What We’re Planting in the Park This Spring

April 13, 2022

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. 

2022 Winter Checklist

December 30, 2021

As we enter the new year, Prospect Park Alliance encourages you to look ahead to the fun that the new year has in store! From sledding, skating, winter walks and more, we’ve put together 5 perfectly-park activities for you to check off your list in the new year. Take a look and we’ll see you in the park.

Make the Most of Your Holiday Tree
Join Prospect Park Alliance on January 8 + 9 for Mulchfest! Bring your holiday tree to Prospect Park, where it will go through a chipper and transform into environment-friendly mulch. Plus, you can take some home for your own yard or garden. Learn more about this beloved tradition—including how to volunteer. 

Get Out on the Ice
Enjoy a beloved winter tradition in Prospect Park—head down to the rinks at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside for hours of fun. There’s room for all ages and abilities, and make sure to warm up and refuel with hot chocolate at the Bluestone Café. Plus, the rinks aren’t just for ice skating—sign up for a hockey league, and even plan a birthday party at this popular recreational destination. Lakeside is open everyday in-season!

Try a Winter Walk or Run
Looking forward to enjoying Prospect Park’s natural spaces during this beautiful time of year? We can help with that! We’ve put together a suggested Winter Walk in Prospect Park to help you explore Lookout Hill. If running is your preferred speed, don’t miss our Cold Weather Running Tips that will help you make the most of a workout at this time of year.

Get Ready to Sled!
Both through nature and by design, Prospect Park’s landscape is dotted with rolling hills, which makes it prime territory for winter sledding. When conditions are right, make sure to stop by the top sledding destinations in Brooklyn’s Backyard. Get there early, you’ll be competing with all of Brooklyn for a spot on the slopes!

Game, Set, Match
Planning on making a New Year’s resolution to take up a new hobby? The Prospect Park Tennis Center is the perfect place to try something new. Play under the bubble on the facility’s indoor courts all winter long and improve your tennis—whether you’re a beginner or just hoping to take your game to the next level.

Virtual Tour: Spring Planting at Lakeside

May 7, 2021

Take a virtual walk through LeFrak Center at Lakeside with Turnstile Tours and Corbin Laedlein, the Lakeside Lead EcoZone Gardener for Prospect Park Alliance. Learn how Corbin and his fellow Lakeside gardeners curate Lakeside’s plant mix for ecological, aesthetic, and habitat purposes, and visit the green roof atop the Lakeside skating rink.

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

 

c. Andrew Gardner

2020 Winter Checklist

December 17, 2019

As we approach 2020, Prospect Park Alliance encourages you to look ahead to the fun that the new year has in store! From fireworks to sledding, winter walks and curling, we’ve put together 7 perfectly-park activities for you to check off your list in the new year. Take a look and we’ll see you in the park. 

Kick of the New Year with Fireworks!
Join Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and Prospect Park Alliance for Brooklyn’s most spectacular New Year’s Eve Fireworks Celebration at Prospect Park’s iconic Grand Army Plaza. This free event includes live entertainment followed by fireworks at the stroke of midnight. This family-friendly fireworks display, now in its 40th year, attracts tens of thousands of revelers to Prospect Park, making it one of the city’s most popular celebrations. This event is free and open to the public, and will take place rain or shine. RSVP to let us know that you are coming!
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Make the Most of Your Holiday Tree
Join Prospect Park Alliance on January 4 + 11 for Mulchfest! Bring your holiday tree to Prospect Park, where it will go through a chipper and transform into environment-friendly mulch at both 3rd Street and Park Circle Entrances. Plus, you can take some home for your own yard or garden. Learn more about this beloved tradition—including how to volunteer. 
 

Get Out on the Ice
Enjoy a beloved winter tradition in Prospect Park—head down to the rinks at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside for hours of fun. There’s room for all ages and abilities, and make sure to warm up and refuel with hot chocolate at the Bluestone Café. Plus, the rinks aren’t just for ice skating—sign up for a curling lesson, hockey league, and even plan a birthday party at this popular recreational destination. Lakeside is open everyday in-season, including New Years day!
 

Try a Winter Walk or Run
Looking forward to enjoying Prospect Park’s natural spaces during this beautiful time of year? We can help with that! We’ve put together a suggested Winter Walk in Prospect Park to help you explore Lookout Hill. If running is your preferred speed, don’t miss our Cold Weather Running Tips that will help you make the most of a workout at this time of year. 
 

Get Ready to Sled!
Both through nature and by design, Prospect Park’s landscape is dotted with rolling hills, which makes it prime territory for winter sledding. When conditions are right, make sure to stop by the top sledding destinations in Brooklyn’s Backyard. Get there early, you’ll be competing with all of Brooklyn for a spot on the slopes!
 

Game, Set, Match
Planning on making a New Year’s resolution to get in shape? The Prospect Park Tennis Center is the perfect place to meet your goals while enjoying this fun activity. Play under the bubble on the facility’s indoor courts all winter long and improve your tennis—whether you’re a beginner or just hoping to take your game to the next level. 

Martin Seck

Ready to Skate!

November 19, 2019

The winter ice-skating season at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park will begin Wednesday, November 20, 2019, with open skating hours the entire family will enjoy.

The LeFrak Center at Lakeside is Brooklyn’s premier ice skating destination. The center welcomes the public for ice skating as well as lessons and leagues in a range of winter ice activities, from figure skating to hockey and curling. 

This season, Lakeside is updating its fleet of ice skates with brand-new skates for rent, which will roll out in the coming weeks. In addition, world-renowned Olympic figure-skating athletes Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov have been appointed as Directors of Sports Programs for Lakeside’s growing Skate School.

Gregory and Petukhov represented the United States in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, and claimed six consecutive U.S. National Championships medals. They won the United States Olympic Committee “Rings of Gold” award for innovative sports programming and youth development, and continue to represent the United States Olympic ideals. Along with Hockey Director Greg Vaslet, the team will further strengthen Lakeside’s commitment to the community by providing exceptional coaching and expanded learn to skate programs. 

Learn-to-Skate and Learn-to-Play-Hockey classes will kick off the week of December 2, 2019. Interim booster classes for all ages will be available the weekends of November 23/24 and November 30/December 1 at 9 am for hockey, and 10:30 am for skating. To register, please contact [email protected].

The LeFrak Center at Lakeside is a year-round recreational destination created by Prospect Park Alliance and NYC Parks, and operated by Upsilon Ventures, featuring ice skating and related sports in the winter months and biking, boating, roller skating and water play in the spring through fall. This 26-acre destination also includes a cafe and beautifully landscaped terraces and an esplanade to enjoy all four seasons. Lakeside opened to the public in 2013, and is the most ambitious project in the history of the park since its creation in 1867. It serves more than 250,000 people each year.

Visit our Lakeside page for hours, admission and additional information.

c. Prospect Park Alliance

The Park’s New Rustic Pergola

April 22, 2019

Prospect Park Alliance’s Lakeside gardeners made the most of the mild winter this year. While they waited for the busy warmer season, they built a new destination, much to the delight of park visitors. The new rustic pergola, built by LJ Philp, Lakeside Lead Gardener; Allison Loux, Lakeside Assistant Gardener; and Melissa Finley, Lakeside Assistant Gardener, is located off the Park Drive, just north of the LeFrak Center at Lakeside.

“A common problem in the park is desire lines,” says Philp, referring to the improvised and unintended paths made by park visitors. “We had a very noticeable one at Lakeside, so we decided instead of putting up another fence to keep people from walking through the planting, why not create an inviting destination for people to walk through and sit under.”

Much of the unmilled, untreated wood sourced for the pergola came from downed park trees. In the coming months, additional decoration will come in the form of native plantings, including American wisteria that will grow over the structure. “I’m proud of our work and very happy to have had the opportunity to expand my carpentry skills,” says Finley, “the pergola is an aesthetically pleasing and useful addition to the Lakeside landscape, which is as naturalistic as possible.”

This new pergola carries on a tradition of rustic landscape features that date back to 18th century. Rustic work, which features unmilled wood, had been very popular in the grand English estates of the time period. Park designer Calvert Vaux’s early mentor and business partner, Andrew Jackson Downing, was one of America’s foremost landscape designers in the mid-1800s, and had popularized this style of building with his American clientele.

Calvert Vaux adopted this style to great acclaim, and when Prospect Park opened in 1867, the public was delighted by his rustic-style thatched shelters, romantic arbors and scenic overlooks nestled throughout the park. They became beloved destinations, and can be seen in many early photographs and postcards of the park.

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Rustic viewing platform in Prospect Park ravine, circa 1890. Prospect Park Archives/Herbert Mitchell Collection

None of these original structures have survived into modern times, but the rustic style can be seen throughout the park, notably at the Summerhouse on the lake shore near the Parkside and Ocean Avenue entrance; Binnen Bridge near the Boathouse; and the railings through the woodlands created and maintained by the Alliance’s Natural Resources Crew and the Woodland Youth Crew.

And as for the reception of the park’s new pergola? “It seems like park users love it,”  says Loux. “It feels great when someone walks by and says thank you, or that it’s beautiful, or asks how we made it.”

So, on your next run or walk on the Park Drive, make sure to stop and enjoy this exciting new addition to the park, and learn more about how Prospect Park Alliance is advancing the park.

c. Martin Seck

Park Checklist: 7 Ways To Enjoy Winter

January 15, 2019

Every season is wonderful in its own way, and we love winter in Prospect Park! From snow-day activities to school break programs, here are 7 recommendations from Prospect Park Alliance to get you out of the house and into the park this season.

  1. Head to the LeFrak Center at Lakeside: It’s time to get out on the ice in Prospect Park. From a day of skating with friends, to  curling, hockey and more, visit the park’s state-of-the-art skating rink this season while the weather is still cold. 
  2. Enjoy family fun at the Audubon Center and Lefferts Historic House: Prospect Park’s beloved Audubon Center and Lefferts Historic House have plenty of exciting programming coming up this winter. Stop by both sites for Lunar New Year activities, including paper-lantern making at Lefferts, and a variety of activities during Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the Presidents Week school break.  
  3. Take a Winter Walk: If summer crowds aren’t your scene, the colder months are the perfect time of year to explore the park’s 585 acres of meadow, forest and lake. Take a look at our suggestions for winter walks that take advantage of the season. 
  4. Tennis, anyone? It can be hard to suit up for exercise in sub-zero temperatures, but the Prospect Park Tennis Center has you covered, literally. Heated, indoor courts are the perfect place to get a work out, with friends or in classes, while supporting Brooklyn’s Backyard.  
  5. Winter Birdwatching: Brush off the binoculars, because winter is the perfect time for birdwatching in Prospect Park! With the leaves off the trees throughout the park, spotting birds is easy–and Prospect Park is a world-renowned location to spot our avian pals. Learn more about birdwatching in the park, including upcoming birdwalks in January and February.
  6. Sledding in Prospect Park: While our winter is off to a mostly snow-free start, our fingers are crossed for flurries in the forecast and plenty of sledding days in the park. Check out our list of top Prospect Park sledding locations, and see you next blizzard!
  7. Take in our Prospect Park exhibition at Brooklyn Historical Society–last chance! An offsite checklist suggestion, head to the Brooklyn Historical Society to check out The Means of a Ready Escape: Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, an exhibition presented in partnership with Prospect Park Alliance that celebrates the founding vision of the Park, and traces its social and historical trajectories. Hurry, this exhibition closes February 10!

Learn more about upcoming events in Prospect Park.

c. Harpers Weekly

The “Beautiful Spectacle” of Skating Carnivals

January 14, 2019

Long before Prospect Park Alliance opened the LeFrak Center at Lakeside, the park’s state-of-the-art skating rink, Brooklynites would wait for temperatures to drop and then flock by the tens of thousands to Prospect Park’s 60-acre Lake to enjoy this winter recreation, with crowds as many as 20,000 skaters on peak days.

A Brooklyn Daily Eagle article from February 7, 1881, reports:

The ice on the Prospect Park lake is eighteen inches thick. Yesterday it was crowded all day, and by the afternoon the surface was rather badly cut up by the steel runners of the skaters. The ice is swept at night after the skaters leave and flooded a little, so as to make a smooth, even surface in the morning. The skaters are allowed to remain until 11 o’clock on all except Sunday nights, when the ice is cleared at about 9 o’clock.

With so many people flocking to the ice, and with periodic warm spells midwinter, the scene at the Lake was often chaotic. Collisions between skaters and slips through thin patches of ice were not uncommon, and “keepers” uniformed in blue kept watch over the crowds.

By the early 1900’s, the city was staging “skating carnivals” as reported on in the January 2, 1915, edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Brooklyn was treated to a new and beautiful spectacle last night, when the Park Department permitted a skating carnival to be held on the Prospect Park lake. In the light of the full moon and with a thousand Chinese lanterns strung around the big body of water, 10,000 men, women and children flitted to and fro on the flashing steel runners. Some of them even danced on the ice.

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Photo of lanterns around frozen Prospect Park lake, c. New York Historical Society.

In the 1930’s and ’40’s, as all kinds of ice sports became increasingly popular, these “carnivals” became daytime sporting events with thousands watching from the shore, including ice hockey matches between teams from Brooklyn Technical High School and Manual Training High School (later called John Jay High School), speed-skating races and figure-skating displays. The carnivals even had an Ice Carnival King and Queen.

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The 1936 Ice Carnival King and Queen, c. Prospect Park Archives.

Today, New Yorkers can experience with thrill of gliding over the ice throughout the season at Prospect Park’s LeFrak Center at Lakeside. And while skating on the Lake is no longer permitted, Lakeside’s two rinks are just yards from the water’s edge, and visitors need only a bit of imagination to relive those festive nights over 100 years ago.

Martin Seck

Unleash Your Inner Olympian at Lakeside

February 9, 2018

As the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games heat up, many of us are feeling inspired to satisfy our own Olympic ambitions. At the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park, visitors can try figure skating, hockey and even the more obscure sport of curling, without ever leaving Brooklyn!

Curling
Curling is a sport which suffers from the popular misperception that it is easy. While slow moving in comparison to many of its Olympic compatriots, this sport requires balance, precision and a knack with a broom. Originated in medieval Scotland, curling is a game in which players, wearing grippy shoes, slide polished, 44-pound granite stones toward a circular target marked on the ice. Long popular in Canada, curling has been enjoying a wider revival since being added to the Olympic games in 1998, and has sparked a devoted following in Brooklyn.
The LeFrak Center is home to the official Brooklyn Lakeside Curling Club, and currently the LeFrak Center is offering weekly classes for those interested in trying the sport. Learn more about Curling at Lakeside.

Figure Skating
If you love watching figure skating in prime time, you’ll enjoy it even more in person at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside, spangled spandex costumes encouraged! The third annual Lakeside Open Competition takes place on February 25, and members of the public are invited to watch this exciting event free of charge. Figure skaters can take to the ice in freestyle sessions, sign up for lessons or perform in the Spring Show. Learn more about Figure Skating at Lakeside.

Hockey
Hockey isn’t just for the pros! You can get into the game at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside with clinics and open hockey sessions, and Youth and Adult league play. Sessions are coed and hockey enthusiasts of all levels can gain experience. Learn more.

Broomball
Don’t know how to skate, but want to score a goal? You’re in luck! Broomball, on offer Friday nights at the LeFrak Center, is played in sneakers on ice.

And, if organized sport isn’t your preference but you want to get out on the ice, the LeFrak Center at Lakeside is open for ice skating seven days a week. Learn more about visiting the LeFrak Center at Lakeside.