Mark your calendar! Registration for Open House New York begins Monday, October 9 for events city-wide including exciting happenings in Brooklyn’s Backyard. Join Prospect Park Alliance for a behind-the-scenes tour of the newly restored Lefferts Historic House and a tour of the Prospect Park Vale with an inside look at the upcoming restoration to make it more welcoming and accessible to all Brooklyn residents.
Saturday October 21, 10:00 am – 11:00 am and 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Prospect Park Vale
Join Svetlana Ragulina, Senior Landscape Architect, and Deborah Kirschner, Vice President of External Relations, at Prospect Park Alliance, the non-profit that sustains Prospect Park in partnership with the City, to learn about the upcoming restoration of the Prospect Park Vale in the northeast corner of the park. Learn about the Alliance’s plans to transform the Vale, an important woodland landscape that serves as a critical habitat to birds and other wildlife, and the extensive community outreach and engagement efforts that led to a new vision for this lesser-known park landscape to make it more welcoming and accessible to all Brooklyn residents. This tour will be led on pedestrian pathways but closed toed shoes would be recommended, particularly if there are rainy conditions. The area is not ADA-accessible. It will be fully outdoors.
Please note there will be two hour-long tours: 10:00 am – 11:00 am and 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Saturday October 21, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm Lefferts Historic House
You’re invited to a behind-the-scenes look at the newly restored and reimagined Lefferts Historic House. This 18th-century Flatbush farmhouse and New York City landmark, jointly operated by Prospect Park Alliance and the Historic House Trust, reopened this season after a $2.5 million major restoration which was recognized with a 2023 Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award, the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s highest honor for outstanding preservation. In timing with the restoration, the Alliance launched ReImagine Lefferts, an initiative funded through a Humanities in Place grant from the Mellon Foundation that is re-envisioning the mission and programming of the museum to explore the stories of resistance and resilience by the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking, whose unceded ancestral lands the park and house rests upon, and the Africans who were enslaved by the Lefferts family.
Visit the Lefferts Historic House to see the restored farmhouse, the inaugural exhibition of the ReImagine Lefferts Initiative, the J’ouvert Genesis Immersive Experience, and on a first-come, first-served basis every 30 minutes, embark on a guided tour of some of the house’s areas not on public view. The behind-the-scenes tour takes visitors into areas that are only accessible via staircases, and is therefore not ADA-accessible.
Community Visioning Sessions: Lincoln Road and Third Street Playground Restorations
Join Prospect Park Alliance for a series of community workshops to envision the future of the Lincoln Road and Third Street Playgrounds. Both playgrounds are being restored through $3 million each in funding from Borough President Antonio Reynoso and the City, respectively. These sessions will help inform the design of the restored playgrounds, which will go into reconstruction in 2025.
Lincoln Road Playground Community Visioning Sessions
An Inside Look: J’ouvert Comes to Life at Lefferts
August 17, 2023
Kick off your J’ouvert celebration in Brooklyn’s Backyard! Prospect Park Alliance, JouvayFest Collective and City Lore have opened the J’ouvert Genesis Immersive Experience at the Lefferts Historic House. The exhibit is part of ReImagine Lefferts, the Alliance’s initiative to re-envision the mission and programming at Lefferts Historic House to focus programming on the lives, resistance and resilience of the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking and the Africans enslaved by the Lefferts family. The multimedia exhibit offers an exploration of the rich and colorful history of J’ouvert in Trinidad and Tobago and its important role in Brooklyn today.
The inaugural exhibit of the ReImagine Lefferts initiative, through funding from the Mellon Foundation, J’ouvert Genesis Immersive Experience is reflective of the community that surrounds Prospect Park. “Prospect Park borders the largest Caribbean community in the world outside of the Caribbean,” shares Maria Carrasco, Prospect Park Alliance Vice President of Public Programs. “We want Brooklyn’s Caribbean community to see themselves represented in the park, as well as at Lefferts Historic House.” J’ouvert (pronounced jou-vay) translates to “opening of the day or I open” in French, and marks the beginning of the official two days of Carnival before Ash Wednesday in the Francophone Atlantic. J’ouvert Genesis Immersive Experience sheds light on the often-misunderstood aspects of J’ouvert, allowing viewers to better understand this essential Caribbean cultural tradition, right in the heart of Brooklyn.
Alongside immersive video and traditional steelpan instruments, “Dame Lorraine,” the character costume pictured above in red, is one of the traditional J’ouvert costumes on view in the exhibit. Originally created by enslaved Africans as a mockery of plantation owners, the satirical character exaggerates the features of a French madame. c. Prospect Park Alliance
“Many people don’t know the historic connections and significance of J’ouvert celebrations. J’ouvert is a living tradition. It has a big story to tell. It’s a story of resistance and resilience,” says JouvayFest Co-Founder and Exhibit Curator, Sandra A.M. Bell. Formerly enslaved Africans in predominantly French-speaking Caribbean colonies created J’ouvert as part of their bitter battles with the authorities to participate in the pre-Lenten festivities of the ruling class. The tradition was made official in Trinidad and Tobago in 1881 when communities fought for their freedom during the famous Canboulay (burnt-cane in French) riots, when they destroyed valuable sugarcane fields to protest British attempts to suppress their way of life. This struggle secured the J’ouvert celebration from colonial interference. J’ouvert has flourished into a potent living tradition and symbol of the power of resistance and resilience in the Caribbean, Brooklyn and beyond.
The exhibit immerses the community in the J’ouvert experience through life-sized J’ouvert costumes, signature percussive instruments, large-format photography of traditional Mas (masquerade) Carnival costumes and celebrations, plus virtual reality. “Put on those goggles and you’ll be immediately transported to a J’ouvert celebration. You’ll have the experience of being inside a J’ouvert band on a J’ouvert morning and gain a taste of this centuries-old tradition,” says Bell.
Large scale J’ouvert character costumes at J’ouvert Genesis Immersive Experience. c. Prospect Park Alliance
This vibrant cultural exhibit at the newly reopened Lefferts Historic House will also include workshops and discussions on the food, dance and music of the classic Trinidad and Tobago style of J’ouvert on select dates while it is on view at the house through October 29.
Prospect Park Alliance President Morgan Monaco and NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue joined elected officials, civic leaders and other community members to celebrate the restoration and reopening of Lefferts Historic House, Prospect Park’s 18th-century Flatbush farmhouse museum, which is jointly operated by the Alliance, the nonprofit that sustains the park, and the Historic House Trust.
Through $2.5 million in funding from the Speaker and Brooklyn Delegation of the New York City Council, Prospect Park Alliance undertook a major restoration of Lefferts Historic House. In timing with the restoration, the Alliance launched ReImagine Lefferts, an initiative funded through a Humanities in Place grant from the Mellon Foundation that is re-envisioning the mission and programming of the museum to explore the stories of resistance and resilience by the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking, whose unceded ancestral lands the park and house rests upon, and the Africans who were enslaved by the Lefferts family.
Lefferts Historic House is one of the most visited historic house museums in New York City, and features a working garden, historic artifacts, and indoor and outdoor exhibits. To celebrate the reopening of the house, Prospect Park Alliance presented a Pinkster Celebration on Sunday, May 21, with Chief Baba Neil Clarke and the Pinkster Players and friends featuring musical performances, storytelling, games and food related to this historic celebration of Africans in New York dating back to the time of slavery.
Pinkster Celebration in Prospect Park at the Lefferts Historic House. c. Obed Obwoge
“Prospect Park Alliance is grateful to the City and the Mellon Foundation for providing us with the funding to restore and reinvent our historic house museum,” said Morgan Monaco, Prospect Park Alliance President and Park Administrator. “Through ReImagine Lefferts, we are engaging the public around the ongoing legacies of dispossession and enslavement in Brooklyn and beyond, and I’m honored to be ushering in this new era of recognition and celebration of the narratives and histories that have been ignored for centuries. I am looking forward to working with our partners to make the museum a place for healing and a forum for thoughtful dialogue for our community.”
“By exploring the realities of expropriation and enslavement, the restoration of the Lefferts Historic House opens up avenues for dialogue, reflection, and a deeper understanding of the uncomfortable truths embedded within this site’s history. Prospect Park Alliance and the Historic House Trust’s unwavering dedication to the restoration and revitalization of this iconic landmark strengthens our connection to the past, enriches our present, and shapes a more inclusive and culturally vibrant future for Prospect Park and beyond,” said Comptroller Brad Lander, who helped to advocate for funding for the restoration while serving in the New York City Council.
“Thanks to our partners at Prospect Park Alliance and Historic House Trust, Lefferts Historic House has undergone a tremendous renovation, while honoring its historic past,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “New Yorkers will benefit immensely from this preserved site and its greater mission, which through ReImagine Lefferts, places the stories of those previously untold on center stage. Visitors have so much to learn from our historic sites and how their legacies continue to impact and resonate with our world today.”
“In order to meaningfully address the legacy of slavery, and its indelible impact on our society, we must invest in opportunities to learn about our history,” said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. “I’m proud to have secured significant funding to restore the Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park. New Yorkers will now be able to visit the historic house museum to learn about the history of the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking, whose ancestral land Prospect Park is sited on, and the people who were enslaved by the Lefferts family. Our progress as a society is contingent upon us knowing our history, and I look forward to our continued work with the Prospect Park Alliance and NYC Parks to create more educational opportunities for all.”
“As one of the most visited historic house museums in our City, the story Lefferts Historic House tells is important. Now, the museum will tell the full story of our borough’s ugly and painful underbelly. This truth-telling begins the process of restoring dignity to the communities our city has long glazed over— our Indigenous and Black sisters and brothers who have never received proper acknowledgement or apology for the deep injustices inflicted upon them,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “I’m happy that the Lefferts Historic House is beginning this retelling of history and hope it will spark conversation over how we as a borough can continue to account for our past. Thank you to the Prospect Park Alliance and NYC Parks for making this reimagining possible.”
“Today, as we gather beneath the historic roof of Lefferts House, we celebrate the power of preservation and community,” said Council Member Rita Joseph. In this moment of restoration’s completion, let us honor the rich heritage of our past, embrace the beauty of our present, and build a future that cherishes our shared history and diverse traditions. Together, we create a tapestry of unity, resilience, and joy that will continue to inspire generations to come.”
“As Executive Director of the Historic House Trust of New York City and Director of Historic Houses at NYC Parks, I have the great privilege of working with community partners like Prospect Park Alliance who are doing groundbreaking work to shed light on previously undertold stories and accurately reflect the history and culture of our diverse city,” said Meredith Sorin Horsford, Executive Director, Historic House Trust. “The Historic House Trust and our 23 partner historic sites have an opportunity to focus on deepening our collective understanding of history. ReImagine Lefferts is an initiative that exemplifies the strength of community dialogue, and the impact of listening, engaging, and responding.”
Background on Restoration
Lefferts Historic House, which is almost 250 years old, was originally located just blocks from the Prospect Park on Flatbush Avenue (near Maple Street), and moved to its current site in 1918. After three centuries, and much wear and tear, the 1783 Dutch-American-style house was in need of critical restoration. Peeling paint and poor drainage had contributed to damage of the exterior wood shingles, windows, trim, columns and ornamental details. Gutters and rainwater leaders were displaced and not functionally draining. The cedar shingle roof was damaged and covered in moss, and the house’s three chimneys were crumbling. Structural elements of the porch and first floor were no longer able to support the load of visitors. Restoration included replacing the historic cedar-shingled roof, a meticulous process of craftsmanship due to the steep eaves of the roof (Lefferts is one of last remaining examples of an h-frame house with a gambrel roof); renovating the wood-shingled exterior, making structural improvements to the interior, replacing the house’s mechanical systems, and improving surrounding lighting and paths. The Alliance was recognized with a 2023 Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award for this restoration project, the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s highest honor for outstanding preservation.
“I want to congratulate Prospect Park Alliance on their work to restore the Lefferts Historic House not only as a point of important history, but also to ensure we tell the stories of Brooklyn’s – and America’s – indigenous and enslaved people more accurately and more completely,” said Congressman Dan Goldman. “Black and Indigenous history is American history, and they are Brooklyn’s history as well. I was excited to get a preview of this historic restoration last month and I look forward to visiting the site now that it is fully open to the public. Prospect Park is a national treasure and I am grateful for the important work of the Prospect Park Alliance.”
“The reopening of Lefferts Historic House marks a significant milestone and paves the way for dialogue, reflection, and a more inclusive future for Prospect Park and beyond,” said Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie. “The restoration efforts, coupled with the ReImagine Lefferts initiative, demonstrate Prospect Park Alliance’s commitment to honoring the stories of resistance and resilience of the Indigenous people and the enslaved Africans who called this part of Brooklyn home. I’m honored to represent Brooklyn’s Backyard in Albany and am proud of this collaboration that reflects the diversity and strength of our community.”
Work will continue on the house in the coming years thanks to Assembly Members Bobby Carroll and Brian Cunningham, who have allocated funding to restore the Lefferts grounds and make critical structural improvements to the house’s second floor.
“I am proud to dedicate $500,000 in capital funding from the New York State Assembly to help complete the restoration of the grounds at Lefferts Historic House Museum,” said Assembly Member Robert Carroll. “This vital restoration is critical to preserving an important part of Brooklyn’s history and to help tell the complete story of the Lefferts Historic House. That story unfortunately includes previously untold stories of dispossession and enslavement.”
“Prospect Park is the premiere outdoor space of Brooklyn, and the Lefferts Historic House is one of its defining features,” said Assembly Member Brian A. Cunningham. “The re-opening of this historical landmark in partnership with the launch of ReImagine Lefferts ensures a more accurate historical accounting of the Lefferts family legacy and illuminates untold stories of the relationship between the Lenapehoking people and early European Settlers. This project is a testament to the power of public-private partnerships that not only restore a piece of American history, but ensure it tells a more truthful, accurate story about our past, so that we may all learn how to create a more just, equitable future.”
Prospect Park Alliance has launched ReImagine Lefferts through a prestigious Humanities in Place grant from the Mellon Foundation. ReImagine Lefferts will re-envision the mission and programming of the museum to explore the stories of resistance and resilience by the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking, whose unceded ancestral lands the park and house rests upon, and the Africans who were enslaved by the Lefferts family. Through this initiative, the Alliance seeks to engage the public in thoughtful dialogue about the ongoing legacies of dispossession and enslavement in Brooklyn and beyond.
Celebrate Caribbean-American Heritage Month and Juneteenth at Lefferts Historic House
May 23, 2023
Join Prospect Park Alliance and partners to celebrate Caribbean-American Heritage Month and Juneteenth at Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park. Brooklyn’s Backyard will be home to a month of celebrations of Black and Caribbean cultures. Enjoy music, dance, storytelling, drumming and much more for Brooklynites of all ages.
Legendary Traditional Characters of J’Ouvert Sunday, June 11, 2 – 5 pm, Free Lefferts Historic House Learn More + RSVP
Join Prospect Park Alliance and JouvayFest Collective, Bush Wo/man Conversations Project, and 2J & Friends at the Lefferts Historic House for a fun and informative family-friendly event about the legendary traditional characters of J’Ouvert. J’ouvert (pronounced Jew-vay) translates as ‘I Open.’ It marks the beginning of the annual Carnival celebrations in many Caribbean islands. J’Ouvert was started by formerly enslaved Africans in the predominantly French speaking colonies, when they began participating in the pre-Lenten festivities of the ruling class. In Trinidad and Tobago, the tradition was further solidified through the Canboulay riots in 1881. J’Ouvert remains a potent living tradition and symbol of the power of history and culture in the Caribbean, Brooklyn, and beyond. This event will be held rain or shine.
Steelpan Day Sunday, June 25th, 5 pm – 7 pm, Free Lefferts Historic House Learn More + RSVP
Prospect Park Alliance and I AM CARIBBEING invite you to celebrate Brooklyn’s Steelpan Day with live performances by Hearts of Steel alongside steelpan musicians from Little Caribbean and beyond.
Rise in Spirit: A Juneteenth Celebration Sunday, July 2, 1 – 6 pm, Free Lefferts Historic House Learn More + RSVP
Join Prospect Park Alliance for a Juneteenth Celebration produced by the Brooklyn-based Asase Yaa Cultural Arts Foundation. The family-friendly event will take visitors on a journey of the African Diaspora that celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the people of Africa and African descendant cultures. The theme for this Juneteenth celebration at Lefferts Historic House is “Rise in Spirit.”
Enjoy performances by African dancers and drummers from the Asase Yaa Youth Ensemble, IET Band jazz quartet, tap dancer Joseph Webb, the St. Paul’s Baptist Church gospel choir and theatrical readings by Sharon Gordon. Alliance educators will also provide cooking demonstrations, historic games and more.
The Asase Yaa Cultural Arts Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to its core tenets to enrich, educate and entertain. They aspire to empower and strengthen youth by offering them an opportunity to learn, study and experience the history, movement and beauty of African Diaspora dance, music and culture at its highest level. They are entering their third decade, and oversee a School of the Arts, the Asase Yaa African American Dance Theater, an award-winning professional dance ensemble, a Children’s Summer Art Camps, and an Arts Outreach program that services public and charter schools throughout the greater New York area. Asase Yaa Cultural Arts Foundation also curates original programming and produces an array of special events and concerts
The Juneteenth celebration is part of ReImagine Lefferts, an initiative funded through a Humanities in Place grant from the Mellon Foundation that is re-envisioning the mission and programming of the museum to explore the stories of resistance and resilience by the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking, whose unceded ancestral lands the park and house rests upon, and the Africans who were enslaved by the Lefferts family. The event is also funded in part through support by NYU Brooklyn.
I AM CARIBBEING is supported by NYC Department of Small Business Services, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council for the Arts, Con Edison, TD Bank and KeySpan.
Monaco currently lives in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn and her family is an avid user of Prospect Park. As she begins the new role and leads Brooklyn’s Backyard into its next chapter, we chatted with Monaco about her vision for the future of the park, favorite spots and more.
What are you most looking forward to as you begin your role?
I am most looking forward to learning more about everything the Prospect Park team, both NYC Parks and Alliance staff, does to maintain and sustain Brooklyn’s Backyard. There’s so much that goes on “behind the scenes” that may not be apparent to the average park visitor, and I’m excited to learn in-depth how the park operates throughout the year. I am also particularly excited about joining the team at this moment in time. There has never been more interest in and use of the park, and I’m excited to talk to our community about why Prospect Park is special for them, and how the park has taken on new meaning during the pandemic.
With a background in environmental sustainability and social justice, how do you think Prospect Park can be a both thought and action leader in these areas?
I think it’s important to start from a place of seeing sustainability and social justice as symbiotic. Sustainability is not just a luxury that gets added on top, but is deeply integrated into the work we do as a society to promote equity and social justice. I see access to open space as one of the core pillars, among others such as education, housing, health and safety, that help transition people from surviving to thriving.
Over the past two years in particular, we’ve seen how important the park has been for our health and wellbeing. I want to work with our talented team, as well as our community, to continue to lean into that and think about more opportunities for New Yorkers to access health services in the park. There is widespread evidence of the positive health impacts that come from being in nature, and I’m interested in building upon that to establish connections between our green space and access to health care and social services.
You’ve had a long history with parks and green space in the area. What does it mean to you to be returning to this field?
I’m incredibly honored to be coming back to the parks world, especially during this moment in time when New Yorkers have a renewed appreciation for the value of open spaces. I grew up in New York City’s parks and this work is incredibly personal for me.
Since leaving the parks world, I’ve had a kid, which has added a new dimension to how I use open space. As a parent, it’s so important for my son to grow up in Prospect Park and have a connection to nature as part of his experience growing up in New York City. I am also grateful for how much more awareness there is about climate change and the ways in which individual actions have an impact on our global environment. I look forward to being back in a community with people who inherently understand that core value and are committed to being part of the solution.
How do you define success for the Alliance?
I think success can be defined in small and big ways. As an organization, it’s important to me that we have clear organization-wide goals that everyone can feel a connection to and support from their vantage point. Those goals should be informed by individual goals for each area of focus in our work, such as maintaining a certain level of excellence for our forest restoration work, or reaching a certain number of young people through our environmental education programs.
At the end of the day, it is most important to me that we have a clear focus for the year and work toward reaching our goals. I see my role as helping to be a galvanizing force that holds all of the goals together and helps to chart out a new strategic plan for Prospect Park’s next chapter. I look forward to working with our team and with park users to develop our new strategic plan.
What is a favorite memory you’ve made in Prospect Park?
This is such a hard question! I’ve had so many important memories in Prospect Park that it’s hard to choose just one. I got engaged on the steps of the Picnic House, my son learned how to ride his scooter right by Vanderbilt Playground, we’ve made snow angels and snow people…so many amazing things happened in my life in Prospect Park. I would say there isn’t just one memory but rather decades of wonder and love for such a beautiful and sacred space.
c. Elizabeth Keegin Colley
Mellon Grant Awarded to ReImagine Lefferts
Prospect Park Alliance, the non-profit that sustains the park in partnership with the City, has received a prestigious $275,000 Humanities in Place grant from the Mellon Foundation to advance its ReImagine Lefferts initiative, which seeks to re-envision the mission and programming at the park’s historic house museum to recognize its role as a site of dispossession and enslavement, and explore the stories of the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking whose unceded ancestral lands the house rests upon and the Africans who were enslaved by the Lefferts family.
The Alliance will engage the public around this initiative with a Community Conversation on Saturday, February 11, 2023, from 1-4 pm, at the Prospect Park Boathouse.
“ReImagine Lefferts is a critical initiative for the Alliance, and we are greatly appreciative of the Mellon Foundation for recognizing the importance of this work, and providing the funding to bring this project to fruition,” said Morgan Monaco, Prospect Park Alliance President. “This project is an important step of many to help to heal deep-seated wounds from our nation’s past, and help anchor the narratives of those who have traditionally been silenced. The work we are undertaking at the museum would not be possible without those who came before us, and we look forward to partnering with and supporting the many civic leaders and organizations who have led the way in the Brooklyn community over the past many years.”
Lefferts Historic House is an 18th-century Flatbush farmhouse and New York City landmark, jointly operated by Prospect Park Alliance and the Historic House Trust. The farmhouse was originally located just blocks from the park (563 Flatbush Avenue near Maple Street) and moved in 1918 to its current site in the park’s Children’s Corner, home of the Prospect Park Zoo and Carousel. The museum features period rooms, indoor and outdoor exhibits, historic artifacts, historical object reproductions and working farm plots. Through hands-on experiences, cultural performances and imaginative play, visitors learn about the rich history of Brooklyn and also celebrate the diversity of our community today.
The Alliance is currently restoring the museum through $2.5 million in funding from the Brooklyn Delegation of the New York City Council to make vital capital upgrades essential to maintaining this historic structure, which is more than 200 years old. The project has enabled the Alliance to replace the roof, restore the exterior of the building, and repair paths and drainage around the house.
When the museum reopens in mid-2023, the Alliance will present free pilot exhibits and programs that engage with the legacies of Indigenous dispossession and African enslavement in Brooklyn. By centering the interpretation on these foundational narratives, which are often underrepresented in the telling of American history, the Alliance seeks to create opportunities for civic engagement and open dialogues about contemporary issues around race and human rights.
The one-year, $275,000 Mellon grant will support the planning, development and execution of pilot exhibits and program materials for the museum’s new focus, and enable the Alliance to engage culture bearers, scholars, community leaders, educators, artists and museum professionals.
The grant builds upon work the Alliance has conducted over the past two years to research the history of enslavement at the Lefferts house and farm, develop partnerships with Indigenous groups, cultural and local history organizations, and pilot new programming on site. To date, the Alliance has identified the names of 25 people enslaved at the site between 1783 and 1827: some inherited, some born at the house, and some purchased by the Lefferts family. The Mellon Foundation’s support will enable the Alliance to further its research about the lives of these people and their descendants.
ReImagine Lefferts programming and partnerships to date include: the creation of Juneteenth Way, a partnership with NYC Parks; two exhibitions with the renowned photographer Jamel Shabazz and the non-profit Photoville; Writing the Land, a collaboration between poets and land trusts, that commissioned Black and Indigenous poets to produce work about Prospect Park; and other projects.
About Prospect Park Alliance
Prospect Park Alliance is the non-profit organization that sustains, restores and advances Prospect Park, “Brooklyn’s Backyard,” in partnership with the City of New York. The Alliance provides critical staff and resources that keep the Park green and vibrant for the diverse communities that call Brooklyn home. The Alliance cares for the woodlands and natural areas; restores the park’s buildings and landscapes; creates innovative park destinations; and provides free or low-cost volunteer, education and recreation programs. Today, Prospect Park is an international model for the care of urban parks, and one of the premier green spaces in the United States. Learn more at prospectpark.org.
About the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org.
c. Chinese-American Planning Council
Lunar New Year in Sunset Park
January 5, 2023
Sunset Park, a neighborhood located southwest of Prospect Park, is home to one of the largest East Asian communities in the borough, as well as a robust array of restaurants, businesses and public gathering places. As we approach Lunar New Year on Sunday, January 22, the biggest holiday of the year in many Asian communities, Prospect Park Alliance chatted with Steve Mei, Director of Brooklyn Community Services at the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC), a member of the Prospect Park Community Committee, about some of his favorite spots to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit.
The CPC Brooklyn Community Center is a longtime resource for the Sunset Park community, providing language access, immigration legal support, job development, mental health services, benefits support and more to ensure that residents have the tools and resources to achieve sustainable economic sufficiency.
The CPC Community Center plays a key role in ringing in the Lunar New Year. Says Mei about the holiday goings on:
“Some of my favorite ways to celebrate are to walk through the neighborhood and watch, hear and listen to the roar and drumbeats of lion dances throughout the community.” Lion dances are traditionally used to ward off bad luck and bring in health and prosperity. “It’s always great to see all the colors, traditional outfits and the festivities. I also enjoy going to visit friends and families to ‘bai nian,’ meaning to reconnect and greet friends and families to ring in the New Year.”
In the coming weeks, CPC will present a couple of community events to celebrate the Lunar New Year. On Saturday, January 28, CPC and Child and Parent Relationships will co-host a Lunar New Year Event in Sunset Park (the neighborhood’s namesake park) at 11 am. The event will feature activities and fun for all ages including a traditional lion dance, performances, giveaways, interactive games, raffles and contests. The celebration continues on Saturday, February 4, with Lunar New Year calligraphy, arts and crafts and trivia for prizes at New Utrecht High School, in collaboration with community partners from throughout South Brooklyn.
CPC’s 2020 Lunar New Year’s Celebration courtesy of Chinese-American Planning Council.
For those looking to grab a bite to eat while you celebrate and explore the area, Mei recommends a stop at Park Asia, a traditional Cantonese style restaurant and banquet hall that includes some of the area’s best dim sum. Another must-try is Chuan Tian Xia, one of the top-rated Szechuan restaurants in the neighborhood. During this chilly time of year especially, a hot pot meal with friends and family is a go-to. One of Mei’s favorites, Lao Jie Hot Pot, serves something for everyone to escape the cold with a menu of meats, seafood and veggies.
Park Asia and Chuan Tian Xia photographed by Laura Robinson, Prospect Park Alliance.
Year-round, Sunset Park is rich in culture and home to a diverse immigrant community. Mei suggests a trip to explore the neighborhood’s temples, and recommends trying the many different cuisines Sunset Park’s Chinatown has to offer. Sunset Park, the namesake park, is a community resource, beloved by people from a diverse array of backgrounds from all over the community.
Sunset Park photographed by Laura Robinson, Prospect Park Alliance.
Whether ushering in the Year of the Rabbit or visiting at any time of year, make sure to explore nearby Sunset Park’s restaurants, gathering spots and events to enjoy one of the vibrant communities surrounding Brooklyn’s Backyard.
Meet the Park Youth Reps
November 8, 2022
If you’ve stopped by the Prospect Park Audubon Center this year, you may have encountered the center’s six Park Youth Representatives (PYRs) in action, leading nature walks, promoting environmental education, sharing fascinating information about the center’s animals, park nature and history. Prospect Park Alliance’s Park Youth Representative program offers seasonal employment to high school students and introduces a budding generation of park advocates to careers in environmental and museum education. In addition to engaging park goers at the Audubon Center, Youth Representatives also typically work at the Lefferts Historic House, which has been temporarily closed for restoration until May 2023. This year marks the 20th year of the Park Youth Representative Program in Brooklyn’s Backyard.
“The Park Youth Representative Program engages an eager-to-learn, inspired team with diverse mindsets, interests and backgrounds.” says the Audubon Center’s Public Programs Manager, Camilla Wilson, who oversees the group of Youth Representatives. “With their support, the Alliance offers environmental education programming that is relatable and fulfilling to park visitors.”
Park Youth Representatives engaging community members at Pop-Up Audubon over the summer. Photo courtesy of Camilla Wilson, Prospect Park Alliance, Public Programs Manager.
This year’s cohort includes six students from local Brooklyn high schools, each with a unique perspective and set of experiences that they bring to the role. “My favorite experiences are the team building exercises. I have gotten to know my team better and made friends with them.” says Barbara, a first-time PYR. The group has also fostered extensive leadership skills throughout the season. Says first-time PYR Lyric, “A highlight of the program is leading Pop-Up Audubon and the independence I feel when setting up the materials. I’ve enjoyed being able to give visitors information they may not have known about the park.”
The program also offers youth the opportunity to delve into projects and gain first-hand experience in environmental education careers. “I have liked getting hands-on with designing exhibits,” says first-time PYR Gesmaily. “Getting closer to the animals has also been one of my favorite aspects. This hands-on experience isn’t something I’ve found at other jobs.” Another first-time PYR, Erica, says an important part of her time as a youth rep has been getting to know Prospect Park and seeing its ecology in a new light. “I always used to come to the park and I had no idea about the different plants. I’ve learned so much about the park by being a Park Youth Representative.”
Park Youth Representatives teaching youth about the Audubon Center’s Albino Rat Snake as part of the center’s weekly ‘Nature Exploration’ and ‘Animal Encounters’ activities at the Audubon Center. Photo courtesy of Camilla Wilson, Prospect Park Alliance, Public Programs Manager.
Earlier this year, Prospect Park Alliance commissioned three poets to produce work about Prospect Park and share their work with the Brooklyn community: Black poet Rachelle Parker and Native American poets Michaeline Picaro and Opalanietet. The recently published anthology, Writing the Land: Windblown I, features their work and was celebrated at a reading at the Prospect Park Boathouse in October. Poets from across the country joined Prospect Park Alliance to read poems and discuss relationships among the communities and lands of Prospect Park, the arts and the environment as a whole.
“Partnerships with urban lands are new for Writing the Land, and we are thankful to Prospect Park Alliance for being such accommodating and generous hosts,” says Writing the Land Director Lis McLoughlin, PhD. “Our reading at the Boathouse was an extraordinary opportunity to bring attention to the importance—for city-dwellers and for visitors—of lands set aside for people and nature. We had a great time reading in this gorgeous place, and were grateful to experience firsthand Prospect Park as a welcoming haven for people to connect with nature in the midst of the city.”
This partnership is a stage for diverse voices to engage in a dialogue about the park and its history, an important part of Prospect Park Alliance’s community engagement work. The collaboration, while embracing the park as a whole, connects to the Alliance’s ReImagine Lefferts initiative, which seeks to re-envision the mission and programming of the park’s historic house museum to recognize its role as a site of slavery and to elevate the voices of the enslaved Africans who lived and worked the land, and the Indigenous people who were forced to leave their ancestral lands at the time of Dutch colonization.
“Our partnership allowed us to leverage the power of poetry to share perspectives on the lands that we sometimes take for granted,” says Maria Carrasco, the Alliance’s Vice President of Public Programs. “Poetry is a form of activism and has the ability to be healing and transformative. It can pose difficult questions, offer new perspectives on the world and help establish a sense of community. Joy Harjo, the first Native American United States Poet Laureate, expressed that ‘everyone’s behavior, or story, affects everyone else…we each need to be able to tell our stories and have them honored.’ Honoring experiences can lead to healing; that in turn, can forge friendships, partnerships and collaborations based on telling authentic stories from the past and present.”
A land birthed free, sculpted by Creator
Utilization of ice pick, remnants of glacial ridge still seen
This land that still is Lenapehoking.
We give thanks to the Marechkawieck, we give thanks to the Canarsee
Which without their stewardship, this oasis never could have been
This land that still is Lenapekhoking.
Freedom is to roam, freedom is to play, freedom is to choose to stay
To be free with this land, we have no landlord, we have no king, or queen
This land that still is Lenapehoking.
Stolen, divided, quarantined for privatized use
Reconfigured, reimagined, a public space so green
This land that still is Lenapehoking.
A Damselfly Is Not A Lady Dragonfly
By Rachelle Parker
They are their own kind.
Gliding across lakes. With their
own moms and dads, children.
Pretty. Wings iridescent. Knitted.
Delicate. Filigree. Whizzing
between boys and girls with
popsicles whose own wings are knotted
under skin the color of rasped
nutmeg wait to unfurl, soar,
catch sun, become heart
shaped and moms and dads with children,
dart, scuffle, stay safe
and alive amidst the genus,
amidst the skittishness.
We are Still Here
By Michaeline Picaro
We are still here
We are still here.
Not all are tucked away like parks in cities.
Close- knit, core communities and dispersed afar in cities block.
Outdated History needs correction, NY, NJ, CT, MA, RI, we are still here.
Cities subjugate nature into insignificant pockets, it is still here.
Minuscule compared to its former honor, tucked away awaiting the unexpected wanderer.
They visit, enjoy or study, unearthing teachings of heart and spirit.
Nature is still here. We are still here, with teachings of heart and spirit.
We Native Americans are synergistic, onto parks of nature.
We are not gone, we are Resilience! One of many Nations, Ramapough Lenape Nation We are still here.
Prospect Park Alliance sustains, restores and advances Prospect Park to benefit the diverse communities we serve, in partnership with the City of New York. Read More