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Guide to the Robin Ketchum Prospect Heights Community Organizing Collection BCMS.0079

Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Brooklyn Collection

Collection processed by Diana Bowers-Smith

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on October 19, 2022
eng using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Source: Veconi, Gilbert
Source: Ketchum, Robin
Title: Robin Ketchum Prospect Heights Community Organizing Collection
Dates [inclusive]: 1971-2015
Dates [bulk]: 1977-1987
Abstract: Materials related to community organizing in Prospect Heights, including documents, ephemera, and photographs, collected by longtime neighborhood resident and activist Robin Ketchum.
Quantity: 0.9 Linear Feet in 2 boxes
Call Phrase: BCMS.0079

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Historical Note

Prospect Heights is a neighborhood in Brooklyn generally agreed to be bound by Atlantic Avenue to the north, Flatbush Avenue to the west, Eastern Parkway to the south, and Washington Avenue to the east. The neighborhood has a long history of demographic and cultural diversity. Its residential architecture is a mix of 19th century townhouses, early 20th century apartment buildings, and more recent condominium developments.

The neighborhood was part of the Brooklyn brownstoner movement in the 1950s and 60s and by the 1970s neighborhood residents began banding together to organize their community. The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Corporation (PHNC) was established in 1976. The corporation's Economic Revitalization Committee was established in 1980 and worked with local merchants to create the Vanderbilt Avenue Merchants Association. Local block associations formed as early as the 1950s and continue to be active today. In 1981, those associations united to form the Coalition of Prospect Heights Block Associations.

One of the major achievements of community organizing in Prospect Heights was the revitalization of the Underhill Avenue Playground. Around 1980, neighborhood resident and community activist Robin Ketchum formed the Underhill Avenue Playground Committee with the support of the Park Place/Underhill Avenue Block Association and members from each of the other eight block associations in the neighborhood. The committee engaged the Parks Department and local government officials and eventually won over $1 million in funding to redesign the playground. The new playground opened in 1987 and is still a beloved community fixture.

Biographical Note

Robin Ketchum moved to Prospect Heights in 1968 and soon became involved in various community organizing efforts in the neighborhood. Ketchum is a longtime member of the Park Place/Underhill Avenue Block Association and participated in organizing the association's block parties, block watch, and other programs and events. She also served as Chair of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Corporation's Economic Revitalization Committee, which was instrumental in creating the Vanderbilt Avenue Merchants Association and in securing community development funds for that thoroughfare. Ketchum also created the Underhill Avenue Playground Committee, which secured over $1 million in funding to redesign the playground. As of 2021 Ketchum was still involved in community organizing efforts and serving as the co-president of the Park Place/Underhill Avenue Block Association along with Marc Gordon.

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Scope and Contents

This collection includes the following materials:

Newspaper articles and reports related to general economic development in Prospect Heights.

Agendas and minutes of the Vanderbilt Avenue Merchants Association and newspaper articles and reports related to the improvement of the business environment on Vanderbilt Avenue.

Corporate records, minutes, correspondence, plans, newsletters and reports of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Corporation.

Flyers, meeting notices, newsletters and newspaper articles related to housing, safety and security, and block association activity.

Reports, correspondence and newspaper articles related to the history of the neighborhood.

Agendas and minutes from meetings of Brooklyn Community Board 8.

Correspondence, plans, meeting minutes, public notices, and photographs related to community-led rehabilitation of the Underhill Playground and programming for residents.

Photographs of the neighborhood and neighborhood events.


This collection is arranged alphabetically by subject. The donors grouped the materials roughly by subject and that arrangement has been maintained as much as possible.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Veconi, Gilbert
  • Ketchum, Robin

Subject Topics

  • Community organi-ing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Neighborhood Associations
  • Neighborhood government -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Economic development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Prospect Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Economic conditions
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Economic conditions |y 20th century

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

While many items at the Center for Brooklyn History are unrestricted, we do not own reproduction rights to all materials. Be aware of the several kinds of rights that might apply: copyright, licensing and trademarks. The borrower assumes all responsibility for copyright questions.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item/descriptive title, date (if known); Robin Ketchum Prospect Heights Community Organizing Collection, BCMS.0079; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History.

Related Materials

Robert Vadheim Brooklyn neighborhood renewal and development collection, 1962-1987. (1987.002)

Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani. Guided tours: the layered dynamics of self, place and image in two American neighborhoods. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI, 2009.

New York (N.Y.). Landmarks Preservation Commission. Prospect Heights proposed historic district. New York, NY: The Commission, c. 1978.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Gib Veconi, 2020, and Robin Ketchum, 2021.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Block Associations
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Brownstoner movement
circa 1968-1982
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Community Board 8
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Economic Development
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Housing
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Kurdish Library
1985-1986, 2010
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Neighborhood events
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Neighborhood history and information
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Park Place/Underhill Avenue Block/Civic Association
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Park Place/Underhill Avenue Block/Civic Association - Block Parties
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Park Place/Underhill Avenue Block/Civic Association - Trees
circa 1977
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Press - Prospect Heights
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Prospect Heights Home and Garden Tour booklets
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Prospect Heights Neighborhood Corporation (PHNC)
Box: 1 Folder : 15 PHNC Economic Revitalization Committee
Box: 2 Folder : 1 PHNC Economic Revitalization Committee - Robin Ketchum Correspondence
Box: 2 Folder : 2 PHNC Proposal for Community Development Assistance
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Safety and Security
Flat File Folder: BCMS.0079 Underhill Playground - Blueprints
1984 October
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Underhill Playground - Committee documents
circa 1980-1989
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Underhill Playground - Correspondence
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Underhill Playground - Ephemera
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Underhill Playground - Flyers
circa 1981-1989
Flat File Folder: BCMS.0079 Underhill Playground - Mayoral Proclamation of "Underhill Avenue Playground Day"
1987 November 7
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Underhill Playground - Photos
circa 1986-1989
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Underhill Playground - Press
1982-1988, 2015
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Underhill Playground - Ribbon-cutting/dedication and groundbreaking ceremonies
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Underhill Playground - Rudy Bruner award
: BC Digital Collections 4 Underhill Playground - Video of Underhill Avenue Playground Street Fair
1987 Fall
Box: 2 Folder : 12 Vanderbilt Avenue
Box: 2 Folder : 13 Vanderbilt Avenue Merchants' Association
Box: 2 Folder : 14 Vanderbilt Avenue photos

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