Witt’s World: Stumpy Wagers Roasts the Prospect Park Alliance

Prospect Park1
The Ocean Avenue side of Prospect Park. Photo by Stephen Witt

The Prospect Park Alliance is either elitist or systemically racist,” said Parkbench Pundit Stumpy Wagers, unwrapping his breakfast sandwich, egg and bacon on a roll. 

“Watch yourself, brother,” I said. “Taking on a sacred cow like the Prospect Park Alliance is cutting the cancel culture curve close.” 

“Whoopy doo,” replied Stumpy. “Everyone and their brother knows the Alliance is dominated by limousine liberals from the Park Slope side of the Park. People like Bill de Blasio and his bougie wife, Chirlane McCray, and our new Comptroller Brad Lander all live on that side. That’s why the park’s perimeter on their side has the nice sidewalks and freshly painted protected bike lanes.”

We were on a bench on the Ocean Avenue side of the park. Cracked, broken and raised sidewalks have lined this strip from Empire Boulevard to Parkside Avenue for as long as I can remember. The vegetation grows wild on this side with brush and bramble lurking over the park fence like a Halloween spirit in need of a haircut.

The Park Slope side of Prospect Park. Photo by Stephen Witt

“You have a point,” I said, unwrapping my breakfast sandwich, egg and cheese on a roll with salt, pepper and ketchup. “This side of the park has always been like the Alliance’s ugly stepchild living off the budget leftovers.” 

“Well you a journalist ain’t you,” said Stumpy. “Why don’t you ask the Alliance about it.”

“Actually, I have a few times. They always tell me it’s in the capital plan and is scheduled to get done.”

“Getting done is not got done.”

Stumpy had a point. I lived across the street from the park on Ocean Avenue for ten years back in the 1980s and 90s when the neighborhood was simply the start of Flatbush. Even then this side of the park was ignored compared to the Park Slope side.

“Well times are changing, Stumpy,” I said. “Or haven’t you heard? This neighborhood is now all gentrified with more and more whites moving in, and more and more Blacks moving out. So I expect the Alliance will repave the area soon enough. The getting will be got.”

“Maybe, but I would bet a chunk it will still be the very last part of the park to be renovated,” wagered Stumpy.

On the next bench over an elderly black man was rising from his night’s slumber. He was beneath a large umbrella with two shopping carts loaded with a wealth of goods and supplies, including an African drum tethered to one of the carts. 

He reminded me of my musical past and my Jamaican wife. We were quite a couple back then. She a street portrait painter and me a subway musician. We brought four children into the world on this very block across the street from where Stumpy and I now sat. 

I finished my sandwich, crumpled the wrapping into a tin foil ball and pocketed it.  

“Time to get back to the journalism grind,” I said, bidding Stumpy a good day.

I walked past the gentleman with the drum, who was reading the morning paper. He had natty natural grey hair and a matching long beard. We traded quick glances.  

“Shalom,” he said.

Always good to meet a fellow tribesman, I thought. “And shalom to you, my brother.”