Translated from the Arabic, “Umma” means something close to “community.” Conceptually the word refers to a group formed around a common element; in social terms it could be applied to a place-based community as well as to one held together by religious beliefs. The Umma Group, a Central Brooklyn community group, has formed around the Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Eight Muslim families formed the group in 1978 in order to improve their neighborhood, confronting in particular the problems of crime, illegal dumping, and drug dealing. The group has grown since then and promotes the formation of block patrols and community groups to help keep track of these and similar problems. Using community mobilization and information sharing with the 70th Precinct Police Department, the group deters crime in their neighborhood. Another of Umma’s charters is to promote awareness and understanding between the many different religious and cultural backgrounds that make up central Brooklyn.
The development of this site at Woodruff, Ocean and Crooke Avenues as a park embodies Umma’s mission and one of the goals of Parks. This site was once a vacant lot used as a neighborhood dumping ground. Aside from leaving an unattractive mark on the neighborhood, it attracted illegal activities. The Umma Group began its efforts to improve this space by simply cleaning up the lot and monitoring it to discourage illegal activities. Then, working with Community Board 14, the Brooklyn Borough President, and Parks, they brought about the rebirth of this space as a park. Ownership of the property was transferred to Parks in 1993. The park was created with $275,000 provided by Borough President Howard Golden, and opened to the community in 1996.
This former dumping ground is now a productive space for children to play and the community’s older residents to gather in. Shaped somewhat like a bird, the entrance opens into a central sitting area with an arc of benches and ornate paving stones. The wing along Ocean Avenue holds the play area, which provides climbing equipment with a slide and safety surfacing to prevent injuries, as well as two more benches. The other wing, which extends north from Woodruff Avenue, has a community garden that includes a crushed rock path and two benches. There is a wall along the interior of the park that shelters it from the railroad trench on the other side, while iron fences enclose the street side of the park. A gate in the fence on Woodruff Avenue features two ironwork duck silhouettes.