Jesse Brody

Jesse Brody joined Prospect Park Alliance’s LMO team in March as an Ecozone Gardener. Get to know him with this Q&A and read an essay he wrote about the park, below.

What brought you to Prospect Park Alliance and when did you start?
I joined the team in March of this year, but Prospect Park has been part of my life for a long time.  

What were you doing before you joined the Alliance?
My position at the Alliance is a big step for me in attempting a second career, which started in 2019 with a horticultural internship at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Prior to that I was a marine surveyor for the past twenty years; inspecting boats and writing technical reports for appraisal, insurance and voyage preparation. No doubt it is a big change, but somehow it feels perfectly natural to me. 

What is your favorite part of your job?
When a park visitor shows an interest in the living landscape. Any question about a flower or tree makes my day. I also love learning from colleagues in LMO; their knowledge is amazing. 

What do you wish all park visitors knew?
I wish all park visitors knew about, and appreciated, the wonderful complexity of the Park’s natural ecosystems. 

What hobbies or interests have been helping you get through the pandemic?
Learning more about the Park’s history and continuing my studies of botany.  Both subjects put things in perspective and help me remember that this is a passing phase in a longer story. 

What is your superpower?
My children are my superpower; I’ve done things for them that I never knew I was capable of. 

What makes you happy?
Opportunities to put my relatively new horticultural knowledge to use. Realizing that I can make a contribution to the Park’s landscape is very gratifying.

What Prospect Park Can Do For You by Jesse Brody

Perhaps for just a moment in time, everything can be right in your mind. Maybe you can imagine a world with no COVID, where hate is not seen as a substitute for leadership, Black lives matter to everyone, and the ecosystem is in balance. To try and achieve this glimpse of wonder, go seek out special spots in the park and fully absorb Olmsted’s ode to nature and humanity. Feel, if just for a fleeting second, how things could be. The prospect of a better reality. 

See the sculptural layers of trees, shrubs and herbaceous growth flowing around the curves of the Lake’s shore. Watch the wind move through the leaves of the overstory and disappear past the bend of Long Meadow’s border. Hear the symphony of birds going about their business, just as they have for millenia. Witness the bees and butterflies working the flower factories. Breath deep and smell the native Mountain Mint and Sumac. Science tells us how important nature is to our well being, and common sense confirms we are part of it. So, train your eye from the trees to fellow woman, man and everyone in between. Is there a type of human not represented here in our park? Are the sights, sounds and smells not available to anyone who wishes to enjoy them? What a place! 

To be sure, this is no Disneyland. There isn’t a filter or fee at our entrances, and we proudly welcome whatever raw ingredients Brooklyn presents. As such, that perfect moment is easily shattered. Garbage can scar the landscape, shouts of strife interrupt the birds, and the foul stench of who-knows-what lurks around every corner. But this is the price of reality, and equitable improvement for everyone is a grinding work in progress. It is a 580 acre prototype of a truly public Eden, long in the making. 

Over ten thousand years ago the Wisconsin glaciation receded from our region and set the stage for the evolved species present today. Before Dutch settlement and eventual industrialisation, the Lenape inhabited this region and knew it as a natural paradise we can only imagine. A couple centuries later, when Stranahan and Vaux urged Olmsted to come to Brooklyn to outdo his work in Central Park, things started heading back in the right direction. There was a beachhead, a foothold for progress toward an oasis of real diversity of species and cultures. Since Tupper Thomas formed the Alliance just decades ago, so many more wonderful people have made it possible to enjoy the perfect moments we can experience today. I don’t imagine it was ever easy, even nature is full of struggle and suffering. But, just like evolution, the park’s guardians work relentlessly to achieve an ideal of harmony. 

So when a plastic bag snags a plant, pick it up (use gloves). When a fellow park user is not respecting the rules, help them understand (be prepared to run). If a chance to volunteer is presented, seize and pull it like weed from the ground (watch out for poison ivy). Most importantly, let the park that you take care of, take care of you. Do the work to find the special spots in time, space, and frame of mind, which offer moments of well earned peace. 

– Jesse Brody