In 2004, two Brooklyn moms learned that New York City Councilman Bill de Blasio had allocated money to renovate their beloved neighborhood playground, the place they went daily with their toddlers to meet, greet, and socialize.
Wanting to have input into what the new park looked like, they took it upon themselves to start an informal survey of other park users, to find out what people might want in a new park.
Using the People Make Parks Questionnaire tool, they observed playground use and interviewed park users – from young moms to teens to seniors – to understand how people felt about the playground. Through interviews and observations, they learned what park features people thought were problematic or unsafe, and which were popular and well-used.
After collecting their data, they set up a meeting with the Park Manager, who set up a meeting between them and the Park designer assigned to the project.
The Manager suggested that they form a Friends group so that Parks would take their contributions more seriously. They were already deeply involved in the park, and had gotten to know other committed park users through their interviewing process, so starting an official group was a logical next step. In 2007, Friends of Greenwood Playground (FoGP) launched.
Now, with six members instead of two, FoGP met with the designer. That’s when they discovered that he wanted to install adult exercise equipment in the park, to make it more accessible to older park users. FoGP, however, told him that, according to what they’d learned from the survey, there was a greater need for improved children’s play equipment, and that the playground should be separated in distinct sections for younger and older children.
With that information, the designer went to work, and by the time the community met at the scope meeting with Councilman de Blasio, the Brooklyn Capital Liaison, the Park Manager, and the designer, FoGP members were thrilled to see that the community feedback they’d gathered had impacted the design, bringing it closer to what they had envisioned.
FoGP hosted a party to celebrate the new playground and bring more neighbors into the fold. One mom said, “We really felt ownership, because we’d participated in the design process, and the party was an opportunity to celebrate the new park we helped create.”
To ensure the new playground stayed clean and safe, FoGP organized a group of neighbors to lock it each night, and began hosting an annual neighborhood party in the park each Spring or Fall. In 2008, they added programming, using a Partnerships for Parks Capacity Fund grant to launch Art in the Park, a free summer program of environmental and arts education for kids.
Though the two moms who started FoGP have since moved on to other neighborhood projects, the group is still active, with a new set of parents working to bring programming and stewardship to the playground. FoGP continues to make a difference in their community and, now, their even more beloved park.