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Mayor Bill de Blasio announces historic $40M in funding to transform the Vale in Prospect Park

December 16, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a historic $40 million allocation to restore the Vale in Prospect Park. 

This funding is the largest single allocation in the history of Prospect Park Alliance, the non-profit that sustains the park in partnership with the city, and will restore important landscapes within the 26 acres in the northeast corner of the park called the Vale (also known as the Vale of Cashmere).

The mayor was joined by NYC Parks Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff and Iris Weinshall, chair; Sue Donoghue, president of Prospect Park Alliance, and community leaders. 

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The $40 million in capital funding from the mayor will help to restore two historic landscapes: the Children’s Pool and the park’s former Rose Garden. 

The former Rose Garden has served many functions since the park opened in 1867. It was originally a Children’s Playground, complete with the park’s first, horse-driven carousel, and then became a formal rose garden at the turn of the 20th century. With the opening of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 1911, the Rose Garden eventually fell into disrepair and the rose beds were removed.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, in Prospect Park, makes his announcement of a $40 million allocation to restore the Vale in Prospect Park. YouTube photo

In 2017, Prospect Park Alliance, which has sustained these landscapes for many decades, embarked on an intensive community outreach initiative, Reimagine Prospect Park, to create a new vision for this landscape, working with Hester Street and Grain Collective to engage more than 2,000 community members.

Through this process, the team identified several possible amenities for this area of the park, including a sensory garden and rustic arbor; a nature play area for families; and a landscaped amphitheater and small building with flexible gathering space and restrooms for the community’s enjoyment. 

With funding now in place, Prospect Park Alliance and NYC Parks will embark on the design process in early 2022, and the Alliance will partner again with Hester Street to engage the community in the process.

The now-derelict Rose Garden in Prospect Park as it appeared in better days. The old saying is “I never promised you a rose garden,” but the increased funding from the city is slated to do just that. Image courtesy of Prospect Park Alliance

The site of the historic Children’s Pool originally featured a small pond where children sailed miniature boats, surrounded by ornamental trees and shrubs. In the 19th century, the Brooklyn Eagle described this spot as a “bird’s paradise,” which still holds true today. In the 1890s, the renowned architects McKim, Mead and White replaced the pond’s soft edge with a formal marble and granite balustrade. 

Nicknamed the “Vale of Cashmere” after a Thomas Moore poem, it became famous for its lush, colorful foliage. Red-brick walkways, lights and benches were added in the 1960s, but in recent decades it has fallen into a state of disrepair.

Design of the Vale Restoration is slated to begin in 2022, and the project will proceed through the New York City Parks design and construction guidelines, which includes a year for design, a year for procurement, and 12-18 months for construction. 

“Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s backyard,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s where I got married and raised my family, and where New Yorkers of all backgrounds come to spend time in nature. This historic $40 million in funding will ensure the Vale is restored to its full glory.” 

“Thanks to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $40 million investment, the gateway to Prospect Park’s treasured Vale, the borough’s last remaining forest, will soon be renewed, restored and revitalized,” said Parks Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff. “Upon its completion, the Vale will be home to an amphitheater, a pollinator meadow and so much more.” 

“Today, through this historic funding allocation from the mayor, we will be able to realize the community’s vision for the 26 acres in the northeast corner of the park. Since its founding, the Alliance has restored significant landscapes and buildings in the park, from the 150-acre woodland Ravine to the 26 acres in the southeast corner of the park, Lakeside and the LeFrak Center,” said Sue Donoghue, president of the Prospect Park Alliance.

“I am thrilled that we will continue our duty as stewards of the park by investing this needed capital money in the Vale in Prospect Park” said Brooklyn Councilmember and Comptroller-elect Brad Lander, whose district adjoins the park. “The pandemic has shown the whole city that our parks and our green spaces are a way for us to connect, and keep us healthy!”

“Prospect Park is known as ‘Brooklyn’s Backyard,’ and it serves as a wonderful resource for all New Yorkers to enjoy the gifts that nature has bestowed upon us,” said Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, whose district also borders the park.

Mayor de Blasio followed up the announcement with a news briefing on the latest COVID-19 situation.

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