Untangling the Chaos by Planting Trees at Atlantic and Columbia

The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, NYC DOT and Brooklyn Bridge Park planted trees at the troubled intersection.

Increasing safety and accessibility is important, but so are beautification and aesthetics.

On Friday at the Atlantic Avenue entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park a small team planted trees, part of a there and continue building the Greenway - a waterfront bike path reaching from Long Island City to Sunset Park. The streets leading to the park are infamous for being difficult and confusing to navigate.

"We're reclaiming a road and turning it into a public space, trying to make it a bit more hospitable for living organisms, as opposed to cars," said horticulturitist Rebecca McMackin from Brooklyn Bridge Park.

At the Atlantic Avenue entrance, which currently resembles a vacant lot, entering Brooklyn Bridge Park and accessing the Greenway can be daunting. Trucks and buses regularly pass through the intersection, and wayward vehicles often mistakenly end up there, posing a hazard to anyone that is on a bike or on foot.

"This whole intersection does not read as the gateway to a major waterfront destination in New York City," explained Brian McCormick, a co-founder of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. "It's also not apparent how the Columbia Street interim Greenway, or the offstreet along the fourteen mile route, connects to Brooklyn Bridge Park at that location."

An artificial plaza, with gravel and the trees that were planted today, will come down one side of the entrance, with the intention of directing people away from the Port Authority Property – and cars away from people.

"This is part of untangling the chaos that's here," said McCormick.

The plants that will provide this long-awaited, aesthetic and functional solution to the chaos are of several different species, chosen for their ability to complement the already existing Brooklyn Bridge Park flora. These include a type of shrub that grow berries, a fringe tree with fluffy white flowers that is native to, yet rarely seen, in the area, and a species of tree, Nyssa Silvatica, that's "elegant like an oak," according to McMackin.

McMackin explained to a small team dressed in green and orange the best way to plant the twenty or so trees.

"So the second you cut that root, you want to, boom, get it right in the water, so you don't get that air bubble," she said.

The park will be responsible for maintaining the plants, which will also be guarded against natural threats like fungus and will regularly be given the necessary TLC to keep them healthy.

McCormick, McMackin, NYC DOT Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Project Director Ted Wright and Brooklyn Greenway Initiative co-founders Meg Fellerath and Milton Puryear, worked from morning until well in the afternoon, loading and unloading giant pots and filling them with fertile soil.

By providing this important link, they hope to continue to give more people incentive and confidence to get on their bikes and enjoy the waterfront.

The scenery is beautiful," said Tina Heslin, a somewhat new cyclist and area resident. "They really work hard to make sure this is happening."

She said she is grateful for all the hard work being put into the Greenway, and credits it for making her want to do a lot more biking.

"They really are committed," she said. "They're doing a phenomenal job."

Michael Brown September 17, 2011 at 01:32 PM
Great project, and mature trees do provide (minor) additional safety benefits in a situation like this. Go BWG!
Lilly Frances September 17, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Thanks Michael! Feel free to let us know what you think about the new plaza when it's finished if you're in the area!
Tina Heslin September 18, 2011 at 12:30 AM
Hi Lilly! The article and pictures are great! Thanks. BTW - you mentioned a place to take (possibly free) classes, of course I forgot. If you don't mind, what was the name of the place? Thanks again, Tina Heslin
Lilly Frances September 18, 2011 at 02:14 AM
Thank you Tina. The organization I mentioned is Brooklyn Brainery. In fact, we did a piece on them a while back: http://carrollgardens.patch.com/articles/a-no-brainer-for-brooklyn-brainery-affordable-community-based-courses. Good luck!


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