Our community spotlight this issue of the Juniper Berry shines on NYC Parks Department employee, Jeffrey Karl. Jeffrey is the Parks & Recreation Manager for Community Board 5 Queens and he is responsible for all the parks within CB5 boundaries. The park acreage in the CB5 area is vast so Jeff has his work cut out for him.

His duties are varied but high on the list is dealing with neighborhood groups and trying to solve problems and settle disputes that may arise. Jeff attends meetings of CB5 and tries to attend many of the civic meetings that occur throughout the community. Anyone who has ever been to a civic or CB5 meeting knows, there are disagreements and Jeff Karl has the expertise to keep everyone happy even when he has to refuse a request! Quite a feat in CB5!

Recently, when Juniper Valley Park was allotted 300 trees, Jeff Karl supervised the plantings and the tree company hired by the city did the planting. You will notice that the ball fields will no longer have the flat, dirt look that they have had over the years. The trees will soften the visual, allowing for team play while the trees provide the beauty and ambiance that trees have a way of achieving! Jeff is also a certified arborist so his training for that title served him well as he supervised the tree planting. The 300 trees that were planted will help stem the high level of pollution that our community faces daily because of roads like the Long Island Expressway which cuts through all our neighborhoods and, of course, as the use of cars for transportation to and from people’s jobs, increases.

Jeffrey Karl is a welcome addition to the NYC Parks Department staff. His resume is impressive and indicates he’s a graduate of Cook College, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey with a B.S., Ecology, Evolution & Natural Resources, May 2005. Among his many CERTIFICATIONS & AWARDS Jeff is a Certified Arborist in the International Society of Arboriculture. To give you an idea of Jeff’s accomplishments, his professional experience indicates working with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation: Manhattan Forestry, in New York City; he performed advanced professional urban forestry functions within the Borough of Manhattan and accurately managed tree inventory databases (GPS mapping of trees and related work histories associated with individual trees.) Another award that he is proud of is the Presidential Achievement Award, Governor Livingston High School – 2001.

For some background on Jeff, he grew up in New Jersey and graduated High School in 2001. This is how he got to where he is today. As a child his mother always sent him outside to play in the family backyard (about an acre in size), instead of sitting him in front of the TV or letting him play video games. He entered Rutgers intending to be a Bioresource Engineer, but quickly changed to Ecology/Conservation. After fighting wildfires for a season and traveling the world, using $15,000 dollars of his savings from firefighting, he moved home and looked for jobs. He moved to New York and ended up as Parks & Recreation Manager for the NYC Parks Department.

This is Jeff’s ambition today in his own words – “My ambition now, is to help restore society’s connection with the natural environment in which we have co-evolved with, and to help restore the natural processes in nature that humans have altered in recent time (with my expertise being forests, primarily removal of noxious plant species in our native environment, and restoration of our native natural heritage).”

Quite an ambition you will agree! Jeff is only 25 years old, is focused and, lives in a world where many 25 year olds are probably not even able to pronounce some of his goals! The NYC Parks Department is lucky to have him and judging from his ambitions, Jeff is just starting his journey in life. We wish him the best, he’s noticeably bright and there is no doubt, he will succeed.

As we go to press we have just learned that Jeffrey Karl is leaving the NYC Parks Department to move forward with his ambition as you read it in this article. We are sad to see Jeffrey leave but we totally understand his reasons. We will miss him and his ability to “think outside the box,” something that is sorely missing in so many these days.

Good luck, Jeff, come back to see us when you can and update us on where you are in your journey to “restore society's connection with the natural environment.” At the June 25th Town Meeting of the JPCA Jeff will receive a Community Service Award for his excellent work in getting the 300 trees planted in Juniper Valley Park and for his contribution to NYC Queens Parks Department in his short time onboard. We hope everyone who can, will attend that important meeting.