Saturday in the Park

The goal was to create a park for everyone to enjoy nature and each other, right in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. The result was Prospect Park. Today, more than 8 million people visit the park annually. Let’s meet some of them.

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“You forget when you’re here that you’re right in the center of New York City.” – Marty Woess
“In the heart of the city stands a forest,” narrator and two-time Emmy Award–winning producer Steve Buscemi tells us.
It's the last remaining forest in Brooklyn and, he says, “a jewel of green in a sea of concrete.” That jewel is Prospect Park.

Though it’s not as famous as its Manhattan cousin, Central Park, it’s a vital part of life both in the surrounding neighborhoods and far beyond them. In Saturday in the Park, we take a walk (and a golf-cart ride) around this Brooklyn sanctuary’s 526 acres to meet some of the 8 million annual visitors who call this place their backyard, their favorite hangout, their refuge and their salvation.

There’s no better local tour guide than Buscemi, a Brooklyn native who lives within walking distance of the triumphal arch at Prospect Park’s northern entrance. He introduces us to warbler-loving tween birders, a park ecologist working on a large reforestation project, musicians who made the park their stage during COVID-19, volunteers both young and young-at-heart, a dancer who finds inspiration in nature and more.

They say you never walk into the same park twice. Who knows what you’ll see today—or who you’ll meet.

Meet the Characters

John, Lila,
Elias, and Ben
the Birders
the Ecologist
the Dancer
the Caretaker
the Pup
the Historian
the Cyclist
the Cyclist
the Musician
the Birder
the Gardener
Illustrated Map of Prospect Park

Map from Prospect Park Alliance

The Brooklyn we know now was once part of Lenapehoking, the land of the Lenape people, which stretched across parts of present-day New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Dutch colonists arrived in the early 1600s, displacing the Indigenous population and permanently altering their homeland. These settlers established a number of villages that would eventually grow into the Brooklyn of today—New York City’s most populous borough, with more than 2.7 million residents.

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux began designing Prospect Park in 1865, just seven years after the pair won a design contest with the plans that would become Central Park. Prospect Park took three decades to complete, but from the outset it was meant to be the people’s haven: a free, safe, pastoral green space where everyone felt welcome. It contains the last remaining forest in Brooklyn as well as a meadow over a mile long, a bandshell for live performances, a skating rink, a zoo, a carousel dating from 1912 and the borough’s only lake. There are more than 30,000 trees on the grounds, some of which are centuries old.

Olmsted believed that parks are pivotal to human happiness and health, thanks to “the feeling of relief experienced by those entering them, on escaping the cramped, confined and controlling circumstances of the streets of the town,” he wrote. “[In] other words, a sense of enlarged freedom is to all, at all times, the most certain and the most valuable gratification afforded by a park.”

Prospect Park Alliance is the nonprofit organization that sustains, restores and advances Brooklyn's Backyard, in partnership with the City of New York. The Alliance provides critical staff and resources that keep Prospect Park green and vibrant for the diverse communities that call Brooklyn home.

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Spending just 20 minutes a day outside is beneficial to our mental, physical and social well-being.

But the national nonprofit Trust for Public Land has found that for nearly one-third of us, it isn’t as easy as simply stepping outside. Physical, economic, systemic and cultural barriers prevent many people from accessing green space to play, rest, explore, connect and recharge. That’s why REI is dedicated to getting all people in the United States within 5 minutes of clean, safe experiences outside by supporting national legislation and local, community-led projects around the country.

Join us to pass the Outdoors for All Act, which seeks to close this nature gap by solidifying a program called the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program to secure funding for green spaces in underserved communities.

5 Ways You Can Get Outside in 5

Join or host a cleanup day at your local park.
The nonprofit Prospect Park Alliance works alongside the City of New York to sustain and restore the park with support from thousands of volunteers. Check your local park service website for volunteer opportunities.
Meet neighbors and community members for a potluck picnic or barbecue.
Getting to know the other folks who share your park can create a sense of connection.
Bring your kids.
Many local green spaces offer programs for youth as well as space to simply play, giving them vital exposure to nature. Contact your local parks and recreation department for information.
Savor time outside.
Recreation doesn’t always mean engaging in physical activity: In Prospect Park, you’ll usually see folks resting, reading, people-watching or daydreaming as a way to escape the bustle of big-city life.
Take action.
Discover your hometown’s ParkScore® rating, a Trust for Public Land index that compares citywide park access, acreage, amenities and more. Support local and national initiatives that aim to improve funding, access, amenities and equity within nearby green spaces.
Help everyone get
Outside in 5
Tell Congress to support parks and green spaces, like Prospect Park, in communities that need them most by passing the Outdoors for All Act.

Meet the Filmmakers

Irene Kim Chin
Kurt Vincent
Tara Kutz
Paola Piers-Torres

In Partnership

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