Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Green Tour of Greenpoint

The name "Greenpoint" is not a relic of the area's industrial past. It dates back further to a time when the whole region was called Bos-ijck (now anglicized to "Bushwick"). The forested Northern tip of Bos-ijck was called the "Green Point". People clearly lacked imagination back then, but "Greenpoint" it is a charming and evocative name which is no doubt why it was retained.

Alas, Greenpoint is no longer particularly "green". Brooklyn is the big city now. Some streets are lined with trees. Some houses have planters in their front yards. Many do not (for example, the photo to the right is the South side of our block of Java Street). Some homes have nice back yards but these are, of course, private. Then there is the industrial zone around the waterfront. With sadly few exceptions the open space in the industrial section of Greenpoint is covered in dirt and detritus.

Take a look at the map of Greenpoint, specifically the part North of Nassau Avenue. It looks a bit depressing. There are only a few green spots (representing parks) and they are mostly paved playgrounds. Playgrounds with more benches than bushes and certainly no grass or flowers. There is something called Transmitter Park but it is not open yet. When it does open much of it will be paved as well. Hopefully not too much.

This is not to suggest that Greenpoint is just one big slab of concrete. There are some parks in Greenpoint. McGolrick Park absolutely stunning, and half of the massive McCarren Park is also within the boundaries of Greenpoint. Yet these are the only two large green spaces in the area and they are both well South of Java Street. Is North Greenpoint really the greyish grid it appears to be on the map?

Parks and playgrounds are a city planning issue. Sometimes with the city's planning leaves something to be desired the solution is community action: adding green space to out community by developing a community garden. The goal of the 596 Acres project is exactly that - to turn empty lots throughout the city into community gardens.

Greenpoint already contains a few community gardens including the Eagle Street Farm, Lentol Garden, and the Greenpoint Church garden. We want to add to that list. In particular we want to create a real public space, a street level garden which is open as frequently as possible.

This is not a trivial goal. We have to get permission from various city departments. We will need more volunteers than the current ten. We will have to fight the weather (snow in October?) Perhaps most importantly we may have to cleanse the soil before we start planting. At some point we will have to start raising funds to buy supplies and seeds. But one step at a time. Getting permission from the city comes first.

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