Volunteers do their best to beautify Brooklyn parks

Three grassroots groups win citywide recognition

March 8, 2018 Paula Katinas
A volunteer from the Friends of William Sheridan Playground spruces up the South Williamsburg recreation area with help from a young friend. Photo courtesy of the City parks Foundation
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The grass is greener on the other side of the fence, as the old saying goes. But in Brooklyn, there are a lot of volunteers who spend time in public parks making sure the grass is growing.

Three grass-roots groups in the borough will be among the honorees at the fifth annual It’s My Park Awards hosted by Partnerships for Parks. The partnership is a joint project of the New York City Parks Department and the City Parks Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to encourage everyday New Yorkers to take an active interest in the parks in their communities.

This year’s winners include Man Up! Inc., a group based in East New York; Friends of William Sheridan Playground, an organization from South Williamsburg; and The Red Hook Conservancy, formerly known as the Friends of Red Hook Recreation Center.

The awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday, March 13, at the Prince George Ballroom in the Madison Square neighborhood in Manhattan.

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The speakers at the ceremony will include Heather Lubov, executive director of City Parks Foundation; New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver; and Sabina Saragoussi, director of Partnerships for Parks.

All of the winning groups have “demonstrated exceptional leadership and commitment to their local parks through service, advocacy and collaboration,” according to a media advisory issued by City Parks Foundation.

The honorees were selected from more than 460 organizations that participated in the It’s My Park program in 2017.

Under the It’s My Park program, 25,500 residents from around the five boroughs organized and participated in more than 1,100 cleanup projects in nearly 350 parks around the city, as well as recreational events in parks. The volunteers work to maintain and improve 29,000 acres of land in New York City, including parks, nature centers, skate parks and pools, according to City Parks Foundation.

The Golden Trowel Award, which recognizes volunteers’ commitment to transforming their parks into community assets, will be presented to Man Up! Inc. The organization, led by Kevin Williams, Dominique Carson, Chawana Holloway, Ashley Sanabria and Dante Reeves, was formed in 2005 to combat violence and racial discrimination in East New York.

The group also coaches participants in job readiness, community service and vocational training.

Man Up! now operates out of three locations; Linden Park, Betsy Head Park and Ethan Allen Playground.

In 2017, Man Up! hosted 15 It’s My Park projects and removed more than 300 bags of debris from parks.

The Community Parks Initiative Award, which is presented to a developing community group, will be presented to the Friends of William Sheridan Playground.

The organization’s leaders are Bia Sampaio, Francesca McCulloch, Tim Daly, Kathleen Agaton and Meghan Jablonski.

Friends of William Sheridan Playground was formed in 2016 to encourage residents in the community to make their voices heard in connection with a capital renovation project taking place in the park. The Friends group has sponsored numerous meetings and has forged partnerships with groups like the Open Space Alliance.

In 2017, the Friends of William Sheridan Playground successfully secured a grant from the Citizens Committee for New York City to work on numerous projects. The group’s projects have included woodchip spreading and painting ground games in the playground.

The Tim Tompkins Leadership Award, presented to a community group that serves as a role model, has been won by the Red Hook Conservancy, led by Marlene Pantin.

The Red Hook Conservancy (RHC), formerly the Friends of Red Hook Recreation Center, was formed in 2011 to support the recreation center.

The group later expanded its mission to include the entire Red Hook Park area.

The Conservancy sponsored 24 events in the area that attracted 442 volunteers last year. Under Pantin’s direction, the group took part in a pilot program called the People Make Parks Community Visioning Cohort that was started by Partnerships for Parks to train volunteers to develop projects.

For more information on how to volunteer in parks, visit www.cityparksfoundation.org.


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