A cadre of Parks officials and local pols broke ground on a $3.2 million project Thursday to add two grand entryways along Prospect Park’s Flatbush Avenue border, which will make Brooklyn’s Backyard lovelier and more accessible than ever, according to the park’s chief steward.
“The community will not only enjoy better access to the park, but also beautiful spaces for relaxation and connecting to nature,” said Prospect Park Alliance President Susan Donoghue, who joined Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D-Crown Heights), Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Martin Maher, and City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver for the ground breaking. “In opening this up, it will provide more access to some beautiful parts of the park.”
When completed next summer, the new entrances — both located between Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park Zoo — will feature a sprawling array of gardens, benches, lighting, and public art.
The completion of the gateways will mark the first new entrances to Brooklyn’s Backyard since the 1940s, and will break up the three-quarters of a mile stretch between the park’s entrances at Grand Army Plaza and the menagerie — which currently represents the longest continuous stretch of the park’s exterior without a formal access point.
The effort is part of the mayor’s $50 million ‘Parks Without Borders’ initiative, which aims to break down barriers to the city’s green spaces. Prospect Park became one of eight parks to get an upgrade under the initiative after officials put the matter to a vote and Brooklyn’s Backyard nabbed a whopping 965 votes — more than any other green space in the city.
“Parks without Borders is about increasing accessibility and openness in our green spaces,” said Mitchell Silver. “We put out a call for ideas, and Prospect Park was the top vote-getter citywide.”
Prospect Park’s Flatbush Avenue perimeter has gotten a lot of love from the city recently, and construction of the new entrances coincides a $2.35 million Parks Department scheme to enhance the thoroughfare’s sidewalk bordering the park between Grand Army Plaza and the Prospect Park Zoo with new paving, benches, lights, and fencing.
Work on that project was supposed to wrap in November 2018, but delays caused by hidden below-ground infrastructure and a sudden, unexplained work stoppage set the project back by about a year, and construction is now expected to be completed next month.
Once that’s finished, the Department of Transportation will redesign the roadway to include new bus islands and a protected bike lane, the latter of which should be completed this fall.
All in all, it’s a big improvement over what came before, according to Cumbo, who said the strip downright spooky before all the upgrades.
“When I used to walk this strip… it literally felt like you were staring in the ‘Thriller’ video with Michael Jackson. It just seemed like a haunted strip,” said Cumbo. “It’s important that we create a space that’s beautiful, and also safe — people should feel safe exercising and jogging around the park at 11 o’clock at night, or walking with their families.”