Get to Know Morgan Monaco

January 18, 2023

Morgan Monaco, the new Prospect Park Alliance President and Park Administrator has a long history in the parks world and a storied record of leadership in support of her community. Most recently, Monaco served as Executive Director of the Red Hook Initiative, a youth and community development nonprofit impacting the 6,500 residents of the Red Hook Houses, Brooklyn’s largest public housing development. Earlier in her career, Monaco served two tenures at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, first as Director of the MillionTreesNYC Initiative and later as Director of Stewardship for Forestry, Horticulture and Natural Resources. Monaco began her career at StoryCorps, a national oral history project designed to build connections between people and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs.

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.

Learn more and RSVP for this free event.

“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 1917 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 Jameel 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.

Learn more at prospectpark.org/reimagine-lefferts.

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.

Commemorate MLK Day in Prospect Park

January 2, 2023

Join Prospect Park Alliance to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Prospect Park with programming to give back to your community and learn about the environment around us in Brooklyn’s Backyard. Sign up for a volunteer opportunity to help keep Prospect Park vibrant, then make the most of the school holiday with family-friendly nature exploration opportunities including a winter wilderness walk, animal encounters, and more at the Audubon Center.

Day of Service: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Between 10 am – 1 pm, Music Pagoda, Free, Registration Required
Commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a day of service in Prospect Park. Make a difference on this official day of giving back to honor Dr. King’s legacy alongside communities across the country.

Join Prospect Park Alliance to care for your park by focusing efforts around the Music Pagoda in Brooklyn’s Backyard and spreading wood chips, raking leaves, removing litter and more. Families, teens and adults are welcome.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day School Holiday at the Prospect Park Audubon Center
12-4 pm, Prospect Park Audubon Center, Free
Join Prospect Park Alliance for indoor and outdoor nature education programs at the Prospect Park Audubon Center, the first urban Audubon Center in the nation.

  • Discovery Pack, 12–3 pm: Bundle up and explore Prospect Park with our Discovery Packs, a ready-to-go kit filled with nature activities for families.
  • 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.
  • Winter Wilderness Walk, 3-4 pm: Curious about animal tracks in the snow, how trees survive without leaves, or how bugs stay warm? Join an Alliance Naturalist for a tour of how plants and animals live in the winter months. This program leaves from the Audubon Center promptly at 3 pm.

10 Years After Sandy in Prospect Park

November 10, 2022

It has been 10 years since Superstorm Sandy arrived in New York City, taking lives and leaving a path of destruction in its wake. As Brooklyn residents at the time will remember, Prospect Park was extremely hard hit by the storm and the work to recover and rebuild for the future has spanned the past decade. Revisit the timeline of the Superstorm Sandy events and how they have shaped the park today:

The Superstorm—October 2012

When Superstorm Sandy arrived in the New York City area on October 29, 2012, the winds caused widespread destruction in the park. All told, the storm felled over 500 trees throughout the park, including 50 trees around the Children’s Pool at the Vale of Cashmere. Revisit footage of the aftermath of the storm in Prospect Park from WNYC. 

The Alliance worked to address storm damage in the Vale, in the Park’s northeast corner: cleaning up downed trees, resetting damaged boulders, and planting native trees and shrubs in order to stabilize the Vale’s slopes.

The Zucker Natural Play Area utilizes trees that came down in Hurricane Sandy.

The Zucker Natural Exploration Area—October 2013

A year after Superstorm Sandy, some of the downed trees found new life in the Donald and Barbara Zucker Natural Exploration Area. Tree trunks and branches were used by Prospect Park Alliance to create a new play area for children, where natural materials took center stage and imaginations ran wild. The Exploration Area was an instant hit and continues to be a beloved destination for families in the park.

New York State Grant—2016

The Alliance received $1.2 million in funding from the National Parks Service through the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Assistance Grant Program for Historic Properties, administered by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, to restore the Vale and Lookout Hill (another damaged area) to a healthy, native woodland habitat. With this funding, Prospect Park Alliance began in earnest the work of deliberate and significant restoration work in these storm-ravaged areas of the park.

A crew of goats, hired to aid in the restoration work. 

The Goats Arrive—2016 + 2017

In areas of the park where trees fell, invasive plants were able to thrive and overrun the natural ecosystem. Steep slopes and poison ivy made clearing these areas a daunting task for staff, so Prospect Park Alliance called in the experts—a herd of goats! In 2016 and 2017, Prospect Park Alliance brought goats to Prospect Park as part of its woodland restoration efforts in the Vale in the park’s Northeast Corner and Lookout Hill. Instant Brooklyn celebrities, the goats were extremely efficient workers and relished the work of clearing delicious (to them) poison ivy. With full bellies, the goats finished their Prospect Park work season in October 2017, making way for new plantings in the park.

Hurricane Sandy Crew + Landscape Restoration—2016-2020

Prospect Park Alliance brought on a three-person crew to undertake the intensive restoration work necessary in the areas of the park affected by Hurricane Sandy. Tree inventories and health and hazard assessments were completed to quantify and prioritize the removal of damaged trees, including nonnative species that are detrimental to the ecological health of the woodlands. The crew selected a plant palette of climate-resilient and beneficial native plant species to replant in the area. The areas most affected by the storm became hotspots of year-round activity, with the crew and a dedicated team of volunteers hard at work.

In October of 2017, exactly 150 years to the day that Olmsted and Vaux opened Prospect Park’s doors to the public for the first time, Prospect Park Alliance volunteers and staff rolled up their sleeves and got planting in the Vale. Over 20,000 trees, plants and shrubs were planted—a selection aimed at building a healthy and long-lasting forest habitat for birds, wildlife and humans alike. A finishing touch to the lower Vale area was the installation of a rustic woodland trail, which brings accessibility into the heart of the restored area and invites the public to experience the forest as it grows.

Mary Keehbauch, Deputy Director of Landscape Management, and AJ Logan,  Ecological Zone Gardener, former members of the Hurricane Sandy Crew, standing in the restored Vale landscape.

The work completed was comprehensive and has been a success: this portion of the park has been restored to strong ecological health which will benefit the park’s plant and animal communities long term. The work in this area was undertaken by Alliance staff including the Hurricane Sandy Crew, and was supported along the way by a dedicated team of Prospect Park Alliance volunteers and the members of the Woodlands Youth Crew.

These years of hard work to recover from the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy continue to inform Prospect Park Alliance’s work to sustain the park now, and as we look to the future. The restored areas of the landscape in the Northeast corner of the park are flourishing and providing a blueprint for the work that is planned throughout the Vale area and beyond in the park to make our landscapes resilient as we face the challenges of the climate crisis and work to improve the park for the people, plants and animals that depend on it.

Learn more about Prospect Park Alliance’s work to Sustain the Environment. 

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 Paul Martinka

Morgan Monaco Appointed Prospect Park Alliance President + Prospect Park Administrator

October 17, 2022

Prospect Park Alliance and NYC Parks announced today that longtime New York City public servant Morgan Monaco will become the new President of the Alliance, the non-profit that operates the park in partnership with the City, and also the Prospect Park Administrator, a public appointment by NYC Parks.

Monaco, whose public sector career spans both government and non-profit organizations, brings extensive knowledge of park equity and community development to the position, as well as strong leadership in driving sustainable impact for civic organizations. Monaco is the first Black leader of the Alliance, further diversifying executive leadership within the open space sector, and continues the legacy of female leadership at the Alliance over the course of its 35-year history. Monaco succeeds former Prospect Park Alliance President Sue Donoghue, who was appointed New York City Parks Commissioner earlier this year.

Monaco looks forward to working with the board, staff and most especially park users to help shape her vision for the park’s future. Coming out of the pandemic and recognizing the ways in which the park has been an invaluable resource for New Yorkers to recover, she looks forward to strengthening the organization’s capacity in order to keep pace with the needs of the park community and the robust use of the park. She plans to leverage her experience in working on citywide equity initiatives and serving vulnerable communities to explore the ways in which the Alliance can bring more social services to the park. She hopes to continue to build upon the Alliance’s already extensive network of partners to bring more programs that are focused on health, wellness and other services that help residents thrive.

“On behalf of the Alliance’s Board of Directors, I am thrilled to welcome Morgan Monaco as the new President of Prospect Park Alliance,” said Iris Weinshall, Chair of the Prospect Park Alliance Board of Directors. “Morgan’s extensive parks and social service experience working at community-based nonprofits and city agencies has equipped her with exactly the right knowledge and expertise to successfully lead one of the city’s most cherished green spaces. I am excited to work with Morgan as her vision for Brooklyn’s Backyard comes to life.”

“Prospect Park Alliance has made a tremendous choice in its selection of Morgan Monaco as president. Morgan has experience perfect for the role – as a leader in both public service and public space,” said NYC Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “Congratulations to Morgan on her selection. I’m looking forward to all she can accomplish in one of our city’s greatest assets, Prospect Park.”

“From all of us at NYC Parks, congratulations to Morgan Monaco on her appointment as President of Prospect Park Alliance and Administrator of Prospect Park. We are so excited to welcome Morgan back to the Parks family!” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “I know that Prospect Park will thrive under her leadership, and I’m excited to see her ideas come to life and enhance the park experience for Brooklynites and all New Yorkers.”

“I am humbled to be able to take over the helm of such an incredible public amenity. As a born-and-raised New Yorker whose first high school internship was with NYC Parks, it is a dream come true to be able to steward one of the most significant parks in our city,” said Morgan Monaco, Prospect Park Alliance President and Prospect Park Administrator. “I am excited to be joining such an incredible team at a moment where there is unprecedented awareness of and appreciation for the role parks play in the health of our city. I look forward to working with the board and staff to help keep Brooklyn’s Backyard truly welcoming for all New Yorkers.”

About Morgan Monaco

Most recently, Monaco served as Executive Director of the Red Hook Initiative (RHI), a youth and community development nonprofit impacting the 6,500 residents of the Red Hook Houses, Brooklyn’s largest public housing development. Monaco was instrumental in leading RHI through the pandemic and helped to bring in funding relationships and new staff to help stabilize and grow RHI’s impact. Prior to that, Monaco led a team within the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations where she oversaw various interagency projects and initiatives aimed at improving City service delivery.

A born and raised New Yorker, Monaco recognizes the value parks hold for city dwellers and has cherished urban parks since her childhood, which she spent growing up just outside of Central Park. Earlier in her career, Monaco served two tenures at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, first as Director of the MillionTreesNYC Initiative and later as Director of Stewardship for Forestry, Horticulture and Natural Resources. Monaco began her career at StoryCorps, a national oral history project designed to build connections between people and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs.

Morgan has a Master’s in Public Administration and Non-Profit Management from NYU Wagner, as well as a B.A. in International Studies from Vassar College. She lives in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, with her husband, a fellow public servant, and their son and two cats, Raymour and Flannigan. Her family is an avid user of Prospect Park.

About Prospect Park Alliance

Prospect Park Alliance is a private, nonprofit organization that operates Prospect Park in partnership with the City of New York, one of the country’s first public-private partnerships to operate an urban park. Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, the Alliance was founded in 1987 to help restore Prospect Park after a long period of deterioration and decline. Today, 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 and 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.

Over the past decade, Prospect Park Alliance has expanded its operating budget to more than $13 million each year for the care of the park, and increased its endowment to $25 million. In addition, the Alliance has secured more than $130 million in public funding for capital improvements, including the restoration of the Vale in the park’s northeast corner, the largest single capital allocation in the history of the Alliance. Other current and recent projects include the award-winning restorations of the Endale Arch and Concert Grove Pavilion, and the restoration of the Flatbush Avenue perimeter and the creation of two new entrances to the park along Flatbush, the first new entrances to the park since the 1940s.

During the pandemic, when the park saw record visitorship and a drop in public funding, the Alliance was able to rally its community of volunteers and supporters for record volunteer and fundraising success, which resulted in Re:New Prospect Park, an ongoing initiative to sustain the park to address high use during the pandemic via maintenance and capital improvements. Re:New also includes a partnership with ACE New York, a workforce development nonprofit for those experiencing homelessness, which provides a crew to supplement the City’s trash management efforts on peak days in spring through fall.

Other current Alliance initiatives include ReImagine Lefferts, which is re-envisioning the mission and programming of the park’s historic house museum to recognize its role as a site of slavery, and tell the stories—in innovative, inclusive and forward-thinking ways—of the enslaved Africans and the Indigenous people of the Lenapehoking. The Alliance is also working in partnership with NYC Parks and the Department of Cultural Affairs on the creation of a monument to Brooklyn trailblazer Shirley Chisholm at the Parkside and Ocean entrance to Prospect Park, which is also undergoing restoration, by MacArthur Fellow Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous.

The announcement garnered support from our elected officials and civic leaders:

“I am delighted to welcome Morgan Monaco as the next President of Prospect Park Alliance and Park Administrator,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif, whose district includes Prospect Park. With her extensive experience in parks equity and community development, she is the ideal leader to steward Brooklyn’s Backyard and ensure it remains an accessible and welcoming space for all. I look forward to working with her to advance the park, and engage our constituents in its ongoing care and stewardship.”

“Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s beloved green space, and particularly over the last few years, it has served our communities as a space of reprieve, recreation, and empowerment,” said Council Member Crystal Hudson. “Morgan Monaco is the right person to serve as President of Prospect Park Alliance to further that mission. Under her leadership, I know Prospect Park will continue to expand access to green spaces for all New Yorkers, develop programs that bring our neighborhoods together, and do so in a way that leads our City into the Green future we all deserve. I am so excited to welcome Morgan into the role of President, and look forward to working closely with her to guarantee the Park continues to be a place all New Yorkers can enjoy.”

“Prospect Park is a gem in Brooklyn, and our communities deserve a leader to take the helm of Prospect Park Alliance with the passion and effort that the job requires,” said Council Member Rita Joseph. “Morgan Monaco delivers on those requirements and then some. I’m so excited for her stewardship of our park and to collaborate with her.”

“I’m excited that Morgan Monaco has been selected as new President of the Prospect Park Alliance,” said Council Member Shekar Krishnan, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Parks and Recreation. “Under the thoughtful stewardship of the Alliance, Prospect Park has become one of the crown jewels of New York City’s Parks, serving so many diverse communities across Brooklyn. With her substantial experience at the helm of a non-profit as well as within the Parks Department, I’m confident she will continue the Prospect Park Alliance’s long-standing commitment to park equity and community engagement. I look forward to working closely with her.”

“I am confident that the selection of Morgan Monaco as the new President of the Prospect Park Alliance will give the park the kind of dynamic, competent and experienced leadership it needs,” said Assembly Member Robert Carroll, whose district includes the park. “As a lifelong New Yorker and mother I know Ms. Monaco has a personal stake in maintaining the vitality of our beloved Prospect Park. Ms. Monaco’s work as the Director of the MillionTreesNYC Initiative and as Director of Stewardship for Forestry, Horticulture and Natural Resources has prepared her well to care for Brooklyn’s 526-acre urban oasis. Millions of Brooklynites depend on a healthy, well-maintained and safe Prospect Park, now more than ever.  I look forward to working with Ms. Monaco and the Alliance to make sure that Prospect Park stays that way for my constituents, and for all of Brooklyn.”

“On behalf of Brooklyn Community Foundation, I am thrilled to congratulate Morgan Monaco on her appointment as President of Prospect Park Alliance and making history as the first Black woman to lead this essential institution for our borough,” said Dr. Jocelynne Rainey, President and CEO, Brooklyn Community Foundation. “Her experience in city government and local nonprofits, including most recently leading the Red Hook Initiative, makes her uniquely qualified for this position. Anyone who knows Brooklyn knows how much the park means to our communities, and I am excited to see how she builds on the Alliance’s work to ensure that the park is a place of equity, deepening its connections to the diversity of Brooklyn’s communities, while bringing our communities together in this incredible public treasure.”

“Morgan’s extensive social services and parks background makes her a perfect choice to lead the Prospect Park Alliance,” said Richard Buery, CEO of Robin Hood and former NYC Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. “I’ve seen firsthand: Morgan doesn’t just believe in inclusive policy solutions — she knows how to enact them. I look forward to seeing how Prospect Park will continue to thrive as a place that welcomes all New Yorkers under Morgan’s leadership.”

Learn more about Prospect Park Alliance.

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.

c. Martin Seck

City of Forest Day in Prospect Park

September 22, 2022

Join Prospect Park Alliance at the first annual City of Forest Day on Saturday, October 15 in Prospect Park. Presented by Forest for All NYC in partnership with the Parks and Open Space Partners – NYC Coalition and NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, City of Forest Day is a day of activities across the city to raise awareness of the importance of the New York City urban forest, and the essential role New Yorkers play every day in caring for the “lungs” of our city. Prospect Park Alliance presents an array of activities to raise awareness and celebrate Brooklyn’s last remaining forest including nature education programming, a volunteer opportunity, meditation hike and a tour of the woodlands in Brooklyn’s Backyard.

Check out the full list of 50+ events happening across New York City!

Prospect Park Events:

Park Pitch In: City of Forest Day
10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Free, Registration Required
Join Prospect Park Alliance for a special Park Pitch-In volunteer event on City of Forest Day where we’ll be focusing our efforts on Lookout Hill, a scenic woodland restored by Prospect Park Alliance that lies on the park’s highest point, with views as far as Coney Island. Volunteers will help pick up trash and litter that can harm this important wildlife habitat, as well as  maintaining trails and pedestrian paths, as well as weeding and other woodland restoration activities. This event is suitable for teens over 14 and adults.
Please note, volunteer registration will open on Friday, October 7 at 11:00 am.

City of Forest Day at the Audubon Center
10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Free, no advance registration necessary
Families and youth can enjoy nature arts and crafts: learn about the variety of leaves that compose the urban forest, and arrange fallen leaves into a picture. Attendees can also lend a hand by raking leaves around the Audubon Center to help us prepare the park for winter. At 12 pm, set out on a nature walk to learn about the seasonal behavior of trees, plants and wildlife throughout Prospect Park.

City of Forest Day Tour: A History of Brooklyn’s Last Remaining Forest
10:30 pm – 12:30 pm
Free, Registration Required
Prospect Park is home to Brooklyn’s largest and oldest forest, an important hotspot of biodiversity with over 30,000 trees of 200+ species. On this guided walking tour with Prospect Park Alliance touring partner, Turnstile Tours, we will explore the history of the stewardship of this forest over the past 150 years, looking at some of the park’s oldest trees, exploring the management practices developed by park co-designer Frederick Law Olmsted, the work of the Alliance to restore these urban woodlands over the past 30 years, and contemporary challenges to forests due to climate change and invasive pests. This tour is appropriate for all ages, and we will walk approximately 1.5 miles. There will be limited access to restrooms, and extended periods of standing and walking over uneven surfaces is required.

City of Forest Day: Meditation Hike
Free, no advance registration necessary
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Join NYC Parks for a Meditation Hike in celebration of City of Forest Day. Forest meditation allows you to slow down and become immersed in nature. Come enjoy the sights and sounds of Prospect Park in this experiential hike focused on mindfulness and relaxation.

c. Kate Abrams, Prospect Park Alliance

Summer Success for 2022 Woodlands Youth Crew

September 14, 2022

This summer, a familiar sight graced the park—the Prospect Park Alliance Woodlands Youth Crew, hard at work during the months of July and August. This beloved youth employment program provides teens with employment, training, mentorship and professional experience in environmental conservation and park stewardship. With many previous crew members recently aged out and graduated from high school, this year’s crew welcomed a largely new batch of teens from 10 local high schools.

“We had members of the crew with some work experience in this area, but for the most part, the work they did this summer was very new to them,” says Kate Abrams, Prospect Park Alliance Youth Program Manager & EcoZone Gardener who manages the crew. The 13 crew members and two supervisors, veteran Woodlands Youth Crew members Phil Lubrun and Victoria Henry-Harriott, worked in the heavily wooded Ravine, focusing on invasive species removal and erosion control along the park’s watercourse. This year’s crew also participated in a work exchange with the Gowanus Green Team members from the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, inviting them to don waders for phragmites removal in Prospect Park, and traveling to the Canal to learn about the propagation of herbaceous native plants.

Members of the 2022 Woodlands Youth Crew hard at work in Prospect Park. c. Kate Abrams, Prospect Park Alliance

The Woodlands Youth Crew is an essential part of the Alliance’s work to restore and sustain Brooklyn’s last remaining forest. The program, which offers spring, summer and fall sessions, is team-based with a focus on collaboration. This year’s group got a chance to build new relationships and conservation skills during their time in Prospect Park.

“There were some on the crew that loved taking out the invasive trees, some loved using the handsaw…just seeing the evolution of every person on the crew was great. Over time I watched them taking initiative with the work, applying their new knowledge, and they started to run themselves in a way,” says Abrams.

By the end of the program, Woodlands Youth Crew participants gained skills in native and invasive plant identification, teamwork and communication; and developed their interest in nature in general, reports Abrams.

“I loved working with this group,” says crew member Max Piatetsky. “Not only did they make work that much more fun, but the things I learned from them and the memories we made will last for a long time.”

“The Woodlands Youth Crew was an opportunity to do something concrete to help the park while learning more about its plants and forest ecology,” says fellow crew member Isadora Davis. “My favorite part was learning how to identify different plants, and what their roles were in the ecosystem.”

“There were a lot of great moments,” says crew member Sam Klein Stearns. “I found myself quickly engulfed in an incredible community of all around great people.”

The Woodlands Youth Crew recruits new members during the spring season—learn more about the program.

The Woodlands Youth Crew receives substantial support from NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, with additional generous funding from the William C. Bullitt Foundation, Gray Foundation, Lavelle Family Foundation, and Zeldin Family Foundation.

Members of the 2022 Woodlands Youth Crew. c. Kate Abrams, Prospect Park Alliance