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Brooklyn Brainery is hosting another cool Brooklyn history class, this time on the rise and fall of Prospect Park, which  planners Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux envisioned as a pastoral refuge. By the mid-1970s, the park had become a symbol of the borough’s urban decay and rising crime rates, and “the goddess driving atop the arch in Grand Army Plaza had fallen over in her chariot,” writes urban planning researcher Patrick Lamson-Hall in the workshop description.

But 30 years later, Brooklynites are proud of the park once again. It has a newly landscaped lakefront, a new ice skating rink and clean, rolling green space everyone can appreciate.

“Prospect Park is the the heart and lungs of Brooklyn,” writes Lamson-Hall. “Its decay and subsequent revival showcase important lessons about urban public space, public safety and policing, and the powerful role of citizens in reclaiming their city.”

The workshop costs $10 and will happen from 6:30 to 8 pm on March 11. You can buy tickets here.

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We’re a little late to this news, but the two ice rinks at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park opened to the public on Friday. The 32,000-square-foot skating facility includes an open ice rink and a covered one, which will be used as a roller rink during the spring and summer, and a cafe and event space.

The LeFrank-funded rink replaces the 50-year-old Wollman Rink, which closed in 2010. As we have reported, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects designed the $74,000,000 Lakeside complex and helped restore the waterfront to its original Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux design.

The new rinks are near the Parkside and Ocean Avenue entrance to the park. Holiday hours are available on the Lakeside website, and admission is $6 on weekdays and $8 on holidays and weekends. Skate rental is $5.

Restoration and Skating Rinks Offer Tranquility, Natural Wonder in Prospect Park [Brownstoner]
Inside the Prospect Park Lakeside Center [Brownstoner]
Image by Mary for Ditmas Park Corner

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Reprinted in full from Gothamist:

Back in February, in the wake of two serious collisions between cyclists and pedestrians in the often-crowded 3.3 mile Prospect Park Loop, the DOT proposed a significant redesign to change how the road gets shared. Many were disappointed the DOT didn’t use the opportunity to try banning cars completely from the park, but the new layout does shrink the real estate allocated to motorists. Here are details about the work that starts today. As you can see, the new design, being implemented this month, replaces a lane of car traffic with a dedicated bike lane intended to keep cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers out of each other’s way. (The bike lane is bifurcated to accommodate different cycling speeds.) So drivers lose a lane, bikers gain their own dedicated zone, and pedestrians get their own section on the inside track. The only thing missing is a special fenced-in lane for teenagers!

Click through for Tobias Funke’s thoughts on the matter.
Big Prospect Park Loop Lane Changes Start… Now [Gothamist]

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The Post reports that an online brouhaha erupted on the Park Slope Parents message board over whether ice cream vendors should not be allowed in Prospect Park. The way it’s framed in the Post, the debate revolves around parents not wanting to say “no” when their kids spy the tasty treats being sold in the park. Here’s a quote: “‘I should not have to fight with my children every warm day on the playground just so someone can make a living!’ the poster wailed. ‘I too was at the 9th Street Playground on Monday, and one of the vendors just handed my 4-year-old an ice cream cone. I was furious.'” Some local parents say the debate is silly. And so do some of the nannies watching the kids of local parents: “Dixie Kissoon, a nanny who also took her charges to Harmony recently, wishes the worked-up moms and dads would just get a life. ‘They’re obnoxious,’ she said. ‘There’s no harm in this.'”
Park Slope Parents Back Ban on Ice-Cream Trucks in Prospect Park
Photo by fstopfour

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Yesterday Daily Intel and the Brooklyn Paper reported on how the Litter Mob—the volunteer group that meets regularly to clean up trash from Prospect Park—had built out a new pathway in an area of the park known as a public sex hotspot. According to Daily Intel, the park section is known as the Vale of Cashmere: “The path is intended to direct cruisers to sex rather than the delicate plants surrounding the Midwood section of the park. The path will prevent soil erosion and protect tree roots from people walking back and forth from the ‘Vale’.” And via Brooklyn Paper: “The group — which has cleaned up pounds of condom wrappers, lube packets and other kinky unmentionables — hopes the path will keep any clothes-off activities on-trail in the Midwood section of the park. …The hillside patch of woodland, near the carousel by Center Drive, has long been a spot for gay cruising. It has also come to be known for its piles of trash, empty bottles of booze, food wrappers, and more risque refuse.”
Prospect Park Litter Mob [Official Site]
Park Slopers Build A Greener Path to Public Sex Spot [Daily Intel]
Prospect Park Do-Gooders Build Path to Pleasure [BK Paper]
Photo via Litter Mob

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Well, this is not exactly a surprise but, as the New York Times reports today, Prospect Park’s Lakeside project—which will include new skating rinks, buildings and a major amount of landscaping—is behind schedule. The big news is that the skating rinks and the rest of project aren’t expected to open until fall of 2013, as opposed to this January. Here’s the long and short of it: “Lakeside, a $74 million, 26-acre undertaking, is the first major construction project in 50 years in Prospect Park. It is intended to reinvigorate a long-neglected portion of the park and accommodate the 10 million visitors now streaming to the 585-acre Brooklyn oasis each year. Now, more than five years after plans were announced and two winters after the decrepit Kate Wollman Rink was torn down, the project is half-built and half-imagined.” The article also compares the respective budgets of Central Park and Prospect Park, both of which receive some city funding: Central operates with a $42.4 million budget, while Prospect gets by with $8.3 million, and Lakeside’s financing doesn’t come from the regular budget. This is the other very relevant quote in the story: “The project is emblematic of a park in transition — from a crime-ridden, dilapidated den of 25 years ago to a vibrant, rustic haven struggling to keep pace with maintenance and use demands despite a thinning budget.” Aside from all that, and the fact that it’s a drag that the delays are keeping the rinks from opening, there are a bunch of details in the story about some of Lakeside elements that are supposed to sound pretty darn cool, like “20,000 square feet of bluestone for the walkway beneath a majestic semicircle of London plane trees” and “six new cast bronze urns, based on the original Olmsted and Vaux design.”
At Prospect Park, a Transformation Is Behind Schedule [NY Times]
Recent photos of Lakeside construction from the Prospect Park Alliance

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The Times reports that tonight the Prospect Park Road Sharing Task Force will unveil a proposal to change the park’s loop so that one lane is for cars, one for bicyclists and one is for pedestrians. The plan would make the center lane, which is now used by cars, only for bicyclists, while the left lane would be only for pedestrians and the right lane would be for cars during the hours that the park is open to them. The city says it plans to put the changes into effect this spring, and the task force conducted a study indicating that the change would only add a six- or seven-second delay to the trip for car drivers during the morning rush. Still, Emily Lloyd, who is the president of the Prospect Park Alliance and heads up the task force, said she expects “a harsh reaction” to the proposal from drivers. As the Times notes, the plan comes “in response to a series of collisions between pedestrians and cyclists, and amid growing rancor over how to balance the interests of the 10 million people who crowd into Prospect Park each year.”
Changes Planned for Prospect Park Loop [NY Times]
Photo by joefenstermaker