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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Boot Camp for Park Advocates Graduates First Class Ever

Community Leaders Develop Skills & Strategies
to Advance Wide Ranging Interests for Their Local Parks

New York, NY: Today, thirteen advocates for neighborhood parks received the first-ever certificates of graduation from Partnerships Academy, a new program offered jointly by City Parks Foundation and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

The free, ten-month Academy provides skills, materials, and contacts to help groups partner successfully with government, funders, the media, community organizations and more. In addition, graduates are eligible for small grants to advance their visions for local parks.

David Rivel, Executive Director of City Parks Foundation said, “Partnerships Academy is truly a revolutionary idea. Most volunteers have to figure things out for themselves, but here in New York City we are training volunteers to improve their neighborhood parks and their communities and engaging them in an active partnership.”

“Parks thrive with the support of dedicated community members like these Partnerships Academy graduates,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “We are happy to partner with the City Parks Foundation to give them the tools they need to turn their visions into reality.”

The second class of Partnerships Academy will begin in March of 2007. Applications and guidelines for the program are available at or by calling Asaf Klein at (212) 676-6054. All applications are due by December 31, 2006.

Summaries of the Academy’s graduates are attached with this release.

Media Contacts: Philip Craft, City Parks Foundation, (212) 360-8162
Warner Johnston, NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation, (212) 360-1311

Partnerships Academy: The Graduating Groups and Individuals
December 14, 2006


Astoria/Long Island City Waterfront Parks Alliance – Katie Ellman
Supported by City Parks Foundation and the Parks & Recreation Department, the ALWPA works to enliven the Astoria/Long Island City waterfront by caring and advocating for safe public parks, green spaces, waterways and a waterfront greenway. ALWPA encourages volunteerism, conducts community outreach, advocates for parks, and creates programs in parks for surrounding neighborhoods.

Katie Ellman is helping her group to create and implement a vision for the waterfront parks in Astoria and Long Island City, and has recently been appointed the chair of the organization’s outreach committee. Summing up the ten-month program, Ms. Ellman says, “Partnerships Academy has been an invaluable experience for me. I now know where to go, with whom to speak and what steps to take in order to not only grow my organization but also to effectively call on others to help us to reach our goals. I am so grateful for this opportunity and for the scope of knowledge and new contacts that it has afforded me. My fellow volunteers/classmates are a great resource and I learned just as much from them and their experiences as I did from the curriculum.”

Foundation Five Cents – Eddie Collier & Jamie Barnett
Mr. Collier and Mr. Barnett are the co-founders of this community-based organization that operates primarily out of C.C. Moore Homestead Park in Elmhurst Queens. The main focus of their organization is to provide quality athletic and educational programs for the community. In the upcoming years they plan to expand on existing projects and develop new programs as well.

Mr. Collier explains why Partnerships Academy is different from other programs, saying, “We don’t just go to classes, we get one-on-one attention. Even a guest speaker [City Council Member Gale Brewer] gave out her business cards so that we could call her for advice later. I’d recommend it to anyone. New or old, any group that wants to grow will benefit.”

LIC Rock Group – K. Emmanuel Fuentebella
Mr. Fuentebella is seeking the designation of a natural rock formation as a mini-park. Located in the heart of Long Island City’s industrial district, this anomalous but pristine rock formation protrudes about four feet high and fifteen feet square. He envisions utilizing the “rock” as a recreational location for residents and employees of the various local businesses and for site specific art installations. To assist in these endeavors, Mr. Fuentebella has started to recruit community members to join his newly organized LIC Rock group.

Long Island City Community Boathouse – Jeannette Reihing & Norma Ruane
The LIC Community Boathouse provides Western Queens residents and employees with educational and recreational paddling programs. Their programs raise awareness about estuary ecology with the goal of restoring the natural beauty and health of New York Harbor for present and future generations. They provide free boat tours for the general public, host “walk-up” canoe and Kayak rides in protected local coves, and lead educational projects.

Ms Reihing states that, “Partnerships Academy has equipped us with valuable tools to work more efficiently at building a strong coalition, enabling us to support our community programs and plan more effectively with far more enjoyment. By utilizing what we’ve learned, we are far more encouraged to be creative in how we function.”


Clarendon Cortelyou Beverly Road 2005 Block Association – June Burch Heffernan
Ms. Heffernan’s group was instrumental in the advocating for $1.5 million in City funds for Nostrand Playground, allocated by City Council Member Kendall Stewart. She recently coordinated a highly successful “It’s My Park! Day,” a first for the group and the playground. She now seeks to continue the momentum, by developing a plan for the ongoing upkeep, programming, and security of the park to ensure that the investments in it are sustained over the long-term.

Ms. Heffernan said of Partnerships Academy, “The workshops taught me how to focus on partnering instead of trying to do everything alone or in a vacuum, yielding satisfying results and a deeper connection to the community.”

MIKA Sports Association – Barney Davis & Frank Simpson Jr.
Named after a young woman who inspired its formation in 1989, the initials also stand for Making Intelligent Kids Athletes. Today MIKA serves girls from four boroughs, ranging from elementary school to post-college, by providing year-round practices, tournaments, and educational programs including SAT preparation and college visits. The group works to ultimately improve the lives of the participants by instilling discipline, sportsmanship, loyalty, teamwork, compassion, and academic success.

In reflecting about Partnerships Academy, Barney Davis says, “I actually feel more creative than I ever did before. The workshop leaders have a great knack for asking just the right leading questions to pull out all these ideas that I had stuck in the back of my head.” Frank Simpson adds, “this program gives you the ‘ABCs’ of planning. It takes you through the entire process. It helped our group 100% and I recommend it for any one!”

Brooklyn Ballers Sports Youth & Educational Corp – Tasha Morris
The mission of the Brooklyn Ballers is to protect urban youth and families, and strengthen communities by offering assistance to those who are experiencing social, emotional, or economic difficulties. They support the development of youth as thinkers who will become change agents locally and peacemakers in society. Through their program, the friends of Nehemiah Park, they lead basketball tournaments, summer camps, and various educational activities.


Lorraine Forte
Ms. Forte, a certified Citizen Pruner and tree steward, is working in conjunction with the Parks Department and citywide tree care organizations to improve the life expectancy and health of New York City’s street trees by increasing people’s awareness of them as living organisms. She is exploring ways to advance an idea for low-cost tree guards around city street trees, including the development of promotional and educational materials.

Sherman Creek Project/Friends of Sherman Creek – Obed Fulcar
Mr. Fulcar, a teacher, wants to develop a program where city students can be involved in the clean-up and promotion of Sherman Creek in Washington Heights. He seeks to create a group that will foster, advocate, and promote the restoration, preservation, and conservation of the wildlife and patrimony of the wetlands of Sherman Creek. As an environmental educator, Mr. Fulcar regularly provides hands–on after-school programming for special education students from the Washington Heights and Inwood communities.


NFAMAS It takes a Village…Worldwide – Phyllis Reed
NFAMAS seeks to create premier public spaces in urban areas which are environmentally safe, secure, and supported by local community stakeholders, in addition to developing facilities and programs that encourage local community involvement in civic activities. Ms. Reed is currently advocating for the transfer of the Kingsbridge Armory (currently owned by the State) to the Department of Parks & Recreation. Already developing an interim garden on the site, she hopes to one day turn the Armory into a vibrant community friendly green space.

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