A Look Back at 2021
The year 2021 was unique, challenging, blessed, and a bit of a blur. It’s been nearly two years since the pandemic began, and it can be hard to absorb that we are already in 2022. Below, we look back at SPNA’s 2021, full of our community’s perseverance and triumphs.
Perhaps the snowdrop was the best representation of our community’s surfacing into 2021. Despite their small stature, snowdrops persevere in the deepest frost, reminding us that we all have the ability to overcome, against all odds. Many of us were hopeful 2021 could be a better year, and even if it wasn’t as good as we hoped, we knew we could survive it together.
Our country welcomed a new president in 2021, and so did SPNA. Jason Money began his term as SPNA President with a promise to dedicate SPNA’s work to the Stuyvesant Square community.
February began with one of the biggest storms of the season. Our park was covered in about two feet of snow, bringing us new, snowy neighbors.
On February 24th, we hosted our second virtual event: a jazz concert in celebration of Black History Month. Four extremely talented artists – Amanda Finch on vocals, Alex Nguyen on piano/trumpet, Sam Weber on bass, and Jay Sawyer on drums – performed a variety of songs by Black artists. Registered viewers attended the event from all over the world. To access a recording of the event, click here.
In March, one year after the pandemic started, filming resumed in Stuyvesant Square Park. NBC’s The Blacklist filmed scenes at night with high-powered lighting and set up their own lamp posts in the park. Before the pandemic, our park regularly hosted and received donations from film productions. This shoot was another sign of renewed life in the neighborhood and good things to come.
April brought spring and the first shoots of vivid green. The trees and ground weren’t the only things in our park becoming covered in green. NYC Parks’ Crew Chief Josie DeJesus and new SPNA board member Jeff Fagan painted bench slats green that had been replaced by the Parks Department using paint supplied by SPNA.
We were so fortunate to be able to bring back our free summer events, which are loved by so many in our community, in 2021. Our summer events began with yoga and meditation in the park, the perfect activity to partake in while appreciating all the spring flora.
Our summer events continued in June with a performance by the Richard Cortez Band in celebration of Pride Month and a tribute to Broadway by The Kidwell Sisters. The music electrified our park and entertained visitors of all ages.
On June 11th, Councilwoman Carlina Rivera presented Stuyvesant Square Park Crew Chief Josephine DeJesus with a citation from the City Council for her dedication to our park. Josie’s commitment to the park is on display and undeniable every day, but on June 2nd, her dedication reached a new level when she confronted an arsonist that was setting fires in the east and west sides of the park.
In addition to receiving an award from the City Council, Councilwoman Rivera presented Josie with an award from the United States Senate. That morning, the Councilwoman had breakfasted with Senator Chuck Schumer to discuss funding for our district at our very own Joe Jrs. Senator Schumer passed on the award to Councilwoman Rivera at the meeting.
Summer concerts continued in full swing in July with a performance by the Afro-Latineers. The band filled the park with music and an infectious summer vibe that were as bright as their orange shirts and the gorgeous flowers blooming in our park.
Our season of summer events ended in August with concerts by Alex Nguyen and Friends and a bossa nova performance by Ramsay Rawson. Visitors continued to enjoy spending time in the park, one of the few open, public, and green outdoor spaces in our city.
On September 12, 2021, St. George’s Episcopal Church and the Stuyvesant Square community celebrated the long awaited co-naming of 16th Street and 3rd Ave in honor of the great Harry T. Burleigh. Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, Reverend Smith, and other notable figures provided remarks to the community. SPNA provided refreshments after the ceremony. A powerful concert celebrating Burleigh’s music commemorated the auspicious occasion.
In 2021, SPNA was once again able to host our Annual Fundraising Gala. On October 7th, SPNA and its supporters came together for an evening of music, food, drink, and good company at St. George’s Episcopal Chapel. We remain extremely thankful to everyone who attended the event and contributed to making it such a success.
In addition, on October 24th, our neighbors and their furry friends indulged in some friendly competition for the Halloween Dog Park Costume Parade and Contest, organized by the Stuyvesant Park Dog Run. Pets and their owners walked the red carpet, showing off their creative, cute, and classy ensembles. Awards and cash prizes provided by SPNA were given for Best Doggie Costume, Best Dog Duo or Group, and Best Parent and Pup. In addition, one duo received an honorable mention. In addition to cultivating a joyful and fun event, the Stuyvesant Park Dog Run collected donations for Animal Haven here in New York City, helping to spread love and joy to animals across our city.
We had so much to be thankful for by the time we reached November. Our community made so much possible, from virtual events to in-person concerts, contests, and celebrations. Our park wouldn’t even look or feel half as good if it weren’t for SPNA Gardening Chairperson Doris Dieter and board member Claire Brennan, who organize all of the gardening events throughout the year. We appreciate the time and work all the volunteers this year have devoted to maintaining our park as a place of beauty and tranquility.
On November 6th, they organized a special volunteer day, where the SPNA community joined together to prepare the park for the cooler months ahead. Below is a family who came out to help with the event.
Our bi-weekly Gardening Club will continue to meet every Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, weather permitting. Masks are required. No experience is necessary.
SPNA is also thankful for everyone’s support in our three-phase campaign to Save Our English Elms. Thanks to the generosity of our community, which participated in a matching grant provided by Partnership for Parks, we were able to raise the $6,200 needed for Phase One of Bartlett’s plan. In addition, with a $9,300 grant from the Greenacre Foundation, SPNA was able to cover the costs of Phase Two, which was accomplished across three days in November.
Last but definitely not least, December brought so many joyful moments to our park. We joined East End Temple on December 5th for a celebratory candle lighting, marking the eighth and last night of the festival of Chanukah. On December 12th, we came together again for a festive tree lighting with performances by The Kidwell Sisters. Finally, we were able to hold our annual Christmas Eve Caroling event, which was cancelled in 2020 and is cherished by our community.
We end 2021 just as the snowdrops we started – resiliently together. SPNA remains grateful to all our volunteers, neighbors, and supporters. We are blessed to start the year 2022 with your continued support, and look forward to the many new memories we will make this year.