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.
I could tell I was in for a lively conversation as I joined a group of two young boys running around the trees by the Visitor Center with their nanny. Mason (9 years old) and Colfie (10 years old) love when they get to spend time in the park with Rebecca (29 years old). The boys live two blocks away and enjoy all that Fort Greene Park has to offer, from sports to trees to wildlife.
Mason: “I usually come here with my brother and these other two kids who live with me, and we usually play sports or we just play around in the park— me and my friend were just doing baseball and it was really fun.”
Colfie: “Same for me.”
Rebecca: “And I like to read and look at the trees” *laughs*.
Mason: “It’s really fun to play in. What do you think?”
Rebecca: “I think it’s the closest green space in the neighborhood and it’s abundant with beautiful old trees that are gorgeous and make this park what it is. If it didn’t have this many trees—”
Mason: “We just saw a hawk!”
Rebecca: “Oh and we just saw a hawk. The other day I saw a hawk eating a baby squirrel.”
Mason: “Did you see the blood?”
Colfie: “Well that’s nice.”
Rebecca: “Yeah it’s the food chain you guys, survival of the fittest.”
Mason: “That hawk was pretty cool that we just saw.”
Colfie: “I think my favorite memory was my dad throwing me into a tree—literally. He threw me into one of— I think that tree" *points*.
Mason: “Well I’ve only lived here since last year, so I only came here on the last month of summer, so I haven’t really had time to really look at the park that much but I think there’s, I actually don’t know. I haven’t really noticed any changes.”
Colfie: “I noticed that down by LIU there’s been new trees planted.”
Mason: “I really like it how it is. There’s a lot of really good open space and I really like the trees. I don’t think there’s anything I would really change about Fort Greene Park. I think it’s a really cool place. Yeah.”
Rebecca: “I’m content. Of course you always see the beauty in nature and if you see any piece of garbage on the ground— it just has no place there you know. Just littering. Something I’ve taught them. Even today they unwrapped a plastic bag with balls and I made sure they didn’t leave it anywhere.”
I found Tiffany taking in her peaceful surroundings on a monument park bench. She is 35 years old and grew up in Philadelphia, spent many years in Alabama, and just recently moved to Jamaica, Queens. Having only been to Fort Greene Park twice, I gathered some of her first impressions.
“Well the first time I came there was a big thing going on called Soul Summit so that was super fun and then you know, I just wanted to come to the park again, I wanted to come back here— I liked it. Yeah you know, it’s something to do. If I feel like reading or just kinda getting out of the house then I’ll come and maybe walk around the park, maybe sit for a while.
[What values resonate with the park?] Of course the atmosphere. If it’s clean, pretty, calm. Sometimes I like to look at people, watch other people. I saw Fort Greene Park when it was packed, people everywhere, music, vendors, and then to came back a couple days later when it’s completely calm. It’s nice to sit somewhere pretty. I just like seeing people; over at the tennis court doing their thing, dogs, and this guy playing his guitar, it’s pretty calm.
[The environment] That’s incredibly important. We all gotta do our part. I appreciate things like this because I feel like when it comes to the environment it seems likes things are going downhill in a lot of ways and our government right now doesn’t really care, so I think it’s important. Parks absolutely play a role. People need to be out in nature to learn to appreciate it."
Brandon took the initiative to approach me by the basketball court, enthusiastic and ready to share his sentiments about Fort Greene Park. He’s 31 years old and has been a Fort Greene resident for 7 years as of last month. Brandon grew up on Long Island and went to school in Westchester and now finds himself living on Carlton between Myrtle and Park Avenues.
“Over the last seven years it's [his park usage] changed a lot. When I first moved here it was late night cigarettes or walking a dog and now I come here in the mornings and do Tai Chi and stuff like that—Chinese physical exercises. Sometimes it’s just to unwind, read a book, you know. [What values resonate with the park?] Diversity is a big one. Coexistence, harmony. Lot’s of people getting their life, training, everyone’s doing something here. It’s cool.
When I was living with a dog, the off-the-leash times at night or in the early morning were really fun. I have my spots, I definitely have spots. I always notice something even after 7 years, notice something new. I’m always, yeah, there’s a certain spot that I do feel like is my spot because I’ve gone and played guitar there for years. It’s a spot up there with the birdbath. I feel like that’s my spot. Fort Greene is so small and so big at the same time.
A few years ago there was a big storm. They had to remove some of the most prominent trees, some of the biggest and best really important trees that stuck out to me like big ole trees have since been removed *shakes head.* [Other than that] Not much has changed about this park for the last decade. The reason I love living here so much is that there’s such a sense of like, this park has a sense of calmness in terms of nature. It’s one of the closest things to community nature. There seems to be a lot of presence of the Conservancy, I’m into that and having dog poop bags available and things like that to keep it clean.”
Thanks for reading! I hope you're beginning to get a feel for the unique individuals who make up the Fort Greene Park community and are reflecting on what the park means to you. I'm excited to continue getting to know our park users, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to share their moving thoughts with you.
Summer Programming Intern
Middlebury College '18