The new Fallkill Trail in Prospect Park. C. Caroline Ourso 

2023 Year in Review

2023 was a productive year in Prospect Park, and through the support of our community and the hardworking team at Prospect Park Alliance and NYC Parks, we have accomplished so much. The Alliance works in partnership with the City to care for the park, and in the face of city budget cuts, our work and the contributions of our community are more important than ever.

Enjoy a snapshot of the achievements you enabled this year, and then make a contribution to help us continue this essential work—your gift will be doubled during this season of giving!

Renderings of the design for the Vale in Prospect Park. c. Prospect Park Alliance

Advancing the Park

Many improvement projects were underway in the park this past year to increase access and enhance use of the park by all communities. The Alliance kicked off the restoration of the Grand Army Plaza Arch, Plaza and Berms, featuring new plantings, seating and enhanced walkways. The redesign of the Vale was approved by the NYC Public Design Commission, enabling this revitalization of the northeast corner of the park to move forward. The Alliance also held community visioning sessions for the upcoming restoration of two beloved park playgrounds, the Lincoln Road Playground and the Third Street Playground, funded respectively by Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and New York City Council Member Shahana Hanif.

The Alliance also advanced plans to restore the Pergola at the Parkside Avenue Entrance and the restoration of Field 9 at the Parade Ground through funding by Council Member Rita Joseph. We received the remaining funds needed to create the Shirley Chisholm Welcome Center to complement the upcoming members to this Brooklyn trailblazer from Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, through the support of Council Members Crystal Hudson, Hanif and Joseph.

The Alliance cut the ribbon on the newly restored Lefferts Historic House, which was recognized with a 2023 Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award, the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s highest honor for outstanding preservation. A ribbon was also cut on Long Meadow Ballfields 2 +3, marking the completion of the restoration of all seven park ballfields, and two rustic bridges were rebuilt in the style of Frederick Law Olmsted to the delight of park visitors.

Lefferts Historic House

A program at the newly restored Lefferts Historic House. c. Obed Obwoge

Engaging the Community

In timing with the restoration Lefferts Historic House, the Alliance launched ReImagine Lefferts, which seeks to re-envision the mission and programming at the park’s historic house museum to explore the lives, resistance and resilience of the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking, whose unceded ancestral lands the park and house rests upon, and the Africans enslaved by the Lefferts family. In 2023, the Alliance received a prestigious $275,000 Humanities in Place grant from the Mellon Foundation to carry out this important work. The inaugural exhibition in the newly reopened space, J’ouvert Genesis Immersive Experience, welcomed visitors to explore the history and meaning of the Caribbean masquerade tradition of J’ouvert. A series of five Community Conversations invited local and descendent communities to consider the history of slavery and dispossession at Lefferts, and to shape the future of the museum. Lastly, the museum yard became the setting for a variety of performances and programs that had more than 5,000 neighbors dancing, eating and celebrating the rich heritage of descendent communities.

These events were among the dozens of public programs Prospect Park Alliance hosted this year. The Prospect Park Audubon Center engaged over 18,000 park visitors with nature education programs in the Boathouse as well as locations out in the park with Pop-Up Audubon, presented by Con Edison. Students participated in a BioBlitz and the City Nature Challenge, cataloging the hundreds of species of plants and animals found in the park.

Visitors flocked to popular Alliance events, including Prospect Park Soiree, Caribbean American Heritage Month, the Brooklyn Fam Festival and Summer Movies in the Park. Thousands of Brooklynites participated in free health and wellness programs, including Prospect Park Yoga, a community bird walk with Outdoor Afro, interval training with Chelsea Piers, and Fitness Walks for Adults 60+ with Heights and Hills.

Alliance staff planting new trees in Prospect Park. c. Erica Price

Caring for Brooklyn’s Nature

Recently, the Alliance’s Landscape Management team has undertaken an updated approach to the care of the park, dividing the landscape into zones and designating Ecological Zone Gardeners with teams of dedicated volunteers to focus on their locations. This has contributed to many successes this year, which includes innovative techniques for invasive species management, and saw the planting of 14,912 new trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants representing 103 native species. These plantings ensure that our woodlands thrive for the birds and wildlife that depend upon them.

A key project was the planting of numerous trees to replace the loss of Ash trees in the park, which have been decimated in recent years by the invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetle. These plantings, along the eastern perimeter of the park from Flatbush to Ocean Avenue, were made possible thanks to funding from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Urban and Community Forestry Program, NYS Environmental Protection Fund and the USDA Forest Service. Additionally, the Alliance seeded woodland edge habitats in the park with 75 pounds of native plant seeds to quickly add beneficial biodiversity to these areas.

Another highlight of the year was the creation of a new woodland trail in the heart of the park. The Fallkill Trail invites the community to explore one of the most picturesque landscapes in the park, which was the result of many years of restoration work by the Alliance. This work was led by our Landscape Management team, volunteers and Woodlands Youth Crew. This signature Alliance youth employment program is made possible through  generous support from the Carol and Edmund Blake Foundation and New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital.

Volunteers remove trash around Prospect Park’s Lake. c. Marcia Williams

Sustaining the Park 

2023 saw another year of high park visitorship, leading to heavy wear and tear on the park. Additionally, September’s Tropical Storm Ophelia dumped over seven inches of rain on Brooklyn in a few short hours, compounding these issues. During the storm, heavily used paths around the Lake, Boathouse and Long Meadow became high-powered streams, washing away soil, dislodging boulders and leaving pedestrian hazards. Our community rallied to raise funds for the park, and the Alliance was able to quickly repair much of the damage. This work, to identify discrete areas of need in the park and remedy them, is part of the ReNew Initiative. This year, paths on the south end of the park were repaved to improve accessibility, and we continued our partnership with ACE New York, a non-profit that empowers New Yorkers with histories of homelessness, incarceration, and addiction through job training and work experience. ACE provided an additional trash collection crew on weekdays and weekends during our peak visitation season. The ACE crew is partially funded via a grant from Amazon.

Prospect Park Alliance volunteers stepped up to sustain the park, with 2,182 community members volunteering 14,052 hours of their time through individual, community group and corporate efforts. Their hard work resulted in a total of 1,265 bags of trash collected, 4,258 plants added to the landscape, countless invasive species removed, hundreds of yards of mulch laid, and much more to keep Prospect Park green and vibrant. These volunteers participated in 152 volunteer events throughout the year including the second annual City of Forest Day where 130 trees were planted. At the newly restored Lefferts Historic House, 102 volunteers pitched in at 6 different events to beautify the area, and 62 volunteers dedicated 377 hours to the creation of the Fallkill Trail through invasive removal, building trail edges, grading paths, and mulching trails.

Our community also helped sustain Prospect Park through a summer of stewardship, with many pledging to Be a Park Champion. By following park rules, carrying out litter, keeping dogs on leash and staying on paths in woodlands, our visitors help us keep Brooklyn’s beloved backyard green and healthy for the people, plants and animals that depend on it.

We thank you for your support this year and invite you to make a resolution to stay involved in the coming year—make a donation to the Alliance, volunteer in the park or just get started planning your visit. There are many ways to make a difference in your park.