Bed Stuy

Friends of St. Andrews Playground

(from left to right, top to bottom)

Life-Long Bed-Stuy Resident, Her-King Alagantic Block Association, many other Community Commitments

“I’ve been in this neighborhood for 84 years, I am the president of the Her-King Alagantic Block Association. I am one of the founders of the Friends of St. Andrew’s Playground, I tried to organize the FOSAP in 2017. I was trying to get the Her-King Alagantic Block Association to get involved and to initiate the FOSAP. Later, while working with Ms. Claudette Ramos from the Parks Department and a few other community members, we were able to get it started.

We have a group that’s called The Kingston Park Alumni. When they were little kids, I guess the kids named it Kingston Park because it was easier to say than St. Andrew’s Playground. So up to this day, people say Kingston Park and every year, except this year for the last 10 years, they’ve been having the reunion of the older ones. They come out here and play games, they have a tournament. The parents and their children and their grandchildren, they make two teams and they play against each other.

This playground is important because to me, it is a landmark.”

Long-Term Community Member, CODE Foundation

“The main reason I wanted to join Friends of St. Andrew’s Playground was because of the main purpose of getting major renovations for the playground. I used to organize an annual free children’s festival right here at St Andrew’s Playground for about three years starting 2013…[This Playground] has a rich history of serving the community members for so many different purposes for years, for decades. My vision for this playground is that there is a major capital improvement that will deliver us a playground that is able to have multiple purposes.

So the park can become the center for keeping peace in the heart of central Brooklyn. This can be an area where, when people want to have fantastic, safe, fun for their little children, it’s possible. Also, when adults want to come out and have a variety of different health activities, it’s possible.”

Long-Term Bed-Stuy Resident, Cultural Worker

“This was my childhood park and I am an adult now and I was like yo, I walk through this park often and I have rarely seen activities except people playing basketball.

I love the idea of having workshops in the space and having a space that local artists and cultural workers can come here every week and set up a type of workshop that they can share with the community because I feel like there are a lot of brilliant and dynamic people in the community that just need space to do the work.

The fact that we have space but don’t have the infrastructure to house people, I feel like that itself is rampant racism and so many other inequities that just something where I would like to see artists, cultural workers and community folks who have something to share and want to hold space to share a lesson or play or idea and need room to do that and that’s something I think St. Andrew’s can provide.”

Life-Long Crown Heights Resident, Big Apple Leadership Academy for the Arts (BALAA)

“I decided to join the Friends of St. Andrew’s Playground because I’m a natural born community leader. There’s just something about helping my community, that was something that I’ve been about since I was young. When you look at the history of our people and see how much help we do need in our community, there’s no way that someone should want to run away from the job that’s here. Growing up in Crown Heights, this was actually a much more beautiful playground. There were basketball tournaments here weekly. It was so lively over here, it was known for that. This park was one of the first that was looking real good over here in the neighborhood. And then all of a sudden it just don’t.

We need more options for these kids. We want to be able to offer these kids just about everything that could be offered. I mean, there are so many options for kids in other neighborhoods and our kids deserve options too. There’s more opportunity in other neighborhoods and amongst other demographics, nationalities, races. There should be nothing that we can’t have access to. And that’s why our program [BALAA] is really about the family and not just the child.

Being a part of this group means a lot to me. I’m a part of the community. I don’t want to be one of the complainers. I want to be one of the doers and the changers. I want to be an agent of change. I want to be someone that, you know, 20 years from now, people are going to reference our program [BALAA or myself] for a positive, you know, in a positive light. So that’s, that’s really what it’s about. It’s to make the change, that’s what we’re here for.”

Long-Term Bed-Stuy Resident, Her-King Alagantic Block Association, many other Community Commitments

“I am one of the founders of the Friends of St. Andrew’s Playground. I founded it with the help of Claudette Ramos (Outreach Coordinator, Partnerships for Parks) after completing the Parks Academy Classes. St. Andrew’s needed this because it felt like the park was going down and down and the children are still coming out here.The children deserve more. Being a part of this group means a lot to me because I’ve been here for a long time and as a group we can work together to get things done. And that’s why I’m still trying to recruit members.

I would tell someone that wants to join the Friends of St.Andrew’s the playground is here and it’s being utilized by our community. I would tell them to join because we are trying to get a capital improvement and let it be noticeable so our commissioner and elected officials can see that the playground needs to be upgraded.”

Life-Long Bed-Stuy Resident, Her-King Alagantic Block Association

“I have been in this neighborhood for my entire life and have been with the Her-King-Alagantic Block Association for over 40 years. Me, my brothers and cousins used to run activities here in the park. We’d run basketball tournaments. The young kids would come out. The parents would leave the kids with us or sit in the park. We had trips going on. We had the school PS 93, doing talent shows, fashion shows with us. I performed at the Apollo (theatre) that used to be on Fulton where the McDonalds is now.

I’d been here so many times that the park changed over and as it just, it’s getting bigger and bigger seems like. So we just want to continue to have activities here for the kids and safety for the elderly. We need repairs in the park. When we was growing up, the park guy would have the games and bring them out, like stick ball and different things. I don’t see that anymore. As a block association, we try to make sure this neighborhood is up and running. We want something positive in each lot in the neighborhood and that’s what we did! I’ve watched the older generation care for the community when I was growing up, then I joined and then my kids were driving it and now my grandchildren.”

Long-term Brooklyn Resident, Brooklyn Titans

“I run a youth program, I’ve been running that program for close to 20 years. We serve approximately 150 kids between the ages of 5 and 14. We do football, tackle football and cheerleading and we are always looking for consistent quality space and there’s not much of that available in Bed-Stuy and I saw this as an opportunity to do something for a community that I not only live in but care about greatly but also to help the kids that we directly serve in our program.

Given the location of this playground, this should be a crown jewel, you have huge open space available that I think should have artificial turf put down so that the playground can have much more use. You already have the infrastructure for lights here which means automatically increases the use of the available time on the field on this facility by at least 50%. So my vision is that the ballfield is redone with artificial turf where seniors and other members of the community can walk and potentially run. We fix these basketball courts, possibly adding lights so we get more use, and it’s a safer space.”

Long-Term Bed-Stuy Resident, Big Apple Leadership Academy for the Arts (BALAA)

“This particular playground, that concrete field over there for years has been the home to marching band programs in Brooklyn. It hasn’t been used for a long time. When we started thinking about where we could go to have our outdoor traditional HBCU (Historically Black College or University) field practices to march. I was like, Hey, there’s a nice park right over here.

When we have our own kids and our grandkids, we need someplace for them to be able to go. If we don’t take care of the parks where we live, then what, what are we going to do? What are they going to do if we don’t make it a safe place, a safe space for them. That is why its important for us to take action.”

If I had it my way, the concrete would be turned into an actual field, with turf, the lines, all the football stuff. The local high schools could come and play there. We can have our practices there. We can be the official halftime , marching band for all of the sports that happens here.”

Life-long Brooklyn Resident, Uncommon Schools

“I’m the sports coordinator for Uncommon Schools, I’m a guy who wants to see good things happen throughout the borough that I live in. Uncommon Schools is the high school across the street. I passed this playground many, many times on my way to the building. We have a number of schools in the community and we go all the way to the other side of Brooklyn to borrow a park to play in. The kids have to travel so far and I wanted to get a field in the community where the kids live, so their parents could attend more and it could be more like family oriented. I was talking to some people and they mentioned the Friends of St. Andrew’s and I wanted to see what we could do to maybe turn the field into a turf field. And that’s why I became part of the group and found out that other people wanted to revitalize the park as well. That’s how I got involved.

I don’t live in Bed Stuy, but, meeting Ms. Cromwell and others that have been part of the group, it seems like they’re really interested in working to maintain the integrity of the community. And so that means a lot to me because, you grow up in a place and things are familiar to you, and it’s nice in lots of ways for it to stay the same. I’ve been through this community my whole life, and it’s nice to see some of the people that are staying here, you know, keeping it together and for the people who stayed here, keeping it vital, working and safe, things like that. It’s easy to say, let’s have a playground, but if the playground isn’t safe for my kids to play in or for the community’s kids to play, then that playground is meaningless. Lots of people pass here all the time. And I think it can be like a center of a community when you have programming here and people are enjoying it.

I would tell people that want to get involved with the FOSAP that the people in this group are really friendly and if you care about the community and want to be a part of it then we need your energy.”

Portraits by

Taz Drums

“I grew up in St. Andrews Playground with my cousins and siblings. No matter how many times I’ve moved, this area is my home. I was raised here and now I just want to give back the same amount of life that it gave to me!”

Interviews by

Sashana Kinghorn

Sashana Kinghorn is a 17-year old senior at Clara Barton High School. Lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant after migrating 3 years ago from Jamaica. Has been working with Trellis since June 2020 and held the position as a community reporter. She enjoys reading fictional novels, was a part of her school’s track and field team and is currently enrolled in the school’s Medical Assistant program.

Editing by

Dalaeja Foreman

Dalaeja Foreman is a Brooklyn-born and raised community organizer, curator, and first-generation Caribbean decendant. As a hood-intellectual, her work focuses on political education, community control and empowerment. Dalaeja is a Catalyst Organizer with Partnerships for Parks.

Documentation by

Myles Austin-Greene

Thank you to Myles Austin-Greene for documenting the process of telling this story!

Meet more community heroes