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Bye Bye Birdie: Prospect Park's Audubon Center to End Open Hours

While the facility will still be available for programs and rentals, the days of dropping in are coming to a close.

The Audubon Center's wings have been clipped. 

Starting next spring, the Prospect Park bird lover's mecca will close to the public, moving the majority of its programs outdoors and reserving the space for private events, according to park officials. Electronic boat tours around the lake are being eliminated entirely. 

Lefferts Historic House's budget is also being hit, reducing its full time staffers from two people to one.

“I feel like I’m on a sinking ship,” said one part-time Audubon Center employee, declining to give her name for the sake of preserving what remains of her job.

“We come here and hours just keep getting cut. It’s depressing.”

The center, which opened its doors in 2002, features a movie theater, live animals and even a human-sized birds nest. It also houses the park's visitor's center, information desk and a small cafe. 

Prospect Park spokesman Paul Nelson said a tightening budget has forced the park to cut costs. The center will still host scheduled programs, and will be available for private rental along with the adjoining Boathouse, meaning the weddings will continue. Other programming will now take place in "pop up Audubon" around the park. 

But the days of wandering into the center, currently open Thursday through Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m., will be a thing of the past. 

“We were looking at places to trim the budget, and there’s only so many places you can trim,” he said.

But the budgetary molting had Audubon workers' feathers in a twist.

“It’s sad,” said the employee. “It was a wonderful place, it was a nice resource for kids and for families, and I think it’s a shame that they’re not nurturing it and they don’t care as much as they should.”

Latrice Davis, who works part-time at Lefferts Historic House, said that while she was not made aware of the layoffs, said she has noticed shifts in operations.

Admission to the 200-year-old house was free until last year, when a pay-as-you-wish policy was instated, said Davis, who began volunteering on the grounds in 2008 and became a staff member in 2010. In July, admission for adults became a non-negotiable $3. 

She added that cuts have also been made to programming, namely, halving the annual Harvest Festival from two days to just one.

Meanwhile, the park is building the new Lakeside center, a $74 million recreation facility expected to open in fall of 2013. 

That the park's two primary educational resources have been cast aside does not sit well with the Audubon Center staffer. 

“The park is a community facility,” she said. “It should be a priority to engage the community and teach them about stewardship and taking care of the environment."

“We’re going to lose that opportunity.” 

The Truth September 21, 2012 at 03:32 PM
This is CRIMINAL!
el syd September 21, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Bit of a shocker. Hadn't heard about any of this.
jwcbklyn September 21, 2012 at 06:03 PM
This is really lousy. It used to be that the Alliance was able to spend money on education and public programs because the Parks Dept was able to cover the basic maintenance. Now the City has stuck the Alliance with the tab for things like garbage pickup, mowing, pruning, etc. End result? Apparently we the public have to give up the "luxury" of public programs if we expect some garbage pickup and lawnmowing. The Alliance isn't going to say anything bad about the City because they don't want to bite the hand that feeds them. And New Yorkers for Parks is more focused on parks that are in worse shape. So unless a rich fairy godmother comes along, we're out of luck
Victoria M. Sottile September 22, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Another casualty of the attitude that making money trumps educating children and the general public about nature or anything for that matter. It's a shame that this is being allowed to occur.

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