Views on Building a New Park in Brooklyn
This paper explores the relationship between the creation of a new urban park and the diverse communities of a coastal neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. The Brooklyn Navy Yard has, throughout its existence, been closed to the public. Over the past decade, and as a result of collaboration between environmental advocates, community organizations, private interest, and the pressures of gentrification, a continuous greenway has been under construction along the Brooklyn waterfront. Along the greenway is the Naval Cemetery Landscape, a space within the Navy Yard now in the process of becoming a new park. The ground breaking for the park took place in the fall of 2015, and the park is slated to open in the spring of 2016. Landscape architects and horticultural engineers have designed the space to sustain native plants, and the meadow at the center of the park is meant to offer a space of respite from the built environment. A series of projects surrounding the creation of the park attempt to engage the local community in its development, including educational programs for high school students or horticultural training for formerly homeless individuals living in subsidized housing communities. The glimpse of wilderness the Naval Cemetery Landscape will offer looks very different from the variety of vantage points that surround it. Ethnographic research with the organizers of the park, educators, and the communities around it reveals the complex, idiosyncratic and contradictory ways in which nature is understood, guarded, advocated for, sustained and destroyed in urban environments. The contrast between the goals of city planners and activists and the outlook of the community reveals the challenges, both conceptual and organizational, to integrating new green spaces to the urban fabric. The paper explores the frontiers between socio-economic, racial and ethnic groups that shape urban planning and its outcomes.