At first glance, Joe Mayock appears to be the classic outdoor activist. He is bursting with energy, passionate about the environment, and more than willing to put in the long volunteer hours. However, the Executive Director of the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn’s (OSA) path to the world of park conservancy has been far from straightforward.
Before joining OSA, Joe was the chief marketing officer for a large international law firm based in New York City. Prior to that, he had held various leadership positions at corporate law firms in both New York and New Jersey. With a bachelor’s degree in Ibero-American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and master’s degree in advertising from the University of Texas at Austin, Joe seemed right in place in the world of marketing and law. He was even a member of the board of directors for the New York City chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. But Joe felt that there was something missing.
That’s when Joe’s long road to OSA began back in 2012 when he started volunteering for his neighborhood park in Manhattan. He was first motivated to address the poor maintenance of the park. Over the course of his work, Joe came to realize that parks are “the heart and soul of urban neighborhood” serving as a catalyst for building a tight-knit community. Getting to know your neighbors, meeting a new play date for your kids, or getting a job referral, all of those things are made easier from the presence of healthy local parks.
As Joe looked for more ways to help maintain his local park, he began to learn about the many plights that face the parks in the New York City area, and most strikingly, a lack of overall resources.
Joe explains, “The City spends only half of one percent of its annual budget on parks. I also began to find out how the need for resources is greatest in working class and poor neighborhoods that don’t have conservancies that raise money for their parks. Then I discovered there’s a whole urban parks movement, including people at Go Green Brooklyn and other organizations right here in North Brooklyn, working everyday to improve their communities by getting their neighbors involved in their parks. What most attracted me to OSA is its commitment to equity. Its mission is to serve all North Brooklynites, especially those in underserved communities.”
Without any previous volunteering except serving as an altar boy in his youth, Joe left the world of law firms behind and comprehensively embraced his zeal for park conservancy. After working hard for OSA the past few years, Joe rose quickly through the ranks and is now serving as the very first full-time leader for the park conservancy.
As the Executive Director of OSA, Joe combines his expertise in the law and marketing worlds with his passion for improving Brooklyn’s parks. He is currently leading OSA through a sharpening and expansion of its mission to increase substantially the organization’s role in maintaining North Brooklyn parks and playgrounds while activating “friends groups” who will “own” their neighborhood park.
The “friends groups” concept came from Joe’s experience working with fellow park organizations, where the groups combined resources to push for a change in the parks. Joe recalls his favorite experience at OSA has been working with the Friends of Bushwick Park, whose mission is to get the City to deliver on its 2005 promise of renovating the entire Bushwick Park area. Joe points to their “joyful, soulful, and strategic activism” as the main reason he enjoys working with them so much. Additionally, Joe is a fervent admirer of the many direct actions that the Friends of Bushwick Park haven taken through the years, which include rallies, press conferences, a countdown clock, and even an overnight sleepover at the park.
In terms of upcoming plans for OSA, Joe seeks to focus more on supporting the work of the NYC Parks Department and the championing of local parks, especially in light of the City’s park-related finances being so tight.
He explains, “In addition to the ongoing task of raising more money to help improve the parks in North Brooklyn, OSA really wants to grow its park stewardship program. OSA is seeking to develop a network of friends groups for parks and playgrounds across Greenpoint and Williamsburg. In the near term, we’re looking to launch or reinvigorate “friends groups” at American Playground, Marcy Green and Transmitter Park. We want to work with neighbors to steward their own parks and be a voice for resources for them. OSA wants to turn park users into park champions! We want our park stewardship program to become the heart and soul of what OSA does.”
His passion extends beyond the North Brooklyn area. Joe is the co-founder of Abingdon Square Conservancy, a park conservancy in the West Village, and he currently serves as treasurer of the board of directors. Since 2012, Joe has also served as an advisor to the Christopher Park Alliance and the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy. Finally, he is an active member of the City Parks Alliance.
In his spare time, Joe (of course) enjoys spending his time hanging out in the parks around the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area. Don’t be surprised if you run into him on the pier at Transmitter Park, or, as he puts it, “any bench in McGolrick Park.”
To learn more about OSA, visit http://osanb.org/.