WRITTEN BY KATIE BARAN

The Park Peers of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy unveiled a new program that provides anyone with mental or physical disabilities the opportunity to experience what it is like to work in the park.

The Park Peers aim to teach practical job training to the program’s participants.

“The program came very organically,” said the Conservancy’s Volunteer Manager, Karla Osorio-Perez. “We had already been partnering with students from Pier 77, which is a school working with students with autism, intellectual disabilities, or physical disabilities for many, many years.”

Now the Conservancy—the nonprofit organization that provides Brooklyn Bridge Park with free and low-cost programming—is working with other similar institutions. They have broadened the program by offering an opportunity to get involved in the park to other groups that serve people with similar needs or disabilities.

“Being outdoors, meeting other people, giving back to the community, is great,” said Osorio-Perez.

In addition to working with Pier 77, the Conservancy now works with three new agencies: Services for the Under Served (SUS), Job Path, and the League Education & Treatment Center.

The program also allows young adults and older adults with disabilities to gain social skills and learn more about what is expected in a professional setting. By showing them what having a job entails—wearing a uniform, arriving on time, working diligently—they get to be a part of a positive and fulfilling community.

The tasks vary weekly, and the volunteers get a little taste of what it would be like to work at various posts throughout the park. This past week, the students from Pier 77, SUS, and Job Path did the job of a park gardener.

They were weeding the gardens, and next week they’ll set down the mulch.

There are also various other volunteer opportunities at the Brooklyn Bridge Park through the Conservancy that happen throughout the year. These programs range from Coastal Cleanups, Green Team, Park Greeters, Program Volunteers, and many more.

The programs are only a few hours a week and they help the park, its patrons, and the volunteers.