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.

The Audubon Center’s 2022 weekend programming ends on November 27, so make sure to stop by soon to see the Park Youth Representatives in action. The Audubon Center will be open during Public School Holidays through February, with the exception of November 24 + 25 and December 25 + 26.

c. Martin Seck

New Prospect Park-Inspired Poetry

Six new poems inspired by Prospect Park are the result of Prospect Park Alliance’s partnership with Writing the Land, which connects poets with land set aside for people and nature. The partnership fosters collaboration between the environmental and creative communities.

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.”

Black poet Rachelle Parker and Native American poets Michaeline Picaro and Opalanietet spent several months visiting Prospect Park and creating poems inspired by the land—reproduced below. Each poet brings a unique perspective to their work and approach to Prospect Park.

From left to right: Michaeline Picaro, Opalanietet, Rachelle Parker

Michaeline Picaro, Opalanietet and Rachelle Parker’s work about Prospect Park and the full Writing the Land; Windblown I anthology can be previewed and purchased online at writingtheland.org.

Free Land Exists in Brooklyn

By Opalanietet

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.

c. Martin Seck

Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Poetry Reading + Anthology Launch

September 30, 2022

This October, in celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, join Prospect Park Alliance for a range of events that celebrate the land, our natural environment, and community. This includes a poetry reading and anthology launch presented as part of Prospect Park Alliance’s ReImagine Lefferts initiative to re-envision the mission and programming at the Lefferts Historic House Museum. The reinterpretation of the historic structure, an 18th-century Dutch-American farmhouse, will recognize its role as a site of slavery and will tell the stories of the enslaved Africans who lived and worked on the Lefferts farm and surrounding areas, and the Indigenous people of the Lenapehoking, whose unceded ancestral lands the farm and park rests upon. By centering the narratives on those that are underrepresented in the telling of American history, the Alliance hopes that the museum will become even more reflective of and connected with the Brooklyn community and that it will provide opportunities for civic engagement and open dialogues about contemporary issues.


Lenapehoking Anthology Launch
With Joe Baker, Hadrien Coumans & Curtis Zuniga
Thursday, October 13 – 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Prospect Park Boathouse

On Thursday, October 13, In partnership with Prospect Park Alliance and the Lenape Center, Brooklyn Public Library celebrates the release of the Lenapehoking Anthology, coming out of its spring 2022 Lenapehoking exhibition, with historical essays, interviews, poems and paintings by leading Lenape and other Indigenous scholars, writers and friends, poets, linguists, composers & artists. Contributors to the anthology will read from their work al fresco in this iconic New York City park. Elegantly printed by Ugly Duckling Presse and BPL Presents, the Anthology will be available to attendees to take home. The Lenapehoking Anthology has been generously supported by the Accomplis Collective. Learn more about featured artists Joe Barker, Hadrien Coumans + Curtis Zuniga.


Writing the Land: Poetry Reading and Book Signing
Sunday, October 16 – 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Prospect Park Boathouse

Prospect Park Alliance partnered with Writing the Land, which connects poets with land set aside for people and nature, to commission 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.

Poetry readings will be held inside of the Boathouse as well as in natural areas nearby. Poets who have written for the park and others who wrote for protected lands across the country will be featured in the anthology being celebrated at this event. Readings will include poets from across the country who will read, discuss, and sign books. Join us as we host Writing the Land and local poets and explore relationships among the communities and lands of Prospect Park, the arts and the environment as a whole.

Indigenous People’s Day School Holiday in Prospect Park
Monday, October 10 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Prospect Park Boathouse
Enjoy family friendly programming in Prospect Park on the Public School Holiday on Indigenous People’s Day. Celebrate nature and expand your knowledge of the natural world around us.

Nature Exploration, 12–4 pm
Nature Around Us: 12–3 pm:  Enjoy different seasonal discovery stations and nature-themed activities that will introduce you to the plants, insects and animals that call the park home. The Lake and Lullwater are home to many plants and animals. Help us to test the water quality and investigate pond samples that are filled with living organisms.
Animal Encounter: 2–3 pm: Join Alliance Naturalists in learning more about the animals in the Audubon Center’s collection. This program starts promptly at 2 pm.
Family Bird Walk: 3–4 pm: Prospect Park is a stopping point for hundreds of bird species each year! Join us as we search for these amazing creatures and other nature around the park. Binoculars and bird guides are provided. This program departs from the Audubon Center promptly at 3 pm.

Learn more about Prospect Park Alliance’s ReImagine Lefferts initiative and the history of the Lefferts Historic House.

Meet the Park Champion Mascot: Thelonious “Theo” Chipmunk

September 9, 2022

Prospect Park Alliance received over 1,000 name submissions and votes for the new Park Champion mascot, and we’re pleased to announce that the winner is…Thelonious “Theo” Chipmunk!

The name, which was submitted by multiple people, pays homage to the great NYC-based jazz musician, Thelonious Monk, who often played in Brooklyn. This chipmunk will help educate our community about how to be a #ParkChampion and important ways to keep the park green and vibrant. Thank you to all who participated in the naming competition!

As Prospect Park Alliance’s Summer of Stewardship continues, follow along as Theo shares ways to keep the park’s community of people, plants and wildlife safe and healthy with every visit to Brooklyn’s Backyard.

Learn more about how you can become a Park Champion and help the trees, birds, wildlife, and community of Brooklyn’s Backyard.

Explore Kensington’s “Little Bangladesh” with Shahana Hanif

August 9, 2022

Looking to explore the vibrant communities that make Brooklyn’s Backyard a melting pot of cultures from around the world? Prospect Park Alliance chatted with Council Member Shahana Hanif, the first Muslim woman elected to City Council and lifelong Kensington resident, to learn about her go-to spots on Church Avenue west of Ocean Parkway, a stretch known as “Little Bangladesh” for its vibrant and tight-knit South Asian community.

Communities and cultures are defined by their food and their gathering spaces, so we start our exploration with some of the must-visit restaurants and shops in the neighborhood. Sonia Cafe, located on Church between Ocean Avenue and East 5th Street, is a woman-owned restaurant that opened during the pandemic. The cafe is known for its Pakistani snacks and street food, including what Hanif has deemed the best fuchka in New York, a fritter stuffed with chickpea and potato, served with tamarind water. A few blocks west on McDonald Avenue just off Church is Radhuni Sweets + Restaurant, which was founded by Shahana’s dad and another neighbor, and is now under female ownership, which has her all-time favorite breakfast wrap: fresh chapati, spiced scrambled eggs and aloo bhaji, a potato dish. The restaurant is also known for its seafood. Across the street is Suchana Supermarket, where from late spring through early summer sells the neighborhood’s freshest jackfruit, the national fruit of Bangladesh.

Suchana Supermarket and Radhuni Sweets + Restaurant photographed by DeSean McClinton-Holland for curbed.com

Once you have fueled up, it is time to visit some of the neighborhood’s public spaces. Avenue C Plaza, located on McDonald Avenue at Avenue C, holds a unique position in the neighborhood’s history. “Kensington lacked open spaces and plazas for decades and when the community came together to reclaim this vacant lot, it opened up a whole new world,” said Hanif. The plaza has hosted art installations, iftar dinners during Ramadan, honored the dead during Día de los Muertos, and much more in a space that was previously unused for years. “The best part is also that neighbors did this! This wasn’t prescripted to the Kensington community, we took initiative and we made this space our own.”

Avenue C Plaza photographed by DeSean McClinton-Holland for curbed.com

On public gathering spaces, including restaurants, parkways, and more, of vital importance to Hanif is accessibility, including both disability justice and the need to welcome people of all ages. For Hanif, Kensington’s Dome Playground, located a block south of Avenue C Plaza at Dahill and Cortelyou Roads, exemplifies this welcoming spirit with diverse groups and families from different communities sharing one space. “It’s not just that it’s accessible to all different kinds of people, but that the playground itself has something for everyone,” said Hanif. “There is play equipment for children, benches for older adults and families, and workout equipment for younger adults. It is intergenerational by design and that’s why it’s more than just a place to play, it’s a meeting point for the community.”

A few blocks east of Little Bangladesh is Ocean Parkway, which stretches from the south end of Prospect Park to the waterfront at Brighton Beach is another longtime central gathering spot for Kensington residents. It is known as the oldest bikeway in America, and is often the route Hanif takes to walk or bike to Prospect Park.

Ocean Parkway photographed by DeSean McClinton-Holland for curbed.com

As an avid user of parks herself and as a next-door neighbor to Brooklyn’s Backyard, we had to ask Hanif about her favorite destinations in Prospect Park: “The park is such a magical place and every time I’m there, I feel like I discover a new section that I want to explore and take in.” Among her favorite spots in the park are the Boathouse and the Endale Arch for its ability to make park-goers feel like they’ve left the city and entered a new world through an architectural passageway.

Hanif in-action in Prospect Park. Photo courtesy of Shahanah Hanif’s team.

Hanif also shared a love of the Prospect Park Lake, reachable from the neighborhood by the Park Circle Entrance, which she visited often as a child and still to this day. “There’s something special about the lake in the park and the wildlife. It’s quiet and serene, and a wonderful place to sit and relax after a walk around the park or curl up with a good book on one of the first cool days of fall.”

Next time you find yourself in Brooklyn’s Backyard, make sure to check out Kensington’s shops, restaurants, gathering spots that make Brooklyn such a rich melting pot for all communities.

Andrea Pippins

Celebrate Caribbean-American Heritage in Prospect Park

May 4, 2022

Celebrate Caribbean-American Heritage Month in Prospect Park with I AM caribBEING, JOUVAYFEST COLLECTIVE, BUSH WO/MAN Conversations Project, and Prospect Park Alliance. Enjoy Caribbean film, live music, dance, wellness and much more during this cultural celebration for Brooklynites of all ages. All participating artists and practitioners have roots in Little Caribbean NYC, and hail from Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti and elsewhere.

I AM caribBEING is supported by NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council for the Arts, Con Edison, TD Bank, National Grid and Showtime.

RSVP today for these upcoming events!

I AM caribBEING Prospect Park: Rockers + Dre Island
Sunday, June 5, 2022
Location: Prospect Park Boathouse
Time: 7-10pm
Prospect Park Alliance and I AM caribBEING kick off Caribbean-American Heritage Month with the cult classic film, Rockers. The 1978 film offers a tale of struggle and triumph in the streets of Kingston, Jamaica. Protagonist, Horsemouth, knows all too well the difficulty it takes to get into the music business in Kingston. Although talented, he earns very little and hustles to make ends meet. As tension begins to build with the local mafia after they steal his motorbike, Horsemouth and his friends concoct a plan to bring their reign of terror to an end and bring justice the the people of Kingston.

Prior to the film, multi-talented singer, keyboardist Dre Island, hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, will join the celebration for a very special performance. Complex calls him “one of the most refreshing voices in reggae right now.” With his gravelly vocals and calm demeanor, he evokes a mystery and edge that gravitates reggae and dancehall fans alike. The versatile artist has collaborated with the likes of UK R&B singer Jorja Smith, contemporary reggae star Chronixx and Jamaican dancehall artists like Popcaan and Skillibeng. In June, he will release his sophomore album High Times, which follows his 2020 debut, Now I Rise.

 

ALERT: Canceled due to predicted sever weather, check back for reschedule date TBD.
I AM  caribBEING Prospect Park: Lean Strong Fast Hike
Sunday, June 12, 2022
Location: Prospect Park Boathouse
Time: 9-11am
Join I AM caribBEING and Prospect Park Alliance to learn to improve your fitness and wellness regimens with the Little Caribbean-based performance team, Lean Strong Fast. Attendees will be guided through the park on either a beginner or intermediate level hike-walk based on their comfort level. Bring out your sneakers and come join us in the park!

 

RESCHEDULED: Tribute to the Rhythm Workshop
Now Thursday, June 16 (was Sunday, June 12)
Location: Prospect Park Boathouse
Time: 6-9pm
Join Prospect Park Alliance, JOUVAYFEST COLLECTIVE and BUSH WO/MAN Conversations Project for a workshop in Prospect Park this June which gives tribute to The Rhythm Section, The Iron Men, and the other percussionists that create the dynamic rhythm section so essential to Steelpan and Calypso music. Participants will learn about the history and role of drummers through speakers and performances. All ages are invited to enjoy the workshop.

 

I AM caribBEING Prospect Park: Juneteenth + One Love Little Caribbean Day
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Location: Prospect Park Boathouse
Time: 4-9pm
Join Prospect Park Alliance and I AM caribBEING for Juneteenth, I AM caribBEING style, with live performance by Grammy-Award winning Angela Hunte backed by Da Jerry Wonda Band, peer-to-peer gaming powered by Fun With Friends DJ sets by Gab Soul + Khalil and Little Caribbean artisan vendors.

Escape the excitement and enter the calming Rooftop Oasis showcasing local Black-owned self-care brands on the Boathouse’s Rooftop. Upon entering this haven, guests can choose their wellness adventure. From refreshing natural elixirs to essential oil blends for whatever ails you, Rooftop Oasis will take you there and bring you back to life.

Rooftop Oasis is curated by I DON’T DO CLUBS and TAKE CARE WELLNESS

I AM caribBEING Prospect Park: Brukwine
Sunday, June 26, 2022
Location: Prospect Park Boathouse
Time: 2pm-2:45pm
Are you ready to wukkup and juk? Join I AM caribBEING and BRUKWINE for a high energy workout routine. This Caribbean inspired dance workout is sure to get your heart rate up, hips moving and thighs burning!

I AM caribBEING is supported by NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council for the Arts, Con Edison, TD Bank, National Grid and Showtime.

NYC Parks / Daniel Avila

Alliance Breaks Ground on Parade Ground Fit

April 12, 2022

New York City Council Member Rita Joseph joined Prospect Park Alliance Interim President James Snow and community members to break ground on Parade Ground Fit. The project is a District 40 participatory budgeting initiative that won popular support from local residents. The $525,000 project transforms the southwest corner of the Prospect Park Parade Ground into a community space that supports health and wellness in the neighborhood.

Editor’s Note: find photos at www.prospectpark.org/parade-ground-fit-groundbreaking  

The project will transform the southwest corner of the Prospect Park Parade Ground into a community gathering and gaming space. The area will feature new ping-pong tables, a refurbished petanque area and game tables. Additionally, new benches will be installed and the tree-filled area will be landscaped with new plantings.

“The opening of the Parade Ground Fit shows the power of Participatory Budgeting. When communities are able to directly decide how their money is spent, real improvements are made. That’s why I am so excited for our neighbors to be able to use this PB project,” said New York City Council Member Rita Joseph.

“Parade Ground Fit is an exciting project that will create a beautiful space for all New Yorkers to gather and enjoy. During the height of the pandemic, our outdoor spaces were vital for communities, especially those who simply wanted some fresh air,” said Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit Commissioner Fred Kreizman. “This project delivers on just that, and we’re thrilled for New Yorkers of all ages to enjoy a game of ping-pong with the new game tables.”

“We are excited to partner with Prospect Park Alliance and break ground on the new Parade Ground Fit, an area dedicated to adult fitness complete with revamped petanque courts and new ping-pong tables. We know how important access to health and wellness is to all communities,” said NYC Parks Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Martin Maher. “We look forward to the completion of this project and to celebrating what this new resource will mean to the neighborhood.”

“This corner of the Parade Ground will be a great neighborhood enhancement, and builds on our Adult Fitness Area in the northeast section of the Parade Ground, which was also funded through District 40 Participatory Budgeting, and the nearby Kensington Dog Run,” said James Snow, Interim President of Prospect Park Alliance. “Thanks to the support of local residents and Council Member Joseph, the Alliance is looking forward to bringing the community’s vision for this space to life.”

The Prospect Park Parade Ground is one of Brooklyn’s most popular recreational areas, with 40 acres of baseball, tennis, soccer and football fields for local schools, leagues and clubs for children and adults, as well as basketball, netball and volleyball courts. The Parade Ground also features the Stewart Playground, the Prospect Park Tennis Center, the Kensington Dog Run, and the seasonal Time Out Snack Bar, a full-service concession stand with picnic and seating areas. The Parade Ground Fit project joins other recent improvements to the area, including the Adult Fitness Area and the Kensington Dog Run.

For more information about capital improvements in Prospect Park, visit www.prospectpark.org/tracker.  

Prospect Park Alliance Announces New Food Options in Prospect Park

April 6, 2022

Prospect Park Alliance, the non-profit that sustains Brooklyn’s Backyard, has announced a new food and beverage concession coming to the Prospect Park Picnic House: WINNER, a Brooklyn-based restaurant group, will open a cafe in the lower level of the Picnic House, which is located on the park’s Long Meadow.

The cafe will offer baked goods, sandwiches, beverages and picnic meals, and will open in early May. Service will kick off with breakfast, and additional hours will be rolled out weekly until Memorial Day when hours will be 7 am–9 pm daily. WINNER will operate in Prospect Park through December.

“The park is an essential resource for our community, and we know that Prospect Park patrons want more food options to enhance their park experience,” said James Snow, Prospect Park Alliance Interim President. “We’re excited to welcome this amenity and we are confident that our community will welcome having WINNER in the park to add to our other food offerings.”

“One of the pillars of WINNER is to create something for everyone,” said WINNER Owner and Founder Daniel Eddy. “Be it pre-run or post-run, with family or friends, or a solo walk just to commune with nature, WINNER at the Picnic House will have something for everyone.”

WINNER was founded by Chef Daniel Eddy, who opened the Park Slope outpost days before the shutdown in March 2020. Despite the obstacles, WINNER quickly became a beloved neighborhood institution, frequently featuring lines out the door for their baked goods and chicken dinners. WINNER in Prospect Park will offer many of their coveted Park Slope menu items, including pastries, coffee, sandwiches, and rotisserie chicken.

Last year, Prospect Park Alliance issued a Request For Proposals for interesting and affordable food options in the park as part of its mission to improve the visitor experience in the park for the community. In addition to WINNER, the Alliance has brought King David Tacos to Grand Army Plaza, Smorgasburg to Breeze Hill, Bluestone Cafe to Lakeside, as well as the Mohammed Islam Hot Dog Cart to the Ballfields.

Learn more about food options at prospectpark.org/food.

Alliance Launches Poetry Partnership with Writing the Land

February 23, 2022

Prospect Park Alliance is partnering with Writing the Land, which connects poets with land set aside for people and nature to foster collaboration between the environmental and creative communities. Prospect Park Alliance has partnered with Writing the Land to commission four 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, Opalanietet and Ty Defoe.

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 Re-Imagine Lefferts initiative, currently underway, 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 that were forced to leave their ancestral lands at the time of Dutch colonization.

“Our partnership with Writing the Land fits incredibly well into the work of the Alliance,” says Maria Carrasco, the Alliance’s Vice President of Public Programs. “Poetry is empowering and the perfect vehicle for engaging our community in contemplating the viewpoints of traditionally unheard voices. The spoken word can provide members of our community with new ways of thinking, and hopefully will encourage them to actively participate in social change and civic engagement here in the park and beyond.”

“Writing the Land is excited to expand our work with traditional land trusts to more diverse organizations that protect land,” says director of Writing the Land, Lis McLoughlin, PhD. ”Prospect Park is an amazing resource for its community and beyond, and we were delighted to find they were very open to using poetry as a way to highlight the great work they do. Our poets are looking forward to building bridges between the park and those who love and use it.”

The poets will spend the next several months visiting the park and creating poems inspired by the land, which will culminate in a reading in the park in October. Prospect Park poets will be featured performers, and they will give a sneak peek of some poems they are preparing for the Writing the Land Anthology to be published in December.

From left to right: Michaeline Picaro, Opalanietet, Rachelle Parker, Ty Defoe

Michaeline Picaro is a member of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation Turtle Clan. As a traditionalist with knowledge of medicinal plants, Picaro is currently seeking to further her expertise and is enrolled at Chamberlain College to receive her nursing BSN to further assist the Turtle Clan with nursing needs and assessments. Picaro is also a co-founder of the Munsee Three Sisters Medicinal Farm which creates jobs and works toward food sovereignty. She is a co-founder of Ramapough Culture and Land Foundation, which preserves and restores the economic, social, cultural, sacred and environmental assets of the Ramapough Munsee ancestral lands.Picaro carries the Clan Mother title and is a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Narragansett Indian Tribe and preservationist for ceremonial landscapes.

Opalanietet is a member of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribal nation of New Jersey.  Since graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Opalanietet has performed in workshops and productions at renowned New York theatrical institutions including New Dramatists, LaMaMa E.T.C. and New York City Opera at Lincoln Center. In 2012, Opalanietet founded Eagle Project, a theater company dedicated to exploring the American identity through the performing arts and Native American heritage. Opalanietet is currently studying for his doctorate in Theatre & Performance Studies at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center.

Rachelle Parker is a Nassawadox-born, Brooklyn-bred writer. She was selected the winner of the Furious Flower Poetry Prize, was awarded third prize in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and was a finalist in Rhino Founders’ Prize. She was recognized in the Arts By The People – 2021 Moving Words. Her work appears in About Place Journal, The Adirondack Review, Taint Taint Taint Magazine and she is a contributor to the anthology The BreakBeat Poets: Black Girl Magic. Her photography also debuted in Orion Magazine.

Ty Defoe is an Indigiqueer citizen of the Oneida Nation and Anishinaabe Nations. Defoe is a writer, interdisciplinary artist, and Grammy Award winner. Defoe aspires to an “interweaving and glitterizing approach to artistic projects with liberation and environmentalism.” Defoe’s global cultural arts highlights include the Millennium celebration in Cairo, Egypt; International Music Festival in Ankara, Turkey; and Festival of World Cultures in Dubai. The artist’s accolades range from the Global Indigenous Heritage Festival Award, Jonathan Larson Award, Helen Merrill Playwriting Award 2021, and Cultural Capital Fellowship with First People’s Fund 2021.

Alliance Restores Northeast Paths

November 10, 2021

Through $2 million in funding by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Prospect Park Alliance has completed the restoration of the pedestrian paths in the northeast corner of Prospect Park to make the area more accessible to the communities who use the park. The project kicked off in the summer of 2020 and wrapped up in August 2021.

“This project replaces broken and inaccessible pavement that’s been in poor condition for more than half a century as layers upon layers of asphalt have continued to erode,” said Svetlana Ragulina, Prospect Park Alliance Senior Landscape Architect. “Now visitors of all abilities will be able to more easily navigate the area and experience it for longer periods each day thanks to the newly installed lighting and benches.”

This project included the following:

  • The reconstruction of approximately 2,500 linear feet of paths, with new asphalt paving and traditional hex block pavers between Grand Army Plaza and the newly restored Endale Arch.
  • Installation of 15 new park benches and lighting along the paths through the addition of 60 light poles.
  • Much-needed tree care, seeding and new plantings to restore the natural areas.
  • Replacement of the play sand in the beloved Zucker Natural Exploration Area.
  • Clearing and reconstruction of 19 catch basins, which will help with drainage in heavy rain events.

The newly restored paths connect major points of interest in the northeast, including Grand Army Plaza, Endale Arch, the Park Drive, Vale of Cashmere, the Zucker Natural Exploration area, the Rose Garden and the new park entrances at Flatbush Avenue.

Learn more about park projects on our Captial Projects Tracker.