Parks Without Borders presenters have repeatedly described the north side of the park heavily used by residents as “underutilized", or "sparsely used.” This has caused outcry by residents at Community Input Meetings.

Parks Without Borders presenters said that the plaza design proposal is in line with what Olmsted and Vaux intended at the northwest corner of Fort Greene Park.

— by Michael Gruen, President of the City Club

The City Parks Department is planning to do some major work in the Park under its "Parks Without Borders" program. The general concept of the program is to remove fences and walls that create barriers between parks and their neighboring streets. They have selected eight projects under this rubric, one of which is Fort Greene Park. FGP actually has necessary retaining walls around most of the park because of the rather steep terrain. But at the north-west corner there is a low stone wall with fairly dense trees on both sides that does not block access so much as view into the park.

The Parks Department wants to remove that wall and most of the trees, in large part, it appears, to provide a view into the Park so people outside can see the Prison Ship Martyrs' Memorial that stands at the top of the hill at the center of the Park. Other related work includes removing approximately 54 trees out of about 125 in order to open the view, a great deal of very necessary repair work on terrain and surfaces that have eroded, improvement of barbecue areas and tables, etc.

Much of this (such as follows "a great deal" just above) is extremely necessary and advantageous for the community. However, much of it is unnecessarily environmentally damaging (particularly the tree removal) and very unsympathetic to the character of the Park. This takes a bit of historic explanation. The Park was begun around mid-19th century. Soon after, Olmstead and Vaux took over the design and created a very attractive bucolic array of winding paths up the hillside. Their plan included a relatively modest memorial to the Martyrs (prisoners taken by the British during the Revolution) and a pair of stairways up the northerly side of the hill to the monument. This created a mixture of styles -- bucolic and monumental -- but one they carried off very well by not exaggerating the monumental. In the early 20th century, McKim, Mead & White were engaged to redo the monument. They made it much more grandiose, turned the pair of stairways into a single stairway 100 feet wide, and created a very formal promenade leading toward the stairway. In my opinion, that disrupted the pleasant Omstead and Vaux fit of styles and turned it into a clash. However, over the following decades, there were gradual modifications, and much growth of trees, that tempered the clash. The styles are now made quite compatible because, in a bucolic Olmsteadian manner, the approach to the monument is a bucolic experience. You see nothing of it from the street or as you enter the Park from the north-westerly corner. But as you walk further, you catch glimpses of stairs and memorial column. The experience becomes similar to walking along a hillside winding path and finding a new surprise at every turn. Gradually, the entire monument is revealed and it becomes breathtaking, something that will not happen if you see the whole view from the street and, if a tourist, can check that off your list and go on to Juniors or whatever to experience the next site without having even entered the Park.

The City Club is working with local residents to try to get design modifications that will maintain the existing character.

Watch a video on the design ingenuity of Fort Greene Park

Parks Without Borders presenters said that the trees they plan to remove are "at the end of their lives", "not going to last very long anyway", and that they are taking the opportunity to remove them.

The Parks Department misrepresented the health of the 58 mature trees marked for removal -- a total of 71 trees will be endangered, including an additional 13 due to extreme pruning and adjacent excavation under their Parks Without Borders redesign plan.

There are 129 trees within the scope of work. NYC Parks plans to remove 58 trees -- only 9 for condition. The other 49 healthy shade trees will be removed for the plaza design. Many of the trees are 50-60 feet tall, providing shade to our neighbors.

(PDF: NYC Parks official Tree Inventory by FOIL request.)

(PDF Before / After)

NYC Parks Without Borders Presentation

NYC official report requested by FOIL says only 9 trees out of 58 will be removed for condition. NYC Parks Without Borders Presentation gives the impression that many more trees are "at the end of their lives."

A Parks Without Borders presenter said, "“There are some trees planted in the 70s that will need to be removed. They are Norway Maples. They are at the end of their lives. They are in fact illegal to plant in two states. They are an invasive species and we will be taking the opportunity to remove them".

It should be clarified what it means when Norway Maples are called Invasive. These trees have been long naturalized in the USA, and were popular for their quick and easy growing habits and for their shade. Now they are generally not recommended for these same reasons, meaning that they are aggressive and can out compete native trees. That could be a problem in a forest or a meadow but not an issue in a controlled environment like a park where the trees have not been an issue for the last 40-50 years.

Also, their dense shade and dense roots discourage herbaceous plants from growing around the tree. This is why they are not recommended for planting in a forest, where you would want to encourage a natural growth pattern. But in a controlled setting, like a city park or backyard, where maybe you might want a grove of trees and no undergrowth, they might be fine.

In summary, Norway Maples are generally not planted anymore, but that does not mean that you should go out and remove a mature tree.

NYC Parks Without Borders Summer Outreach Program at Fort Greene Park

Handout of NYC Parks Without Borders Summer Outreach Program at Fort Greene Park

NYC Parks argued that the trees planned for removal block the view of the monument, and were planted too closely together.

Parks policy for new tree installation significantly shrunk the previously existing tree-to-tree planting distance for large growing trees from 25-30 ft between trees to a 10-12 ft distance (and even less). Their landscape architect experts and tree managers cited that such close proximity to trees and dense plantings in groves is perfectly acceptable as it uniquely emulates a forest condition. This practice continues to be seen not only on street tree installations but Parks Capital projects throughout the city.

Long contested by a number of notable urban tree practitioners throughout the 10 year Million Tree planting program is the modification of Parks Forestry's own tree installation distance rule as it doesn't allow for the maximizing of potential tree canopy. A hallmark of the Bloomberg PlaNYC 2030 Million Tree program has been to expand urban tree canopy by 30%, not reduce it.

"UTC increases can be most efficiently realized by maximizing protection and maintenance in combination with new plantings and natural regeneration. If these trees are managed so that their anticipated mature crown projections are realized, significant UTC increases will occur in concert with planting efforts. Therefore, the number of new trees needed to achieve a UTC goal in NYC will depend upon mortality and growth rates of existing trees and new trees."

A Report on New York City’s Present and Possible Urban Tree Canopy (PDF)

Community Input

The proposed design doesn’t follow the Parks w/o Borders initiative to make parks more accessible and oversteps its focus on edges. It appears to be a poor design and focuses on the view of the monument from Myrtle rather than on actual usage and experience of the park. I am primarily disturbed by the removal of Zelkova trees on the monument steps and their replacement by a few ornamental trees. Shade on this large expanse of stone steps is very important for accessibility. Climbing up all these steps in the hot sun will not be fun. Removal of these trees seriously degrades the Park and the lush view toward Manhattan from the monument plaza. Such a drastic change to one of New York’s best parks needs a lot more design sensitivity and study. I’m an architect and have designed landscapes. I also know top landscape architects in the city that may be able to lend their expertise.

The existing entrances should be truly accessible. Do not remove stone walls unless it is necessary to remove a small portion to add a ramp. Leave mounds in place. Children love playing on them. Maintain the historic beauty of our park without gutting it.

While I agree that all entrances to FGP should be wheelchair usable, I would like the mounds to stay as they are. The one nearest the stairs makes a good stage for events such as the Great Pupkin contest and various concerts. Kids love playing on them. Let them stay!

More intimate spaces "enclosed" by trees. Places to sit at tables, benches in the shade, areas for placing blankets in shade. No trees should be removed. We need them for clean air and shade and to have places to feel a tiny bit of privacy. More grass. More green. Not more pavement. Not fancy things just to look fancy. People use this park as their backyard. We should think of the park this way, not as a promenade.

I don't understand the rationale behind their proposal. How badly needed is more event space? Are there not other improvements that would make a bigger difference for everyday use of the park? It feels like this is an opportunity to make real improvements that would be appreciated by the community and park users, and it is being wasted. Closing that section of the park for years in order to flatten a couple of mounds doesn't seem to add any value for anyone. Also- shouldn't they first replace the trees that have been removed recently??

More trees, shrubs and flowers - this is a small park that should serve as a recreational green space; it already has a beautiful staircase leading up to the monument and does not need a grand avenue made of concrete. This will greatly decrease the park's value.

Proposed design looks big and corporate, I want one that has lots of sunny and shady spots more gardens, jogging path, a place of concerts/dj or band dance parties.

The proposed plan is not user friendly. It is too vast and unsympathetic to use. particularly by children and small groups or individual adults. This kind of money should fund maintaining, repairing and upgrading the present part amenities including a serious process of adding trees and plantings which decline naturally over time and require care and maintenance. Erosion control and earth replenishment are needed. WE could also fund recreational programs within the park more generously. WE do NOT need more pavement in the park. There is plenty already.

The Parks Without Borders process for Fort Greene Park has lacked the transparency, publicity and - most importantly - the meaningful community engagement appropriate to a renovation project of this significance. This has contributed to an environment of mistrust and runs against the program's stated goal of unifying parks with their neighborhoods. It is critical that NYC Parks remedies these issues before advancing any design. Fort Greene Park is the centerpiece of our community. By allowing its community to lead in its renovation, NYC Parks will surely achieve a more favorable outcome.

I thought I read that healthy, appreciated trees were being replaced ? That isn't made clear in this presentation. The 'mounds' are an interesting and useful feature.

Find a way to address the drainage with minimal impact to the existing structures and certainly without cutting down so many trees!! Why would you pave paradise?? Fix what is currently broken i.e. cracked pavement but to do what Parks without Borders suggests is wrong and a waste of money and time. Also, how can it be called Parks without Borders when the proposal appears to be adding a ton of borders? Find a different way to use the funds. Also, why is this the only corner being fixed? Have the residents of Ingersoll, Whitman and Kingsview been consulted? Who actually wants these changes made? i have a feeling it's a much shorter list (mainly consisting of those who DO NOT LIVE near the park) than those who wish the park to remain the way it is. Thank you for your consideration.

The process is flawed. There should be a design competition open to the world's best landscape architects to submit competing designs to the NYC Parks Dept and involved public officials, community boards and general public for review. The winning design should be submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for review, not this current flawed, politically driven proposed design by Parks Without Borders by an unknown landscape architect.

Appropriate design covers needs of current and future local users, storm water management. Best to avoid antique historic design that seems less likely to address erosion , soil conservation and noise and light pollution that can emerge for the new proposal.

I don't think the large open processional walkway is in keeping with the historic Olmsted character of the park. I also am opposed to the removal of so many large trees.

The process stinks in that I'm just hearing about it and it seems it has already been approved. I think the trees should be preserved and the walls around the park should stay in tact. I'm not a huge fan of the mounds but as they have some historic value I can see keeping them as well.

Of course I'm pleased to see money and thought being invested into a park I love and use very often, but the proposed design suggests removing one of the defining characteristics of Ft.Greene Park - the A.E.Bye grass mounds. The mounds should be restored with their original wooden benches and maintained. They are a unique and historic feature of our park. They are so much more effective as a design element in that space than an open promenade would be. Just look at promenades around NYC; Brooklyn Heights, the open space by the Court Houses at Boro Hall, the Literary Walk in Central Park - These straight, open spaces are enjoyable to pass-through but they don't promote gathering and small group activities the way the existing A.E. Bye mounds do. My two cents: restore the mounds, integrate handicapped access to the existing entry points, save all trees, add grilling stations, resurface basketball court, dig out fallen tree roots, plant grass/perennials, fix both entry steps by Brooklyn Hospital (an embarrassment to our city), install a proper, level soccer area on the south east lawn, repair the ongoing flooding issue along Washington Park (another embarrassment) and incorporate a designated dog run so that all park users don't have to deal with dog remnants. Those are some of the things that I think $10.5million could help. Thank you for your efforts in promoting a true public process and for providing the opportunity for me to speak out about the direction of our park, Ft.Greene Park.

There are too many impermeable surfaces in the Parks Without Borders proposal- and too many mature shade trees destroyed in the process- How are they mitigating and managing storm water runoff and the myriad of benefits of the trees they propose to take away?

they should upgrade/repair the existing structures and add a ramp to the existing steps from Myrtle.

Keep healthy trees, don't add pavement unless ADA access issue. Work with community.

It is shocking that we haven't fixed the Dust Bowl. It infuriates me. I've lived here for 15 years, and it has gone from dusty bowl to complete sand pit. It actually makes me go to the park less. I'm a soccer player and have participated in those games but we can't ignore it any longer. The lawn should be blocked off and re-seeded until it's lush like Central Park Sheep's Meadow, so everyone in the neighborhood can use it. I mean, really...

I would like to see the old growth trees maintained. Those trees are visited by woodpeckers and red tailed hawks, birds that bring awe to urban dwellers.

I'd like the existing park features to be refurbished and updated. Preserve the trees!

Fixing the bathrooms and water fountains would be good. Adding something soft to the pavement so it isn't so harsh on the feet. Trees are always nice. More basketball and fitness stuff is always nice, too.

The park is perfect just the way it is. It just needs better bathrooms. Do not touch it's beautiful trees. Invest money in projects that are truly needed in Brooklyn, such as better housing for those in need. Leave the trees alone!!!

Trees are important. they have been there longer than us, and help us. Don't kill them.

Do not remove mature trees or permeable grass areas to put down pavement!

No transparency and no community input is outrageous!

Simply repair cracked pavements and improve playing courts and playground equipment. Absolutely NO tree removal needed: we need shade, not concrete! The choice of the area seems racially motivated and extremely disruptive to the communities that use it most, especially the projects. The millions earmarked and the lies told by PWB signal corruption on some level: investigate and stop them now before damage is done! Hold public hearing in the park and announce them widely. Make sure that black community leaders and park users are involved in the decision making. Make sure that every dollar is tracked that will benefit contractors, politicians, Parks people pushing this. Get the mayor involved, as well as Brooklyn politicians, Laurie Cumbo, Tish James, Walter Mosley and seek their public statements.

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