Partnerships for Parks Academy – Park leaders Fellowship Graduation

Last night at the Arsenal Partnerships for Parks: Certificates were awarded (mentors were as much mentored as ‘mentees’)-Speakers:

Heather Lubov- City Parks Foundation Executive Director, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, Sabina Saragoussi, Director of Partnerships for Parks and Leah Worrel Technical Assistance Manager, Parks Foundation

Marie Winfield of Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park (Sara Roosevelt’s sister park in East Harlem) –  gave the talk on behalf of participants:

“Good evening park advocates, Commissioner Silver, Executive Director Lubov, Leah and Nicolas, and all of the Parks and Partnership staff who have made the Leadership Academy possible. I’m very happy to speak on behalf of this year’s Leadership Academy participants and as a community member of East Harlem. Before applying to the Leadership Academy, working closely together with Mia Hernandez, we put together a report including a list of priorities and how we thought Thomas Jefferson Park could improve. At the top of that list was simply a cleaner park: a desire to make the park usable in the mornings and evenings again for families, seniors, children during warm season weekends – which was most often characterized by unmanageable trash. I just walked through the park this afternoon with my kids and the difference is really staggering from before the Academy and now that it has ended.

In that time, we had a community meeting with our borough commissioner, park manager, the City Council Speaker’s office, which brought forth a new summer maintenance plan with suggestions from community members. We did regular observations – most thanks goes to our dog walkers in the park – and solicited feedback from the community both at events and online. We hope to meet again as a community with Parks, the Speaker’s office, to make sure that out park only continues to improve.

It has been great to have the resources of the Leadership Academy – really useful presentations and workshops, hearing about other park advocacy groups from all over the city and how they are succeeding, and to have the most amazing mentor – K Webster from the Sara D Roosevelt Park Coalition – and now what we consider a sister park to Tom Jeff. Most useful – was simply to have dedicated time each month, a reason to sit down and revise a mission statement, to really step back and take a look at my community and the park – a community going through gentrification, which is targeted for rezoning, with a high needs for social services – and to focus on what park advocacy really means in that context and the most effective ways to proceed and reach out to our community.

One of the greatest things about this program was being able to take back information to other community members – when we had a workshop on ioby, I took that information back to a local community garden to a member there who started fiddling around to see how it worked, and that same time revised a budget that we worked together on for participatory budgeting. When the call for Parks Equity funding came out, we were able to get a proposal together to the City Council Speaker’s office which then qualified them for a grant from Green Thumb dedicated to East Harlem Community Gardens.

It has been great to hear the many successes of the other park groups during the Leadership Academy and to look at my park through a new lens. I really can only encourage other park advocates in the room and in your communities to make use of the Leadership Academy, if you have a project you have been stalling on or need inspiration for a new project – you will have a great place here with the support and resources to see it through. Thank you again to everyone who made this program possible, good luck to all of the new applicants for the next cohort, and I hope to see you soon at Thomas Jefferson Park.”

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