever it takes for urban dwellers to garner that appreciation is important.
[Do you know what FGPC is?] Something like the Prospect Park Alliance or Central Park Conservancy where they don’t let people do things in the park usually *laughs* I’m joking. Although I do want to have a frisbee golf course in Prospect Park but they’ll never let us do it. There isn’t a disc golf course within 50 miles of NYC. Isn’t that ridiculous, all the hipsters and there isn’t one with baskets within 50 miles of New York. These are all good questions and kudos to you for taking the time. Sorry I don’t have the answers to how to solve gentrification— that’s why I ride a bicycle and don’t have a fancy car I guess."
New to Fort Greene Park, Vanessa was enthusiastic to provide some opinions and learn about her new favorite lunch spot on the benches by Dekalb Ave. A 17 year-old from Westchester, she’s recently become aware of Fort Greene Park because she’s begun taking classes at City Technical College of New York. Although she’s only visited the park two times so far, Vanessa provided some insights into the park culture and assures me she is soon to be a park regular.
"I usually just sit down somewhere. I think one time I sat on that bench over there and one time I sat at that bench. I don’t really know what’s up there [the monument stairs] but it looks cool *laughs*.
It has really nice scenery, all the trees and everything. I came here to eat my food today. I would rather be outside than in a classroom. There are a lot of people playing, even the kids being here, it makes you feel like you’re part of the community— even though it’s my second time here. And the people over there playing basketball. Some parks are just so dead; I don’t know, Fort Greene Park is nice.
I try and recycle as much as I can and stuff, I don’t have one of those what’s it called, when you put the dirt and the food in there *laughing* I try and clean up whenever I can after myself and when other people leave junk on the table I throw it out. I think it just looks so trashy when people leave their junk on the table and from what I’ve seen when I come here it’s pretty clean. That dude just took his trash off the table—go you!”
Summer Programming Intern
Middlebury College '18