Morgan Monaco in the rain posing with a shovel among other people planting saplings.

Surprising Storms and Historic Events: President Morgan Monaco’s First Year

February 8, 2024

Morgan Monaco has wrapped up an eventful first year leading Prospect Park Alliance to advance and sustain the park, engage the community and care for Brooklyn nature. We chatted with Morgan about her presidency and vision for the park’s future, including what most surprised her about the role and memorable moments in Brooklyn’s Backyard.

What are some of your favorite parts of leading Prospect Park Alliance so far?

Getting to meet our diverse community of park users. The number one thing that unites them is how beloved this park is to them. I’ve heard so many stories from people who are nearly brought to tears when they talk about how the park really saved them during the pandemic. The park was a safe haven and a place of joy during a very dark time in the world. It’s inspiring to come to work everyday knowing that we are providing such an essential public service.

But this is more than just a park: it’s a canvas for the many cultures of Brooklyn. Just walk through the Long Meadow or Lincoln Road picnic area on any given Saturday, you can hear the music and smell the delicacies of Brooklyn. I’m honored that this is a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves and their cultures—all facets of life are happening here.

What Prospect Park Alliance accomplishments from your first year are you most proud of?

Most people don’t know that there is so much happening in Prospect Park. The Alliance offers programming all year round. Last year, I was especially proud of our signature ReImagine Lefferts Initiative, including Pinkster Day and Juneteenth events, and the wildly successful immersive J’ouvert exhibit. We also provide a venue for countless events that add to the richness and the experience of the park, from music events like Celebrate Brooklyn, to athletic events, fundraising walks and so much more.

I’m also excited about the many robust capital projects we have in progress. We’ve completed the  design of  the Vale in the park’s northeast corner, and have begun the redesign of the Lincoln Road and Third Street playgrounds and the Shirley Chisholm Welcome Center. We’ve really honed our ability to incorporate community feedback into our design process and I’m looking forward to sharing our designs for these projects soon.

We conducted a series of listening tours in five neighborhoods surrounding the park to better understand the role it plays in each of those communities, which resulted in some very meaningful dialogue.

I’ve gotten to know some of our volunteers and see the work they do and the knowledge they’ve gained by giving back to the park. They are amazing extensions of our staff, and our Volunteer Services and Landscape Management teams really rely on them. It’s been incredible to witness not only the admiration that our community holds for the park, but also people rolling up their sleeves to help us care for the park.

Did anything about your role especially surprise you in your first year?

Tropical Storm Ophelia in September was a big surprise: both the impact that it had and our team’s incredible ability to respond to it. Our team jumped into action and was able to quickly assess the damage, and our supporters were equally at the ready to respond and contribute funds and volunteer hours. We were able to weather the storm because we have so many amazing supporters.

The celebrated opening of Fallkill Trail was another surprise! People across our community came together to experience a beautiful part of the park that had been previously closed off to the public. It was a testament to how much people crave access to nature and want to make the most of their time here in Prospect Park.

What are you most looking forward to in the year to come?

Now that I’ve had time to listen to our community, learn about how they use the park, and explore the role the park plays in their lives, I’m really excited to tackle some of the big strategic questions we’ve been exploring over the past year. What is our role in a post-pandemic world that is facing increasing threats from climate change and uncertainty around the city budget? We need to ensure that we are able to withstand those threats and remain resilient. We’re about 75% of the way through the developing the strategic plan, and I look forward to sharing a very clear set of priorities that answer the big questions of who we are and our focus in the park. .

How has the past year informed your vision for the future of the park?

I came in with a specific vision to explore the ways in which the park can be a venue for health and wellness services and public art. I am so grateful that that vision has been well received by members of the public, park users and by potential partners both in academia and clinical practice who see that there are some barriers to entry for people accessing health and wellness services.

The storm in September was an important learning experience for me to understand the investments that need to be made to prepare the park for climate change.

Are there any new park destinations you’ve visited or activities you’ve taken up in your first year at the Alliance?

I definitely feel like I know the park so much better than I ever have before. I’ve had the pleasure of exploring almost every acre and I think our woodlands are such a treasure. It’s been really rewarding for me to learn more about our trails and the dedicated work our Landscape Management team does day in and day out to sustain these beloved woodland areas.