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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

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.