2020 Year In Review - Prospect Park Alliance
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c. Jordan Rathkopf

2020 Year In Review

What a year this has been for the park and our community. At the outset of 2020, we never could have anticipated what was in store for us this year. Together we have achieved so much despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to significant cuts in staff and resources at a time of record use of the park. 

We would not have been able to overcome the challenges of 2020 without the incredible support of our community—you made donations, attended virtual events, helped us pick up literally tons of litter, and reminded us why we work so hard for this park. For that and more, we thank you.

In 2020, Prospect Park Alliance was proud to serve our community in many ways. Early in the year, we partnered with many civic and government leaders to get out the count in Brooklyn for the U.S. Census. When the pandemic hit, the Alliance sustained the park with limited resources, understanding the important role the park played as one of the few public spaces for our community to find relief from the stresses of these unprecedented times.  

This year, Prospect Park became Brooklyn’s go-to gathering spot, concert hall, gym, classroom, meditation space, and hub for weddings, birthdays and cultural celebrations. We have been honored to serve as the space for our community to come together in protest and in celebration, once again affirming the park as one of our most democratic spaces.

Below, learn about the ways the Alliance has sustained Brooklyn’s Backyard this year. The work we accomplished would not have been possible without your support. We invite you to make a resolution to stay involved in the coming year: volunteer in the park, attend a fundraising event or become an Alliance member. There are many ways to make a difference.

Sustaining the Park
One of the biggest challenges the Alliance faced this year was taking care of the park in the face of budget cuts, staff reductions and record use. We rallied our community in new and innovative ways to address these issues by providing park lovers with new ways to help steward the park.

Starting on Earth Day, the Alliance distributed Green + Go Kits throughout the spring, summer and fall. Equipped with trash grabbers, garbage bags and gloves, the kits enabled the public to help clean the park in a safe, socially distant way. It’s My Park Mondays brought out individuals and community groups to pick up litter after busy summer and fall weekends. On weekends, Volunteer Greeters fanned throughout the parks to give out trash bags to picnickers and encourage visitors to carry out their trash. 

These volunteer efforts engaged more than 1,250 community members over the course of 2,000 sessions, who cleaned up nearly 2,500 bags of trash.

Caring for Brooklyn Nature
The pandemic heavily impacted the Alliance's Landscape Management team. Stay-at-home orders and budget cuts reduced our seasonal staff, and prevented our annual spring planting of 5,000 trees, plants and shrubs. In August, Tropical Storm Isaias pummeled the park, bringing down 60 trees and leaving 54 more with severe damage. 

Despite these setbacks, the Alliance was able to rally our staff due to the support of the community. Thanks to NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, the Alliance was able to double the size of our youth employment program, the Woodlands Youth Crew, which cleared streams and waterfalls, removed old fencing and planted native species. Crew members also worked with the Alliance horticulturalists at Lakeside, helping to care for the 26 acres of restored native landscape that sustain the park's southeast corner.

In addition, this fall the community funded a record season of commemorative tree plantings this fall, with nearly 75 trees representing more than 15 native species planted around the park, including areas hard hit by summer storms, such as the Parkside and Ocean Avenue entrance.

Advancing the Park
While the lockdown in early 2020 meant delays for many of our capital projects, work restarted on a number of projects, with several now completed or close to fruition.

The Alliance opened Long Meadow Ballfields 4 + 5 this fall through generous funding from Council Member Brad Lander, as part of the Alliance's multi-phased restoration of all seven fields. Dogs and dog owners rejoiced when the Kensington Dog Run opened in July, with small and large dog runs, and many amenities including canine-friendly Astroturf.

After a multi-phased restoration, the historic Endale Arch was brought back to its original splendor to the delight of all park lovers through the support of the Tiger Baron Foundation and District 39 Participatory Budgeting.

Additionally, the DOT installed a new bike lane along Flatbush Avenue, a perfect complement to the Alliance's restoration of the perimeter and creation of two new entrances, which will be completed in the coming year, along with Northeast Corner lighting and path work improvements and the restoration of the beloved Concert Grove Pavilion.

Engaging the Community
Early in the pandemic, the Alliance quickly pivoted our programs online with Virtual Prospect Park, featuring activities to enjoy from home or on solo explorations of the park. In summer, we offered families our popular nature and history programs as Play-and-Go Kits, for safe and socially distanced fun in the park. We also popped up in surrounding neighborhoods, including Jackie Robinson Park and the New Lots Library. The program served 1,500 families with 2,500 games and activities.

Throughout the pandemic, the Alliance offered many of our popular programs virtually and in the park, with longstanding partners including caribBEING, Brooklyn Public Library and Turnstile Tours. We also partnered with BRIC to provide an inspiring message to our community in our first art installation at the Bandshell, by the Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine.

The LeFrak Center at Lakeside reopened in the summer, and thousands of Brooklynites enjoyed roller skating, biking and boating in the park. The Alliance also was awarded the contract to continue running the Prospect Park Tennis Center for the next 15 years, an essential community resource that also reopened this summer.