Friends of Douglass/Greene Park is a non-profit organization formed in 2005 after the Boerum Hill Association initiated a neighborhood-wide search for a green space to serve the community in downtown Brooklyn. A formal study concluded the Thomas Greene Park, on Third Avenue at Degraw Street, was a profoundly underutilized and undeveloped location in a densely populated spot. The group’s mission is to revitalize the park as well as discover and maintain its ecological, recreational, educational and economic potential and benefits.
Since its inception, Friends of Douglass/Greene Park has surveyed neighbors and local children through “listening sessions” and other events to assess the community’s needs and vision for the park. Based on feedback, the organization is currently working with the Brooklyn Parks Department to review designs for a skatepark.
In addition to the Brooklyn Parks Department, Friends of Douglass/Greene Park has received generous support from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, former City Council Members David Yassky and Bill deBlasio (currently New York City Public Advocate), the Tony Hawk Foundation, Open Road, Homage Brooklyn Skateshop and Brooklyn Boulders.
The 2.525 acres of Thomas Greene Park came under NYC Parks jurisdiction in 1938. What was known as Double D Playground opened in 1935 and was renamed for local community activist Thomas Greene in 1988.
Thomas Greene was born in Savannah in 1911, lived in the Gowanus Projects and worked for Cornell University’s New York City office. Mr. Greene was a member of Community Board 6 and several other community-based Boards and active in the Bethel Baptist Church.
A $213,659 renovation was completed in 1998, installing new play equipment, safety surfacing and handball courts, financed by Borough President Howard Golden. The tree lined playground now contains a camel climbing feature, picnic tables, benches, bordered by basketball courts, the pools and handball courts. At the center of the park stands a flagpole with a yardarm displaying flags of the Parks Department, the City of New York and the United States of America.
Below is an excellent article that illustrates some of the broad community support for this project.
Community Rallies For Boerum Hill Skate Park
Residents climb in support of the Friends of Douglass/Greene Park’s redesign project
Approximately 100 ticketholders had their run of the 18,000 square foot Brooklyn Boulders facility last night. They climbed the walls and browsed tables, filled with silent auction items to support the Friends of Douglass/Greene Park’s redesign project.
The Friends is a group of 12 board members led by President Sue Wolfe, who was on hand to greet attendees and help man the auction tables. Last Spring, the non-profit successfully lobbied local officials for $900,000 towards the $2 million needed for the redesign. The event last night was held to raise more funds.
And to try rock climbing, of course.
Six year-old Brooklynite Ruby Motz was the evening’s obvious star climber. She noted that she was “not scared at all” before proving so by scaling multiple wall sections with ease.
Councilmember Steve Levin was another fan favorite. He managed to make it to the top despite his self-admitted inappropriate dress — a full suit and tie, which he slipped a climber’s harness right over.
Lance Pinn, Brooklyn Boulders owner and event co-chair, said the goal for the event was to raise between $10,000 and $15,000 for the cause – a total that organizers have not yet calculated because the auction runs online through Jan. 15.
Auction items were donated by local businesses including The Chocolate Room, Betty Bakery, Brooklyn Circus, Royal We, Dandelion Boutique, BookCourt, Trader Joe’s, Element Beauty, Eyesore Skateboards, Skate BK, Bark, Flirt and more.
Pinn first got involved with Friends of Douglass/Greene Park in August 2009. Because his business sits directly across the street from the park, he says he feels particularly tied to its improvement.
“Plus I’m a sucker for causes,” he said, laughing.
“I do want to see the park get cleaned up,” he continued. “Right now, there’s not the most pleasant influence there at night time.”
Pinn noted that he will chair another park fundraising event in April – an evening of yet-to-be-determined performances at Southpaw.
“The skate park element is something I directly relate to from personal experience,” says event co-chair and local graphic designer Mac Premo. He fondly remembers his father taking him to embankments under the Brooklyn Bridge, which in the 1980s were “overrun with skaters doing ollies and running up slopes.”
“When I was skateboarding, there were no skate parks around. And there was something cool about that,” said Premo. “But now it feels less free. As the private sector clamps down, we have to create places for kids to go and skate.”
The recently-awarded $10,000 Tony Hawk Foundation grant enabled organizers to interface with Open Road of New York.
“They [Open Road] make these big platforms — these enormous pieces of concrete that you can ollie and grind on or slide a certain way,” he said. “Our hope is not to turn it into a skate park, but more like a skate plaza, meaning open space with elements to skate in.”
“That pool, too, is a huge element of the park,” he said. “Functionality is extremely pertinent to the residents of this area.” Premo has two daughters, one 8 months old and the other 3 1/2 years, who he’s sure will benefit from the renovations.
If you missed last night’s silent auction you still have until Jan. 15 to stake claim on a number of local goodies, ranging from local restaurant gift certificates to an all-inclusive Cancun vacation. To browse or bid, click to Bidding for Good and enter “Friends of Douglass Greene Park” in the search field.
For Premo, the benefits of the skatepark are two-fold.
“Skateboarding kept me out of a ton of trouble. It was an extremely creative force,” said Premo. “And it’s also a very effective source of transportation.”