c. Anna Watts for The Wall Street Journal

Taking Care of Brooklyn’s Backyard in a Pandemic

May 18, 2020

As is the case for so many, work looks a little different these days for Prospect Park Alliance. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our team has had to find ways of caring for the park with limited staff and a high number of visitors, while meeting the challenges of our current socially distanced moment. 

Prospect Park Alliance, the non-profit that cares for the park in partnership with the city, provides critical staff and resources that keep Brooklyn’s Backyard green and vibrant. As highlighted in a recent report, the pandemic has resulted in a loss of critical funding for parks across the city. For Prospect Park Alliance, the closure of park amenities like the Prospect Park Tennis Center and LeFrak Center at Lakeside, and also the cancellation of fundraising events like Party for the Park, has resulted in nearly $3 million in lost revenue.

This loss in funding has impacted the Alliance in terms of our ability to hire seasonal staff, roughly 20% of our total workforce, for horticulture work, summer weekend cleanup crews and woodland restoration. In addition, the city has reduced its workforce to respond to cuts to the city budget, and the Alliance’s essential volunteer workforce of nearly 4,000 has been placed on hold due to safety concerns around the pandemic.

No matter the impact, nature goes on, and so does the work of the Alliance. In the past few months, Prospect Park Alliance and NYC Parks staff have been at work in the park performing basic maintenance. For our landscape management team, the Alliance had to forgo its normal spring planting season of more than 5,000 trees, plants and shrubs throughout the park’s 585 acres, and instead is focused on picking up trash in sensitive woodland areas, weeding and repairing fencing. In addition, Alliance staff who are home due to PAUSE New York have been volunteering in the park to support our essential NYC Parks workers, helping to clean the park and perform basic repairs.

With the Audubon Center and Lefferts Historic House shuttered, Alliance educators have taken their curriculums online! In a normal season, these  park destinations are home to hundreds of  free public programs for tens of thousands of community members each year. Now, these activities are going up online at Virtual Prospect Park—so you can experience the park from the comfort of your own home. 

With the summer months close at hand, and the city’s pools and potentially beaches closed to the public, the Alliance is bracing for a busier than usual summer season with limited staff and resources. Want to make a difference in your park? Consider becoming a member of Prospect Park Alliance with a limited-time discount. In addition to benefits that enhance your enjoyment of the park, you will feel good knowing that your support will make an immediate difference in your park. Join today!