PPA Profiles: Franklyn Sookram

May 1, 2014

There are few people in Brooklyn who know more about the flora of Prospect Park than Franklyn Sookram, NYC Parks Horticulture Crew Chief, who retires this month. Over the past three decades, he and his crew have planted many of the shrubs, flowers and trees in the Park that have shaped the landscapes. He can assess flat and sloping grade of a lawn with laser-like precision and knows many of the trees personally. “I can recall the year and season most of these trees were planted. Everything that grows in Prospect Park has a story.”

Originally from Grenada, Franklyn moved to Brooklyn in 1976. He was a horticulturalist at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for many years before coming to Prospect Park in 1985, just two years before the Alliance was founded. He supervises a crew of Prospect Park Alliance and NYC Parks horticulturalists and maintenance workers, reflecting the partnership that makes Prospect Park so great. Most people know that groundskeepers are essential to the Park, but few people know what a horticulturalist actually does. Obviously they plant, water and prune, but in Prospect Park they also install fencing, repair trails, mulch, fertilize, deliver supplies, propagate native plants and remove invasive species.

We asked Franklyn if he had any words of wisdom for future horticulturalists and the general public. His answer was simple: upkeep. Prospect Park features hundreds of acres of landscaping that require year-round care. In the plant world, the health of the plants and trees need expert supervision. A lack of resources can spread the work thin, resulting in erosion, brittle branches and failing root systems. This is usually exacerbated by the damage of a powerful storm.

“Franklyn not only brought a set of highly skilled hands and eyes, he also brought a genuine and infectious sense of dedication that, by his example, his crews have always shared,” said Christian Zimmerman, Vice President of Capital and Landscape Management at the Alliance. “As Franklyn prepares to retire, he reminds us of the importance of the long-term care of Prospect Park. We will do our best to maintain the enormous impact he’s had on the Park.”