NYC Resources311Office of the Mayor

Official Website of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

McCarren Park

The Daily Plant : Friday, April 16, 2004


On Saturday, April 10, 2004, the sun shone brightly down on the fields, playgrounds, and courts of Brooklyn’s McCarren Park. Past couples reading in the sun and Frisbee-throwing boys, a group of 38 women and 2 men, clad in blue City Seasonal Aide (CSA) t-shirts or green sweatshirts with "staff" written on the back, crowded together, taking pictures, laughing, and chatting about the day’s hard work. These Job Training Participants (JTPs) in the Parks Opportunity Program (POP) had just completed their fifth day of orientation in SPARK (Sprucing up Parks and Ratings for Kids), a new Parks & Recreation initiative in Brooklyn. They now awaited the distribution of their certificates of completion.

The Parks Opportunity Program is a transitional employment program designed to help public assistance recipients transition into the workforce. JTPs are referred to Parks & Recreation by the City’s Human Resources Administration. At Parks & Recreation, they obtain on-the-job training, working four days per week in the field, and they acquire employment skills, utilizing POP’s employment counseling, training, and job development services at least one day per week. During their six-month seasonal positions, JTPs strive to succeed on two levels: to help make the parks, playgrounds, and beaches of New York City clean and safe and to obtain as much training and education as possible in order to gain sustainable, full-time permanent employment in the private or public sector.

SPARK is a new one-week program that instructs an incoming group of JTPs in the operations, policies, and procedures of working at Parks & Recreation. This particular group, the ninth thus far, began on April 6 with Equal Employment Opportunity training, "Right-To-Know" informational sessions, an overview of attendance policies and procedures, and a rundown of what to expect from SPARK.

On day two, the group reported to Von King Recreation Center for a field orientation presented by Park & Recreation Managers (PRMs) Eric Peterson and Fred Wilken. SPARK Supervisor of Parks Maintenance and Operations (SPMO) Gaetano Battista distributed the uniforms, including two blue CSA T-shirts, a green JTP sweatshirt, work gloves, rain gear, a Parks & Recreation hat, and work boots. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the group convened in the morning in McCarren Park to learn and then practice their newly-acquired skills.

By the time certificates were handed out, over 450 bags of leaves and debris had been collected and more than 100 benches and 30 light poles had been painted. The turtles in the water park were re-anointed with beautiful colors as passersby commented on the work and how much they appreciated it. Most importantly, the new employees were proud of their accomplishments as a team.

Deputy Chief of Operations Lynda Ricciardone distributed the certificates, calling out the names one by one; with each name, applause resounded from the other workers. Ricciardone, formerly a manager for District 1, commended them for the noticeable difference that they had made in a park of 35.7 acres, asking, "Do you know who all this work is really for?" In unison they roared, "It’s for the kids!"

The ultimate goal of SPARK is to remind newly transitioned employees that work can be rewarding and to assist them in establishing their independence. The operation was originally coordinated under the direction of Ricciardone by SPMO Mark Ford and Gaetano Battista, in conjunction with the selected manager and district staff. The program is rotated throughout the borough’s parks, with district managers submitting written requests to Ricciardone. The SPARK crew brings all the necessary equipment and supplies for the completion of the assembled work plan. The crew remains on-site for the duration of the project. The new employees learn throughout the week from experienced workers; all of the Parks & Recreation staff, despite position, are in it together. When the participants arrive for their second week in their assigned districts, they are properly trained to perform their jobs.

Since the beginning of transitional employment at Parks & Recreation in 1994, over 4,000 participants have obtained gainful employment. In that same time, park cleanliness ratings citywide have increased from 70 percent to 91 percent.

Written by Chris Chapman and Lynda Ricciardone


"Life itself is a quotation."

Jorge Luis Borges

Directions to McCarren Park

Was this information helpful?