Park Blog

The latest news about one of New York City’s best waterfront parks.

Photo by Alex MacLean
Park People

Hilary Tholen

What do you do when you’re not in the park?

I am an Associate Producer for Animal Planet. In my six years with the network, I’ve worked on a wide range of programming, including Dude, You’re Screwed (airs on Discovery Channel), Finding Bigfoot, Jockeys, and Taking on Tyson. I also volunteer as a partner and teacher with the Ghetto Film School, a Bronx-based, non-profit organization focusing on cinema studies and hands-on filmmaking for NYC high school students.

Please describe what you do with the park.

A lot! I volunteer with the Conservancy Currents and the Syfy Movies with a View Committee. I have been the chair or co-chair for the Currents Council since its inception in 2009. The Currents engage a younger generation of advocates and supporters by increasing awareness of the park through fun and informative events. Additionally, I’m chair of the Syfy Movies with a View Selection Committee. The Committee programs the summer movie series by picking a theme and determining a line-up, then assists at screenings.

How did you become interested in volunteering with the Conservancy?

My friend from college grew up in Boerum Hill. Her mom knew I loved going to the movies in the park, so she forwarded me an email when the Selection Committee was looking for more volunteers back in 2007. I’ve been actively involved with the park since then.

What’s the most exciting or weird discovery you’ve made in or around the park?

The thong guy who hangs out at Pier 1.

What’s an interesting fact you’ve learned about Brooklyn or the park since you started collaborating with us?

The sustainability of the park. I was very impressed when I first heard the plans for the use of reclaimed material and solar energy, etc., but it was during and after Hurricane Sandy when I understood how forward thinking the designers were in building the park. I saw the photo of Jane’s Carousel and thought it would take a very long time for the park to bounce back from the damage. Michael Van Valkenburgh and his team foresaw the potential problems caused by hurricanes and built a park that would withstand severe flooding and other effects of storms on that level.

What do you like about the park?

The list of what I don’t like about the park might be shorter. I love visiting the park in the summer and seeing all the different ways people enjoy the space and activities: day camp groups playing games on the Harbor View Lawn; locals taking in some beer, food and one of the prettiest sunset spots in the city at the rooftop concessions location on Pier 6; book lovers listening to authors like Martin Amis, Patti Smith and Lizz Winstead on the Granite Prospect; parents and children cooling off in the Water Lab; fitness buffs enjoying sunset Pilates classes on Pier 6; not to mention the thousands of people who attend the Movies with a View summer movie series every summer! Right now, I love seeing all of the trees bloom as the city wakes up from what feels like the longest winter in recent memory.

What motivates you to volunteer at the park both as part of the Currents, and as part of the film committee?

In terms of the Currents, I love being a part of the team that channels young supporters’ energy into support and advocacy for the park. I’ve met some really phenomenal people through the Currents and they inspire me and the work I do for the park every day. It’s also important to foster relationships of the next generation of park proponents so the park can grow and maintain for many lifetimes and I love being part of that.

With the film committee, I don’t know where to begin. I first got involved because of my love of film, but the people on the committee and their passion keep me going. We have a wonderfully diverse group of very smart fellow film lovers and the debates we have about both the theme and the films make me so happy. I’ve made some great friends through the MWAV committee and look forward to our winter planning meetings year-round.

Why is it important for other people to volunteer their time?

New Yorkers are often so busy running around trying to be the best at what we do, and it’s easy to lose sight of our surroundings and why we choose to live in the greatest city in the world. NYC parks offer us the chance to take a breath and really understand our place in the world. Every time I go to a city park, especially Brooklyn Bridge Park, I remember how incredibly lucky I am to call New York home. Supporting the parks by either donating time or money allows them to become the best they can, allowing for activities, maintenance and continued growth.

Anything else you’d like to share about your experiences in the park or the people you’ve met here?

As Frank Bruni said in his New York Times op-ed a couple of years ago, “[New York City is] a place of newly gorgeous waterfront promenades, of trees, tall grasses and blooming flowers on patches of land and peninsulas of concrete and even stretches of rail tracks that were blighted or blank before. It’s a lush retort to the pessimism of this era, verdant proof that growth remains possible, at least with the requisite will and the right strategies.” This park, along with so many other NYC parks, show us that anything is possible when communities and government come together and prioritize the creation and maintenance of our green spaces, and I couldn’t be more happy about it.

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