From timber to pavement to lighting fixtures left over from the days when the piers were used for shipping, raw elements and existing structures have been recycled and reinvented for today’s park. Even the dips and peaks of Pier 1 and the sound attenuating berms are formed by salvaged material.
Working in partnership with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn Bridge Park was fortunate to receive surplus granite from two bridge reconstruction projects happening in other boroughs of New York City. The result is the creation of some of the park’s most iconic features.
The seating at the Pier 1 salt marsh and portions of the Empire Fulton Ferry landscape around Jane’s Carousel are constructed of 3,200 cubic yards of granite salvaged from the demolished Willis Avenue Bridge.
Recycled Fill Material
Brooklyn Bridge Park has benefited enormously from a synergetic relationship with another City partner. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) began construction on its East Side Access Project in 2001. This massive public works project (still on-going) will connect the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) Main and Port Washington Lines in Queens to a new LIRR terminal beneath Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.
From this extensive tunneling project, Brooklyn Bridge Park secured clean bulk fill to create the stunning topography on Pier 1 as well as other portions of the park. The highest point at Pier 1 is twenty feet above the existing pier deck, creating new views to Manhattan, the New York Harbor, and the Williamsburg Bridge.
On Pier 1, approximately 18,000 cubic yards of manufactured soil was used for the landscape. Beneath this soil lies 40,000 cubic yards of clean bulk fill, salvaged from Long Island Railroad drilling operations for the East Side Access project. On Pier 6, approximately 8,000 cubic yards of manufactured soil lies atop 16,000 cubic yards of clean bulk fill. The sound attenuating berm, which reduces noise in the park from the neighboring Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, used 50,000 cubic yards of clean bulk fill in its construction.
Park benches, as well as cladding for new park structures, site furnishings, and wooden decking will be constructed from old growth Longleaf Yellow Pine that has been salvaged from the careful deconstruction of the Cold Storage Buildings on the uplands of Pier 1. This wood is naturally rot resistant and extremely beautiful and will add a unique material character to the park.
Where the selection of new wood for the park was necessitated, the choice was guided by a balanced understanding of each material’s durability, expense and level of sustainability. An example of this is the use of locally and sustainably harvested and manufactured rot-resistant black locust (robinia pseudoacacia) wood for park bollards and fence posts.
A significant challenge to designing and building Brooklyn Bridge Park was to address the high noise levels generated by the adjacent Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) that is cantilevered over Furman Street. To attenuate this noise, the park’s design includes 20- to 30-foot high hills in the uplands between Piers 2-5. These hills will reduce noise levels from 75 decibels (equivalent to standing beside a lawnmower) to 68 decibels.
In an effort to recycle one of our most important resources, stormwater that falls in Brooklyn Bridge Park is collected and naturally treated to water our lawns and gardens. After following a path through freshwater ponds, and being naturally filtered, the water is stored underground until needed. Right now, over 100,000 gallons of stormwater are in tanks underneath Pier 1, while tanks at Pier 2 Uplands, Pier 3 Uplands, Pier 6, and Empire Fulton Ferry hold even more.
One of the ways we keep Brooklyn Bridge Park healthy is by cutting chemicals out of the equation. Our lawns, beds, and trees are managed organically, and soil is treated with compost teas and organic matter. We keep lawns long and reincorporate clippings into the grass to encourage deep root growth. This not only makes for healthy plants and landscapes, but also attracts birds, colorful butterflies, and other life to the area along the East River.
Greening Our Roofs
As part of our sustainable design, several structures within the park feature green roofs. Green roofs absorb rainwater, provide building insulation, create habitat for wildlife and help to lower urban air temperatures. Currently, green roofs are featured on the Pier 1 and Pier 6 gatehouses and the Pier 5 concession stand.
Supporting Monarch Butterflies
Brooklyn Bridge Park supports many species of birds, butterflies, beetles and even soil microorganisms, but few are as well loved and known as the monarch.
Monarch butterflies make their epic migration each fall, flying from the Northeast many thousands of miles to their overwintering site in the forests of Mexico. In spring, they begin north again, as multiple generations retrace the flightpaths of their ancestors to breeding grounds of the north east. Sadly, their populations are in steep decline and have dropped 26% from last year. Monarch populations now are at historic low numbers and have been added to the federally endangered list.
Like many migratory animals, the routes monarchs follow have been in use for centuries, far before cities developed. Birds, dragonflies, and butterflies are going to travel through our city and our park each year, and it’s up to use to make this land as welcoming and hospitable for them as possible.
At Brooklyn Bridge Park, we do as much as we can to support resident and migratory monarch populations, including tracking them each year.
What we do:
- Plant Milkweed: It can be relatively easy to attract butterflies to flowers, as the nectar provided can be drunk by a wide variety of organisms. But in order to support the reproduction of butterflies, we have to provide their host plants. Host plant are the plant species that butterflies lay they eggs on, and caterpillars can eat the leaves of as they grow and then pupate. For a monarch, the only plants they can eat are milkweed. So we plant a lot of it. In addition, we assure that our milkweed is free from systemic insecticides that can harm wildlife, caterpillars included. Milkweed is planted in large swaths that butterflies can detect from far away, and laid out in mixed plantings and on edges in order to encourage egg laying and biodiversity.
- Plant Nectar Plants for Migrants: Butterflies that make the trek from the northeast all the way to Mexico are known as the “super generation.” They live far longer than most monarchs and do not reproduce until after they overwinter and start the journey back north. So they have no need for milkweed foliage. But they do need many, many flowers. Over time, Monarchs have come to rely on specific species of native wildflowers to provide the energy-efficient nectar they require to fuel their epic journey. At BBP, we watch where migrant monarchs congregate in the park, and plant those areas with the native wildflowers they prefer. Some favorites are Groundsel, New England Aster, Heath Aster, Goldenrods, and Prairie Dock.
- Track Monarch Populations: Each year BBP Gardener Pawel Pieluszynski leads the Park’s monarch tracking initiative. We order tiny stickers from Monarch Watch and carefully capture, tag, and release butterflies to continue their journey. Other trackers record tagged butterflies as they find them along their migration and in Mexico, which has allowed researchers to map the routes monarchs use and thus, better protect them.
Before the East River became a hub of industry, its shorelines were home to diverse plants, birds, and marine life. In our commitment to sustainability, we’ve rebuilt salt marshes and meadows that made up those habitats and we continue to plant native vegetation where it once grew naturally.
Shoreline ecologies that used to exist on the site have been recreated within the Park and mimic conditions found naturally. Native vegetation, bird and marine habitats are located in a way that minimizes human impact on the new habitat and maximize their visibility within the Park. The most prominent of these ecological features can be found on Pier 1, Pier 2 and Pier 4, and Pier 6.
Oysters once covered more than 220,000 acres of the New York Harbor Estuary. Trillions acted as ecosystem engineers – providing continuous water filtration, wave attenuation, and habitat for thousands of marine species. However, after the arrival of Europeans to the area, they were destroyed by severe over-harvesting and pollution.
Now, Brooklyn Bridge Park, in partnership with Billion Oyster Project, is helping to restore oysters to New York Harbor. To reach this goal, Billion Oyster Project has started a Community Reefs Program which – with the help of nearly 5,000 middle and high school students – aims to revive the Harbor’s keystone species and the ecosystem it fosters. These reefs play an important role in the restoration of the Harbor’s ecology; and the one located off of BBP’s shores is no different – filtering the Harbor’s water and providing habitat for marine life such as crabs, blackfish, and sea squirts.
Injured Bird Report
If you observe an injured bird in the Park, please make a report with this form. Members of the Park’s horticulture team are trained to respond to injured birds and will address a report filed here as soon as possible.