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Brooklyn Non-Profit Plans Park Improvements with Von King Conservancy

By Camille Bautista | February 6, 2015 7:49am
 Nonprofit 500 Men Making a Difference proposed the Von King Park Conservancy to improve conditions and amenities at the Bed-Stuy grounds. 
Nonprofit 500 Men Making a Difference proposed the Von King Park Conservancy to improve conditions and amenities at the Bed-Stuy grounds. 
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New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A local nonprofit is looking to spruce up one of Brooklyn’s oldest parks and start a conservancy to spearhead the efforts. 

500 Men Making a Difference, a Brooklyn-based service organization, announced plans to improve Bed-Stuy’s Herbert Von King Park after recents cuts were made to after-school services at the park's cultural center.

The group's proposal comes in response to local residents' calls for improved facilities and restored programs, 500 Men founder Wayne Devonish said during a Wednesday community board meeting. 

The conservancy would help upgrade the 7.82 acres and a cultural arts center with the addition of maintenance workers, after-school activities, and renovations. 

“The layout is rich and packed with amenities that many people in the community are not fully aware of,” the proposal reads. “The full optimization and upkeep, however, of Von King Park is totally sub-par.”

Located between Lafayette and Greene avenues at Tompkins and Marcy, Von King houses a baseball field, indoor theater, commercial kitchen, dog runs and an outdoor amphitheater, among several other facilities.

Parks Deparment representatives attributed low enrollment numbers to cuts in the park center's operational hours.

500 Men will work with the Central Park Conservancy and Partnership for Parks for the overhaul, according to Devonish. The proposal includes classes such as cross-training, dance and cooking, a new website, and a new conservatory garden for special events.

The initiative isn’t the first time the nonprofit has helped enhance the grounds. The group dedicated past community service projects to painting the center and reseeding garden beds.

Members of Brooklyn Community Board 3’s Parks, Arts and Culture committee voiced support for the creation of a conservancy, with vice chair T.J. Wilson saying the project was long awaited.

“This is very, very exciting," Wilson said. “This is great, especially the program for after-school because that’s a major concern for the community." 

After submitting applications for two grants of undisclosed amounts and meeting with Brooklyn Borough Commissioner for Parks Kevin Jeffrey, 500 Men representatives will take the next step to present plans to the community in coming months.

Devonish outlined a budget up to $2 million dollars over the next two years to update the park.

“We’re happy to partner with any group that would like to form an alliance with any of our parks,” said Ronald Taylor, district manager for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. “I don’t anticipate much pushback or any problems and we look forward to working together.”

The organization hopes to begin work in March, pending approval.