Our Impact

It’s never easy to see the trees from the forest, but we’ve stay focused for almost twenty years. Invest and improve is our model.

LEGACY 

North Brooklyn has a long and dirty industrial history dominated by the five “black” arts; printing, glass and pottery making, cast iron manufacturing, and oil refining. These industries dumped an enormous amount of toxins into the environment for almost a hundred years beginning sometime in the mid-1800s and waning shortly after WWII.

Only to be replaced with the construction of the BQE in the 1940s which encouraged countless trucks to crisscross the neighborhood exposing residents to toxins closely linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Then, In the 1950s a gas explosion at an oil refinery set off what would become North America’s largest oil spill sending oil plumes three times the size of the famed Exxon Valdez under much of Greenpoint where it was allowed to seep into groundwater and surrounding waterways for decades.

Sadly, this legacy of neglect continued into the 1980s and 90s with the proliferation of illegal or loosely regulated dumping from both private and public waste facilities. 

It wasn’t until the early 2000s when the community became organized in their demands for environmental justice that they galvanized around a citizen lead rezoning plan called 197A that would attempt to right hundreds of years of degeneration. 

Unfortunately, around the same time, North Brooklyn began to experience an overwhelming surge of population and popularity which brought with it a rush of real estate development paradoxically creating an affordable housing crisis for many long-time, working-class and low and middle-income residents. 

This brings us to today, where the community has seen an enormous influx of luxury housing, private amenities, and higher wage earners, but battles for baseline funding for aging and inadequate public infrastructures like transportation, sanitation, fire and police facilities, schools, parks, and open space all in the backdrop of the existential threat of climate change and rising sea-levels.

"No Dumping" signs along the North Brooklyn waterfront, 2018. credit/Mitch Waxman
As early as the 1880s citizens were clamoring for legal action against the “Newtown Creek Nuisances” for “sickening stenches” that would engulf the city. credit/Harper’s Weekly
Smoldering earth from industry off the banks of the Newtown Creek, 1936. credit/Queens Borough Public Library, Archives, Ralph S. Solecki Photographs
Aerial view of North Brooklyn coastline dotted with heavy industry in decline in1982. (view Kent Ave from N. 7th street to N. 15th). 
credit/New York City Economic Development Corporation
Sketch from proposed construction types for Brooklyn-Queens Express way (BQE) 1940s. 
credit/Clark & Rapuano
North Brooklyn traffic crawls along the BQE. credit: Susan Watts/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Illustration of underground Exxon Mobil oil plume in Greenpoint. credit/E. Wikander/Azote
Oil and water mix in the Newtown Creek, 2015. credit/Mitch Waxman
Crumbling waste ridden Greenpoint shoreline, 2018. credit/Nathan Kensinger
Remains of the North Henry Street garbage incinerator circa 2006. credit/Anthony Hamboussi
Water and garbage collect along the banks of the Newtown Creek. credit/Mitch Waxman
Flooding from Superstorm Sandy in 2012. credit/Andrew Kenney and Dan O'Neill
Purposed waterfront development superimposed on a google earth aerial map

OUR ROLE

Formed in 2003, North Brooklyn Parks Alliance (NBK Parks) was born out of the environmental justice movements of the 1980s and 90s. Many of the forebears of those movements makeup or inspire our board, staff, and volunteers. 

Throughout its history, NBK Parks has been focused on the creation and maintenance of parks, while also acting as a grassroots community-building and advocacy organization. We partner with the city, state, and community agencies to raise funds from private donors and to bolster the efforts in our parks and open spaces.

Unlike many conservatories, we are committed to improving ALL open and green space in Community District 1, rather than focusing on a single park. In doing so, less advantaged areas of our community can be improved by leveraging resources from more affluent parts of the district. From capital projects to maintenance concerns, from equipment purchases to public programming, NBK Parks has been the driving force in both private and government investment in our neighborhood. 

Our Board of Directors is composed of residents and business owners from our community. Each board member is required to make an annual financial contribution as well as serve as officers or on committees and to assist the organization in fulfilling its mission.

But we don’t do it alone. Our Alliance is only as strong as our members. We work closely with our Community Committee or COMM COMM which is an open group of concerned citizens that advises our Board about priorities as they see it for North Brooklyn’s open spaces.

North Brooklyn Neighbors, Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF), El Puente, and many other friends or advocacy groups participate in the Community Committee while maintaining their independence and their right to advocate for parks. NBK Parks empowers local parks advocates by bringing the Parks Commissioner and the Mayor’s office to meet with local advocates on issues that are most important to them.

Prior to our dual role appointment as Parks Administer with the NYC Parks’ Department and Director of our non-profit organization in 2003 under our founding name Open Space Alliance (OSA), there was no executive with the primary responsibility for overseeing parks in North Brooklyn. And it showed in the dilapidated and unkempt state of our public spaces. But after nearly twenty years of community investment, advocacy, and grit we are seeing change.

 

 

February 2020 - Under the K, NBK Parks’ Executive Director, Katie Denny Horowitz meets with architects, Adam Nicklin and Marc Ryan from PUBLIC WORK. credit/NBK Parks
Apr 27, 2017 - Kosciuszko Bridge first span opening. Right to left; NBK Parks’ Executive Director, Katie Denny Horowitz, NBK Parks Board Secretary and Architect, Joe Vance, Assemblymember Joe Lentol, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
March 12, 2015 - “Where’s Our Park?” rally for Bushwick Inlet Park at City Hall.
July 26, 2017 - Rally for The BQGreen in Rodney Park. 
credit/St. Nicks Alliance
November 2019 - “Play Fair“ City Hall rally for park equity organized by New Yorkers 4 Parks
July 2009 - Summerscreen. Volunteers hang our banner in McCarren Park celebrating the start of the summer movie series. credit/NBK Parks
2008 - McCarren Park “Pool Parties”. Crowds loved the concert series pre-renovated McCarren Pool. credit/Bao Nguyen
June 2019 - Southside Slam. Local basketball completion organized by Councilman Antonio Reynoso at the newly renovated Jaime Campiz Playground.
 credit/NBK Parks
September 2014 - McGolrick Park. NBK Parks’ Executive Director, Ed Janoff at Clean Up Day Honoring Marie Sadowski
. credit/Daniel Latorre
2019 - NBK Parks’ donated an outfitted and stocked "Volunteer Trailer" to the Parks Department. 
credit/NBK Parks
2015 - NBK Parks' Team putting some new equipment to work. 
credit/NBK Parks
2017 - NBK Parks’ Sponsored Park Seating.
 credit/NBK Parks
June 2019 - American Playground. The love of threader starts young. CityParks PuppetMobile
September 2017 - GCEFF Open House. Former NBK Parks’ Executive Director Joe Mayock greets the public.
 credit/NBK Parks
November 2017 - Smiles at our annual Community Meeting (COMM COMM)
April 2010 - Transmitter Park. Groundbreaking. NYCEDC President Seth W. Pinsky and Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Council Member Stephen Levin, NBK Park’s Executive Director Stephanie Thayer
February 2020. CUNY TV interviewing Katie Denny Horowitz on the history of the Newtown Creek. credit/NBK Parks

mapping our impact

  • growing open space
  • volunteer work
  • improvements & investments
  • programming

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Ground breaking 1

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Ground breaking 2

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Capital improvements 1

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Capital improvements 2

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Volunteer work 1

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Volunteer work 2

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Programming 1

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Programming 2

INVEST & IMPROVE

Across all five boroughs, most parks are at least half a century old. In Brooklyn, the average park is 73 years old, and one park in 10 was built before 1898.

What that means is most everything we’re looking at in our park systems is coming to the end of their useful life. This simple fact, coupled with decades of underinvestment, has left the city’s parks with insufficient maintenance and too few staff.

Robert Moses created a park system that required a minimum of 8,000 workers- 5,000 full-time and 3,000 seasonal. Sadly, by the 1970s fiscal crisis, the full-time staff was down to 2,500 employees, and that number continues on a downward spiral today, even as New York City’s green spaces have grown to occupy more than 14 percent of the city’s total acreage- not counting natural areas, and more than two million trees.

One of the programs the city has developed to combat the issue of funding, beginning with the fiscal crisis of the 1970s and continued into today, is the establishment of public-private partnerships (PPP). 

Public-private partnerships are not without criticism; however, they are the leading vehicle of fundraising for the city. One of the oldest and most well known is Central Park’s Conservatory, which raises 75 percent of the park’s $58 million annual budget. Today, New York City has roughly 80 public-private partners of varying sizes who make invaluable contributions to our parks. North Brooklyn Park Alliance is one of those proud partners.  

Prior to the division of our dual role (2003-2017) our organization oversaw an explosive moment of advocacy and development in the community. Now fully independent, NBK Parks is the only conservatory that holds a district-wide mandate, opposed to a single park or location. This enables the organization to raise and distribute resources and funds across the neighborhood with the goal of building a more equitable neighborhood for all.  

The map and corresponding images highlight some of the hard-fought investments and improvements NBK Parks secured with the community – for the community. 

 

REFERENCES

fiscal sponsorship

OUR ALLIANCE

One of the best things about North Brooklyn Park Alliance is being able to offer Fiscal Sponsorship to groups, organizations, or causes that are not on their own a formal non-profit with a legal status of a 501(c)(3). 

That means your group and NBK Parks can create a formal arrangement so that your group, organization, or cause can seek out grants, hold fundraisers, and solicit tax-deductible donations while NBK Parks acts as the legal fiscal sponsor providing fiduciary oversight, financial management, and other administrative services to help build the capacity of any charitable projects that your group, organization or cause wants to grow. 

NBK Parks offers a simple, efficient, and cost-effective “back-office” administrative solution for collecting and distributing charitable assets, which provides a desirable alternative to the complexity, hassle, and burden of operating your cause. NBK Parks handles the accounting, bookkeeping, taxes, audit, disbursements (invoice and grant payments), compliance, bank account, and financial oversight, among several other services.

Some of our most successful Fiscal Sponsorships are friends groups many of you in the neighborhood know and love such as Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park, Friends of Cooper Park, Friends of Transmitter Park, and Friends of American Playground. We’ve also sponsored some wonderful causes and projects such as Greenpoint Tree Corp., BQGreen, and public art project “Ziemia”.

Please contact our Executive Director, Katie Denny-Horowitz to find out more about creating a  fiscal sponsorship.

Cooper Park. 2011
American Playground. 2017
Masha P Johnson State Park (formerly East River State Park). 2013
McGolrick Park. 2017
Java Street Garden. 2012
Transmitter Park. 2016
The People's Triangle. 2020
William Sheridan Playground. 2018
Frost Playground. 2019

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