Dear Fort Greene Park Community,
I write to share some exciting changes to how your NYC Parks maintenance team cares for Fort Greene Park. You may have already noticed a few of the changes in the last month - new trash and recycling receptacles, golf carts replacing large trucks on pathways, and staff cleaning earlier and later in the day. The strategy we are adopting, known as “Zone Management,” is all about keeping the park cleaner and greener. I am calling on your help as we introduce Zone Management this summer to pitch in through a number of ways.
The Central Park Conservancy pioneered the Zone Management approach in 1995 at a time when roving crews cleaned the park, with little accountability for maintenance in defined locations. All that changed with the dividing of the park into 49 distinct zones and the assigning of a dedicated worker responsible for all upkeep in their particular part of the park. The new system empowered staff to identify improvements and forge relationships with park users. Over time, staff became more efficient as they learned the daily use patterns in their zone. A cleaner park discouraged littering and patrons became less likely to drop litter on the ground when they saw the same person working in the same area every day. NYC Parks followed Central Park Conservancy’s lead in 2016 with the roll out of Zone Management at Crotona Park in the Bronx as a pilot initiative. Now, NYC Parks is building on the measurable success of the Crotona pilot and taking the Zone approach to McCarren Park in Greenpoint/Williamsburg and here, at Fort Greene.
Our park will be divided into three zones this summer and two in the off-season, though the boundaries won’t be visible. You will however notice more staffing, new equipment, and ultimately, an elevated level of care. We recently said farewell to the steel oil drum trash cans and replaced them with a reduced number of new paired trash and recycling receptacles anchored to the paths. You may already be wondering: “what happened to my trash can?!” Having trash cans every 200 feet instead of say, every fifty feet improves the aesthetics of the park so you can enjoy the rolling hills and monument vistas without looking at or smelling receptacles. The old drums often migrated onto lawns, harming the natural features of the park. They also lacked a lid, so each can served as an open snack bar for rodents. Finally, fewer receptacles means fewer stops for the Zone worker so he/she can spend more time addressing other tasks like mowing lawns, filling potholes, or mending fencing. Thank you for walking a little farther to deposit your garbage and in doing so, sharing in the responsibility for keeping Fort Greene clean and beautiful.
Next to each new trash receptacle, you’ll see a blue recycling receptacle for metal, glass, and plastic. NYC’s Greenest agency is all about sustainability, and we will need your help to ensure the success of the recycling. The benefits of public space recycling are often compromised by the addition of non-recyclables like food or paper coffee cups to each receptacle. The rules at home are the same in the park: recycle only metal, rigid plastics, and glass bottles and jars in the receptacles with the blue lids. In the BBQ area, two bright red bins specially designed for coals have been installed to reduce the dumping of coals on lawns and at the base of trees. Another way Zone Management reduces the environmental impact of park operations is through the introduction of electric and battery-operated equipment such as golf carts, weed wackers, and blowers that get the job done without the noise and fumes.
A team of nearly 20 maintenance staff dedicated just to Fort Greene Park will be supporting the implementation. Eight of those workers are dedicated to the zones, providing coverage from 7 am to 10 pm seven days a week. The additional coverage makes a huge difference, allowing us to keep bathrooms open later, reduce the morning after messes from busy summer weekends, and provide customer service when the park is busiest. A Zone worker starts the shift picking up litter and emptying trash and recycling receptacles before moving on to other maintenance priorities depending on the season. Bags get shuttled to two perimeter holding areas via the golf cart. In the past, the park has relied on a large garbage truck to navigate busy paths. With Zone Management, the garbage truck sticks to the outside. I urge you to introduce yourself to your Zone worker and don’t hesitate to ask for an extra bag for your picnic or to clean up after your dog. Look for some short profiles of the Zone team in upcoming posts.
In addition to maintenance, Zone Management brings six Park Enforcement Officers who will provide coverage from 7 am to 10 pm as well. I hear almost every week about the need for enforcement of rules to ensure harmony among the many different constituencies who use our park and to prevent illegal activities that damage the landscape. The officers will be writing tickets and the fines are steep. For example, the ticket for an unleashed dog (between 9 am and 9 pm) or an uncontrolled dog – offenses that have risen in recent years as measured by 311 complaints – comes with a $100 ticket.
This infusion of extra city-funded maintenance and enforcement resources comes at a time when our neighborhood is growing and picnic areas, playgrounds, tennis courts, and our fragile slopes will be busier than ever this summer. My team’s first priority is to keep the landscape clean so that we all can enjoy the natural beauty of the park. A dirty park leads to other problems from pests to criminal behavior. Thankfully, much of our community already cares and respects the park. As measured by the number of volunteers, stewardship continues to grow. With Zone Management, we have the opportunity to raise the bar for cleanliness and also build on how we manage our lawns, gardens, and other landscape features.
The poet and founding father of our park, Walt Whitman, would be 200 years old next year. In his Brooklyn Eagle newspaper editorials, he argued for the setting aside of the land that would become Fort Greene Park to serve as a “lung” for the growing city of Brooklyn. A park is never done; it requires constant care and upkeep. I can think of no better way to honor Whitman’s legacy than by elevating our standards for how we care for our vibrant, community park.
Wishing you a fun and safe summer from the Fort Greene Park Team,
Fort Greene Park Director
If you’d like to help promote the new maintenance changes and educate park visitors about park history and news, I encourage you to volunteer as a Park Greeter through the Fort Greene Park Conservancy this summer.