Virginia Freire

PPA Profiles 150: Council Member Laurie Cumbo

May 17, 2017

This year, as Prospect Park celebrates its 150th anniversary, we’re bringing you stories from members of the community about the impact the Park has had on their lives. Interested in contributing your own? Submit your story and we might share it with other Park lovers! Image c. Virginia Freire Photography

New York City Council Member Laurie Cumbo and Prospect Park are tied together in a number of significant ways. Growing up in East Flatbush, Cumbo visited the Park regularly for nature walks. Her sister participated in the Urban Park Rangers program, and one of Cumbo’s first summer jobs was as a Park Youth Rep at the Carousel.

“I remember it being a fun job,” she said. As a member of the City Council, she recently allocated $500,000 for Prospect Park Alliance to make improvements to the Carousel, including structural work and mechanical upgrades. And these days, she’s looking forward to visiting the Carousel in a new capacity—as a parent.

“I’m expecting!,” Cumbo revealed during a recent visit to Prospect Park. “It’s going to be so nostalgic to be able to come here with my child and have him experience what I experienced.” On May 1, 42-year old Cumbo publicly announced her pregnancy in a Facebook post saying: “If Janet can have a baby at 50, Serena can win the Australian Open at two months pregnant and Beyonce can perform live at the Grammys, pregnant with twins… I know that I can accomplish anything with the love, support and prayers of the village.”

Prior to becoming a City Council Member, Cumbo founded Brooklyn’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) and served as its executive director for over a decade. “Working with Brooklyn-based organizations, you really feel that you are part of the success of the borough,” said Cumbo, “and when you feel the success of the borough, you want to be a part of its continued evolution.”

In 2013, Cumbo successfully ran for public office to represent the 35th District in the New York City Council, an area that includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. “To be a City Council Member is phenomenal because now you have a voice at the table,” said Cumbo, “you can determine the direction that the borough goes in.”

Cumbo particularly values parks. “It’s important when you’re living in an urban environment that you have balance, and an ability to connect to nature,” she said.

In addition to funding the restoration of the Prospect Park Carousel, Cumbo—along with Borough President Eric Adams—is also providing funding the Alliance’s work to restore the Park’s Flatbush Avenue perimeter. The project includes reconstructing the sidewalk and fencing, and installing new street furniture, lighting and landscaping. The project will go far in improving accessibility to the east side of the Park.

“It’s important that we continue to support Prospect Park Alliance and the important work being accomplished,” said Cumbo. “You want to leave the next generation in a better place than the way it was when you found it. Prospect Park really is a special place to me.”

Learn more about the improvements to the Flatbush Avenue perimeter.