Fact: The Brigham Street Park Project is without question the Bay’s most innovative and captivating community initiative in recent years. The project’s benefits to the community are many, including developing a blighted lot into a sprawling greenspace for public use, adding a fantastic viewing point of the Bay’s mouth (take that, Breakers), and giving the neighborhood a venue for concerts and shows. But the real clincher for me, and where it deserves the highest praise, is in its focus on protecting the environment by preventing thousands of gallons of polluted storm runoff from mixing with Sheepshead’s water.
I don’t think I can emphasize this enough – this system is really cool. Like, super cool. Gene Berardelli, the attorney for Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic Association and one of the lead organizers of the effort, calls the park and its runoff system an “example of how proper planning can benefit the environment.” Using a network of bioswales – a natural landscaping feature designed to collect, filter and redirect water through channels – storm water from Emmons Ave. and Brigham Street’s de facto parking lot will be prevented from entering the Bay. Instead, the oily, crack- and condom-filled fluid will run down a slope and through the park in an irrigation ditch of sorts. Nature takes over from there as a collection of plants such as Cinnamon Ferns, Giant Sunflowers and Turtlehead flowers filter the pollutants out of the water. The system is estimated to keep more than 35,500 gallons of icky-sticky water out of the Bay over 10 years.
If you can’t tell, I’m clearly psyched about the possibility of this novel effort, but it’s paralleled by a degree of concern that it will be underutilized. The park is set away from most of Sheepshead’s residents, bordered by the Emmons entrance to the Belt Parkway, and other than a seedy hotel there’s not much in the area to lure people in. But even if in the unlikely event the park’s playground lies abandoned, and the amphitheater remains silent, we can rest assured that, unseen and unheard, the park clamors with activity through its bioswale system, functioning as a center of environmental cleansing in a currently stagnant stretch of coastline.
So far the park has scored $50,000 from Assemblyman Alan Maisel, which is being used to cover the planning and design phase. A total price tag still isn’t known, but Berardelli expects it to fall within the admittedly broad range of $3-7 million. Funds for the park are to come from a variety of organizations, and to help make the space a reality residents should contact their local politicians and express their support.
“The Project itself has been AMAZING!” Berardelli wrote me. “We were lucky enough to get two brilliant, energetic design fellows that I can’t say enough good things about, and we connected with a wonderful organization in New Yorkers For Parks.”
It also appears that the park is the beginning of a new round of renovation for the troubled Plumb Beach coastline. The SB/PB is planning a few things once the park is completed:
We’re also looking at what can be done to improve Plumb Beach, including shoring up the bike path, removing invasive species of plant life, improving the stability of the sand dunes through proper planning/planting, and other measures. This part is turning into a whole project in and of itself with its own priorities and challenges, but we felt it important to at least learn about the ecology of Plumb Beach so that the parkland can co-exist with it in harmony.
Once again, kudos to these guys for their tremendous work.
Click here to see Brigham Street Park plans [PDF]
Click here to see specifics on the bioswale system [PDF]
Click here to see the variety of plants and their benefits to the park [PDF]