Re:New Initiative Returns for 2022

May 9, 2022

Prospect Park is the place to be for our community, which is why Prospect Park Alliance, the non-profit that sustains Brooklyn’s Backyard, is continuing the Re:New Prospect Park initiative for a second year. These efforts help serve our community to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the surge of visitors in the park.

Due to the pandemic, Prospect Park Alliance lost critical funding which resulted in a reduced workforce and resources. This combined with an increase in park visitors led to the park getting much more love than it can handle. However, thanks to the support of our community of donors and volunteers over the past two years, the park has been able to weather the storm, and the Alliance is placing much-needed funds to continue our Re:New efforts in time for our busiest season.

“Prospect Park has been so important for all of us these last two years. Our community has supported the park as volunteers, donors and advocates, and enabled us to sustain this essential green oasis,” said Prospect Park Alliance Interim President James Snow. 

“During the pandemic, it was made abundantly clear just how vital parks are to the health and wellbeing of this city,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “As we continue to recover, our priority is to ensure that parks in all neighborhoods are clean, green and safe. We are so grateful for the support of our partners at the Prospect Park Alliance who share in our commitment through programs like the Re:New Initiative.”

Critical support for this initiative is made possible through generous funding from Amazon, and many generous individuals and community members who make annual contributions to the Alliance. Learn more about Prospect Park Alliance membership.

Re:New Prospect Park Initiatives

Park Maintenance
Prospect Park Alliance has partnered with ACE New York, a non-profit that empowers the homeless, to provide additional maintenance resources to help clean the park on peak weekdays and weekend evenings through October. In addition, the Alliance has brought on board four groundskeepers to help supplement NYC Parks maintenance crews during this busiest time of year.

The crew is partially funded via a grant from Amazon.

“Prospect Park is a local gem offering healthy outdoor recreation to Brooklyn families,” said Carley Graham Garcia, Amazon’s Head of Community Affairs in New York. “This creative initiative offers new job opportunities, while ensuring Prospect Park continues to serve our local neighborhood especially as we head into the summer months. Amazon is thrilled to renew this partnership for Summer 2022.”

To support these efforts, Prospect Park Alliance is encouraging park visitors to carry out their trash via promotional signage at all park entrances. The Alliance has also installed large trash receptacles in key areas of the park.

Park Improvements
The Alliance will continue the re-investment in the park to tackle important improvement projects through funding from our community of donors. Work will take place to improve pedestrian pathways, repair stonework at the Lakeside esplanade and locations throughout the park, install new picnic tables at the Wellhouse barbecue area, and improve drainage throughout the park—an increasingly critical tool in improving the resilience of the park against major rain and flooding events.

In 2021, the Re:New initiative successfully brought improvements to every corner of the park. The Lincoln Road comfort station received a complete makeover, new barbecues, furnishings and fixtures were installed at the popular Picnic House and Bandshell barbecue areas, new benches were added to the beloved Drummer’s Grove, and broken ornamental brickwork at the historic Boathouse terrance was repaired.

Volunteer Opportunities
Prospect Park Alliance has brought back the popular Re:New Volunteer Corps—a weekly volunteer program that tackles park improvement projects made necessary by the high volume of visitors. The crew works alongside Alliance staff to maintain playgrounds, painting over unsightly graffiti, weed areas overgrown with invasive plants and repaint park benches and railings.

In 2021, the Re:New Volunteer Corps was a great success and the crew worked on a variety of park improvement projects. Over the course of the season, they removed 2.6 tons of invasive vines and weeds; filled 250 holes on the Long Meadow; replenished all playground sandboxes; and sanded and painted 270 linear feet of hand railing, 121 benches, 46 entrance bollards, and the 10 storage containers on Center Drive.

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. Learn more at prospectpark.org. 

About Amazon
Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit amazon.com/about and follow @AmazonNews.

About ACE
ACE was founded in 1992 and provides job-readiness training, work experience, all around support, and much more to New Yorkers who have histories of homelessness, incarceration and addiction. At ACE, men and women overcome barriers through hard work to reach their goals of full-time employment, economic self-sufficiency, and family reunification. Over 3,000 men and women have secured full-time employment through ACE’s programs. Learn more at acenewyork.org.

c. Martin Seck

Celebrate Earth Day in Prospect Park

April 13, 2022

Join the celebration! This Earth Day season, join Prospect Park Alliance for nature exploration activities, open-air learning, volunteer activities, virtual learning resources, and stewardship to give back to our park and our planet. 

  • Volunteer
    • Prospect Park Alliance’s spring volunteer season is underway and there are many opportunities to lend a hand in Brooklyn’s Backyard. Work on essential park projects with Re:New Volunteer Corps on Tuesdays, help pick up litter with Green + Go Kits, and more! Register to be a Prospect Park Volunteer and see all of our upcoming opportunities at prospectpark.org/volunteer.
  • Nature Activities + In-Park Events
    • Join Prospect Park Alliance on Saturday April 23 for nature activities, education opportunities and more! Head to B’Earthday Bash to celebrate Earth Day, the Prospect Park Audubon Center’s 20th Anniversary, and the birthday of two legends: naturalist John James Audubon, and landscape architect and Prospect Park’s creator, Frederick Law Olmsted. Participate in  interactive activities for all ages, nature walks and a special exhibit on the 200th Anniversary of Olmsted’s birth. Learn about the environment in a special one-day session of University Open Air, with sustainability-focused free courses and workshops under the trees in Prospect Park.

What We’re Planting in the Park This Spring

Spring has sprung in Prospect Park! Prospect Park Alliance gardeners and volunteers are putting on their gardening gloves and preparing for our seasonal planting. This spring, our Landscape Management team is preparing to add 10,953 plants to the park, including: 171 trees, 338 shrubs, and 10,499 herbaceous plugs.

Prospect Park comprises 585 acres of rolling meadows, waterways and woodlands in the heart of Brooklyn, and is home to the borough’s only lake and last remaining forest. This landscape, beloved by Brooklynites, is also an essential wildlife habitat and hosts 250 species of birds and other important flora and fauna. For over 30 years, Prospect Park Alliance has overseen the park’s natural areas, and major improvements have been made to the entire park ecosystem. This spring’s plantings continue this essential work to keep the park green and vibrant.

Many of the new trees will be planted as part of the Alliance’s Commemorative Giving program, an opportunity for the public to donate a tree to the park in honor of a loved one or for a special occasion. These additions help replace lost trees and ensure the ecological health of the park.

These trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plugs are destined for areas throughout Prospect Park. The southern shore of the Peninsula will receive native wetland plants in an effort to prevent the further erosion of the Lake edge and the expansion of the invasive phragmites, while creating a visually appealing native waterfowl habitat. At the Butterfly Meadow atop Lookout Hill, volunteers have done extensive work clearing the area of undesirable invasive plants to make way for more beneficial species.

One of the spring’s largest plantings will take place in the landscape surrounding the LeFrak Center at Lakeside. Alliance staff have been hard at work this winter experimenting with sheet mulching in anticipation of the new plant additions in the area. “It will be interesting to see how the sheet mulching works,” says Ecozone Gardener AJ Logan. “Even before we plant new things we are already seeing some of both our friends and foes of the plant world sneaking in around the edges of the cardboard.”

The plantings at Lakeside will include a variety of species well suited for our area, and selected for their ecological benefits within our ecosystem. One addition, the Red Chokecherry, (Aronia arbutifolia), is a native shrub in the rose family with attractive white flowers in the spring and intense red and orange foliage in the fall. Its pollen and nectar provide food for native pollinators, and its berries are a winter source of food for birds. Another, Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), has fragrant, bottle-brush like blooms of white flowers that attract a variety of pollinators in the summer.

The most important way the public can help these new plantings? “I’d like for visitors to know that when people and pets go into the horticultural beds, they can easily damage plants, particularly young perennials, and can contribute to soil compaction and erosion,” says Lakeside Lead Eco Zone Gardener Corbin Laedlein. “Please don’t wander into the beds and keep your dogs leashed at Lakeside.”

The sentiment is echoed by Eco Zone Gardener Jesse Brody, “with continued hard work, time and resources, I’m hopeful that we can get the LeFrak greenroof back to its pre-Covid state of being a landscape that serves important ecological functions and appears more worthy of the public’s respectful treatment.”

Learn more about Prospect Park Alliance’s work to sustain the environment.

c. Corbin Laedlein

Winter Work—Prepping for Spring Plantings at Lakeside

February 16, 2022

If you’ve visited the area around the LeFrak Center at Lakeside recently, you may have noticed Alliance gardeners hard at work and wondered, “what’s going on?” For weeks, dedicated staff and volunteers have been laying down cardboard and piles of leaves in an attempt to nip a persistent spring problem in the bud.

“In some areas we’re fighting a battle against the weeds and their seeds,” says Corbin Laedlein, Lakeside Lead EcoZone Gardener. Lakeside’s planted landscape is carefully managed to sustain wildlife and support the native ecosystem—but invasive and opportunistic plants can quickly outcompete the beneficial species. To combat the unwanted plants, Laedlein is overseeing large-scale “sheet mulching,” a technique being employed by the Alliance’s Lakeside gardeners in preparation for new plantings in the area come spring. “The main weeds we are suppressing are Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), Bedstraw (Galium aparine), Vetch (Coronilla varia) and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense),” says Laedlein.

The Lakeside EcoZone team, which includes Laedlein and EcoZone Gardners Jesse Brody, AJ Logan and Christopher Pierce, first conducted a good deal of prep work to clear the targeted areas of these invasive plants and their root systems, then placed  a layer of cardboard to fully cover the soil. A layer of freshly-fallen leaves from park trees, gathered by Prospect Park’s Turf Crew, provided a layer of mulch to spread on top of the cardboard. By spring, the materials will have begun to decompose, and the gardeners will poke holes through the cardboard where new seedlings will be planted—ideally without the competition of the weeds, and benefiting from the fresh mulch.

By employing an eco-friendly weed-suppression method, Lakeside gardeners are avoiding the application of harmful chemicals in the park—an important goal for the Alliance’s Landscape Management team. In recent years, similar innovative thinking has seen the introduction of goats to clear invasive plants on steep slopes and ladybugs to tackle a harmful lace bug infestation. “Sheet mulching is super labor-intensive work,” says Laedlein, “and this large project couldn’t have been accomplished without the Alliance’s Lakeside EcoZone Gardeners, Alliance Volunteers, the City Cleanup Corps and the Prospect Park Turf Crew.

   

The spring plantings will include trees, shrubs, grasses and herbaceous perennials drawing on the original palette of plants chosen for Lakeside, plus a few new additions. This includes Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) and Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) to name a few—plants chosen for their resilience and ecosystem benefits.

Learn more about how Prospect Park Alliance is sustaining the environment. 

c. Elizabeth-Keegin-Colley

Explore Prospect Park’s Waterways

January 25, 2022

Take a free, self-guided audio tour of Prospect Park’s watercourse—a marvel of nature, history and eco-innovation. The tour is presented by Prospect Park Alliance, in partnership with artist Mary Mattingly and More Art, and powered by Gesso. The tour serves as an educational component of the ecoWEIR pilot program currently operating in Prospect Park, and is presented through funding from the Environmental Protection Fund Grant Program for Park Services, administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s landmark park, is a natural wonder but also a feat of engineering: home to the borough’s last remaining forest and only lake, the park’s watercourse is fed by the New York City water supply. The free, self-guided audio tour provides a new perspective on the natural and human-made ecosystems found in Prospect Park, and its connection to New York City’s water supply. From the natural ponds, local springs, and streams that were here before the park, to the waterways designed by park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux that today are fed by watersheds as far as 125 miles north of the city, to the future health of these waterways through an innovative ecoWEIR that uses plants to filter water—the tour peels back layers of history, environmental stewardship, and human intervention that are hidden beneath the surface.

The tour begins at the Grand Army Plaza entrance of the park and ends on Wellhouse Drive in the park, a total of 2.02 miles and 12 narrated stops. The route includes a steep set of stairs in the Ravine and passes over dirt/gravel and paved paths. There is an accessible restroom at the end of the tour located at the Wellhouse. 

c. Brittany Buongiorno

WNYC Features Alliance Animal Pro Marty Woess

January 21, 2022

In Prospect Park, Marty Woess is a familiar fixture, whether she’s working with volunteers, zooming around in her cart, or performing impressive animal rescues. Woess is the Forestry, Wildlife and Aquatic Technician for the Prospect Park Alliance, and her work was featured on WNYC’s Morning Edition in an interview with host Michael Hill, and in a related story on Gothamist by Alec Hamilton.

Listen to Woess’s interview on WNYC:

Woess’s work is part of the Alliance’s mission to sustain the environment in Prospect Park, and she works alongside the dedicated Landscape Management team. These workers monitor the health of the park’s aquatic and woodland areas, look after more than 30,000 trees, and strategically care for the park’s natural habitats.

Prospect Park is 585 acres of rolling meadows, waterways and woodlands in the heart of New York’s most populous borough—and receives upwards of 10 million visits a year. Prospect Park also is home to Brooklyn’s only lake and last remaining forest, and is an important wildlife habitat that supports more than 250 species of birds and other fauna.

In her interview, Woess stresses the importance for proper park stewardship in order to keep the park wildlife safe, “Be responsible. Take your trash out with you. If you’re a fisherman, please do it responsibly. You need to clear up your line and your hooks. Make sure you have the right hooks, the legal hooks. It’s about taking responsibility for your actions in a park and cleaning up after yourself.”

If you see an animal in need in Prospect Park, please call 311. Learn more about our work and how you can help sustain Prospect Park’s environment. 

Marty Woess rescuing a racoon in Prospect Park. c. Marty Woess.

c. Shutterstock/WNYC

Prospect Park Alliance Volunteer Helps Revive the American Chestnut

December 21, 2021

Ever wonder what happened to the American Chestnut? At the turn  of the 20th century, the American chestnut towered over other trees in Eastern  forests. The trees would grow as much as 100 feet high, and 13 feet wide. According to legend, a squirrel could scamper from New England to Georgia on the canopies of American chestnuts, never touching the ground.

And then, the trees began to disappear, succumbing to a mysterious fungus. The fungus first appeared in New York City in 1904—and  then it spread. By the 1950s, the fungus had wiped out billions of trees, and effectively finished off the American chestnut.

Now, some folks are trying to resurrect the American chestnut– including a longtime Prospect Park Alliance volunteer, Bart Chezar, who works closely with the Prospect Park Alliance’s Landscape Management Team.

Take a listen to WNYC’s Science Friday segment.

Learn more about Prospect Park Alliance’s work to sustain the environment.

 

c. Steve Nanz

Birdwatching in Prospect Park

October 12, 2021

A key focus of the non-profit Prospect Park Alliance’s mission is to sustain and restore the park’s natural areas, including Brooklyn’s last remaining forest and only Lake, which suffered from significant erosion and neglect prior to the Alliance’s founding. Keeping the park green and vibrant is important to both humans and birds alike. During the fall migration, one of the peak birdwatching times of year, we sat down to talk to Alliance EcoZone Gardener and avid birder Peter Dorosh, recognizing the park’s important role as a haven for more than 200 species of birds.

“The most exciting season for birdwatching is now and in the spring, the biannual migrations when birds travel to and from their breeding grounds throughout North America,” Dorosh said. When asked why Brooklyn’s Backyard is a great place for birdwatching, he said: “Because it’s a contained green space surrounded by urban dwellings, birds migrating see a dark spot during their migratory travels at night (recognizing it as a green space), and come down from flight for shelter and food.”

The Alliance’s landscape management team, which includes gardeners, a forester and also a forest ecologist, focuses on sustaining our natural areas with native plantings that are specifically geared to providing food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.

Prospect Park takes on even more importance for birds in light of a recent study that found steep, long-term losses across virtually all groups of birds in the U.S. and Canada. How to nurture birds in Brooklyn’s Backyard? Please sustain our woodlands by staying on path, and not climbing or hanging structures on our trees. Have a dog?  Please keep your pet on leash, and on path, in woodland areas. Dorosh explained that birds, whether they are nesting, breeding or migrating, see dogs as a threat. “Most particularly during nesting season, the parent birds get unnecessarily stressed and hyper-vigilant in trying to protect their young even if the nest is high above.” Even if birds are not directly attacked by dogs, just the sight of dogs can send birds into a panic, causing unnecessary stress during this critical time in their survival.

To learn more about birdwatching, connect with our partners at the Brooklyn Bird Club. They offer free, year-round programming to novices and avid birdwatchers alike. Find out more about bird watching in Prospect Park on our website.

Help spread the word about good park stewardship: Dogs are allowed off leash in the park from 6 am to 9 am and 9 pm to 1 am on the Long Meadow (not ballfields), Nethermead, and the Peninsula Meadow. At all other times and locations, dogs should be on their leashes. Birds and park wildlife will thank you!

Woodlands Youth Crew Completes New Park Trail

September 10, 2021

Visiting the park this fall, you may notice a scenic addition in the heart of our woodlands—a rustic trail just off Center Drive that invites visitors to slow their pace and meander into parts unknown. 

The work to restore this woodland area and create a new trail was work of the 2021 summer cohort of the Prospect Park Alliance Woodlands Youth Crew, one of our signature youth employment programs that provides local teens with employment, training, mentorship and professional experience in environmental conservation and park stewardship. The program was funded this summer through the generous support of NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, whose longstanding partnership with the Alliance and essential work during the pandemic will be honored on September 30 at the Prospect Park Alliance Gala.

Woodlands youth crew 2021 picstich.png
Picturedat top, Paul Lubrun and Kayla Green; above left, Phil Lubrun, right, Jeshua Figueroa and Paul Lubrun.

The work of the Woodlands Youth Crew is an essential part of the Alliance’s work to restore and sustain Brooklyn’s last remaining forest. The semicircular route created this summer by the crew features a never-before-seen view of the top of the Lullwater, previously inaccessible to park visitors. “This area was a complete vine-land, with invasive plants everywhere—you couldn’t see the water at all,” says Kate Abrams, the Alliance Woodlands Youth Crew Manager. “But there is also so much good stuff in here, witch hazels, red maples, oaks and sumacs, and the idea of the trail just came together.” 

On a recent summer afternoon, the crew members were proud to point out the work they had done to transform this part of the park. Heaping compost piles were a testament to the volume of invasive vines that the crew had removed, and mulched paths with cedar railings were getting their finishing touches. “We’ve been getting lots of passersby saying thank you,” says Philip Lubrun, a crew member since 2016 who is now back for his second year as a supervisor. “This was my first job, and it comes naturally to me now. I’ve learned about planting, carpentry, invasive removal—it’s opened up a lot of opportunities for me…this is not the type of job you find everywhere.” 

“This is a great crew and the teamwork over time is the best thing to see,” says Abrams, “hopefully this path opens up possibilities for this area—people already seem to really appreciate it and the kids are really proud of what they’ve done.”

woodlands youth crew path 2021.jpg

A peek at the new trail, off Center Drive in Prospect Park.

Learn more about Prospect Park Alliance’s Woodlands Youth Crew.

c. Frederick Charles

Prospect Park’s NYC Climate Week 2021 Events

The effects of climate change are being felt near and far, including in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. During NYC Climate Week, September 20-26, join Prospect Park Alliance for virtual and in-person events to learn more and lend a hand in Brooklyn’s Backyard: