Brooklyn’s backyard is set to get a major spruce-up, with $40 million in city funds heading to restore the Vale, a tranquil oasis in Prospect Park’s northeast section, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.
The investment is the single largest budget allocation in history, Hizzoner said, for a park that he is known to love and frequent, and which he on Thursday called “one of the greatest egalitarian experiences in all of New York City.”
“I wanted to make sure what we did would have a profound impact,” the outgoing mayor said before presenting a giant check to the nonprofit Prospect Park Alliance, which stewards the beloved green space.
The Prospect Park Vale is largely a wooded area that sits on 26 acres nestled between the bike loop to the west, Flatbush Avenue to the east, Grand Army Plaza to the north, and the zoo to the south. At its heart sits the Children’s Pool, also known as the “Vale of Cashmere,” an idyllic oval lined with red brick surrounding a pond teeming with wildlife.
“At the heart of the park sits the historic Vale, 26 of the most serene and beautiful acres in Brooklyn,” said Parks Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff at the project’s unvaleing. “Thanks to Mayor de Blasio’s $40 million allocation, the Vale is poised for a long-overdue revitalization and transformation that will benefit generations of future Brooklynites and New Yorkers.”
The Parks Department had been engaging with community members for the past several years on how specifically to reimagine this area of the park, which when first built was some of the most renowned, beautiful green space in the city, but over the years was allowed to fall into disrepair. The area once featured a rose garden, after previously hosting the park’s first carousel, but the site festered in disuse after the opening of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the relocation of its roses.
The Vale of Cashmere, for its part, was designed as an idyllic, isolated pond with fountains, where children could sail miniature boats and adults could contemplate the very nature of existence in the company of ample wildlife and rare plants. The Vale of Cashmere’s isolation, once a selling point, became its undoing as many of its functions moved elsewhere, and parkgoers were left unaware of the serene hideaway’s existence. The scenic pond would become overrun with moss as its maintenance stalled.
As part of the reimagining, the south-end of the Vale will become the site of a “sensory garden and a rustic arbor,” said Alliance president Sue Donoghue, as well as a new amphitheater, comfort stations (which she said is one of the most frequent requests the Alliance gets), and an area where children and families can partake in “nature play,” a form of recreation which has become ever more cherished during the pandemic.
The Vale of Cashmere, meanwhile, will undergo extensive renovation with the aim of restoring it to its original 19th-century splendor.
Prospect Park has been the site of several restorations in recent years: the city has installed new entrances and built a protected bike lane along the Flatbush Avenue perimeter, as well as the restoration of woodlands heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The city also restored the Endale Arch to flamboyant wooden grandeur, and is in the process of restoring the arch at Grand Army Plaza. Last week, park honchos broke ground on the last leg of restoration for the park’s Long Meadow Ballfields.
“As a very proud Brooklynite, it was important to me as my administration ended to do all I could for this park,” de Blasio said. “Because this park has done so much for all of us.”