Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Remembering Bob Makla

Vale of Cashmere, Prospect Park
photo: forgotten-ny.com

News has arrived that one of Park Slope's "Elder Statesmen", Robert Makla, is no longer with us.

We used to run into Bob at various civic events around town, and gradually came to know a bit about him. Apparently he was a great advocate of the city's parks and we think he founded, or co-founded, an organization called the Greensward Foundation that published books and maps about the city's parks.

One of our earliest memories of Bob is of him staffing the Greensward Foundation table at the old "New York is Book Country" street fair, which was suspended after the 9/11 attack and never resumed. We recall buying a really lovely map of Prospect Park from Bob and we think the map was published by his organization.

Later Bob would show up at the occasional Park Slope Civic Council meeting, and entertain the Trustees with tales of the old days in Park Slope. We ultimately learned that Bob had served as President of the Park Slope Civic Council during the crucial years of the late 1950s-early 1960s, and some credit him with revitalizing the moribund South Brooklyn Board of Trade by renaming it the Park Slope Civic Council and commencing the annual House Tour during his tenure.

Still later, we took our own children to the occasional Prospect Park clean-up organized by Bob and the Greensward Foundation. We recall Bob paid particular attention to the Vale of Cashmere. Bob recounted how the pools were featured in the film "Sophie's Choice." Our girls didn't pay much attention, but they had a good time falling into the mud at the pool's edge. One of our family's shoes is probably still embedded in the mud there to this day.

CB6 District Manager Craig Hammerman on Robert Makla: Always dressed to the nines, with his signature bowtie and suspenders, Robert Makla was a familiar attendee, avid supporter and eager participant at Brooklyn CB6 general meetings. He often started off by reminding us that he was born at NY Methodist Hospital, and with the exception of serving our country oversees in the armed forces, spent his whole life living in Park Slope.

Bob’s message was often simple, and eloquently delivered. To paraphrase…Parks are special places, where people of all races, incomes and interests mix. They reconnect people to nature. They feed the soul serving as inspiration to artists and dreamers, poets and planners. They provide a source of jobs, particularly maintenance jobs, which are harder and harder to come by. Jobs, he often said, were the key to restoring a sense of pride and productivity to the least fortunate among us. And, once park space is gone, it is not so easily replaced. It is therefore the job of every citizen to defend, preserve and care for the wonderful green and open spaces throughout our City. Of course, his favorite spot was his beloved Prospect Park, the crown jewel of all of New York City’s parks.

Bob’s presence was electric, his words were stirring, and he will be sorely missed. I, for one, will especially miss his periodic call to conscience, which always seemed perfectly timed to fit into the Community Board’s 3-minute speaking limit at general meetings.

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