The “Green Eggs” that Could Save Greenpoint

11/18/2010 3:43 PM |

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As the result of a settlement with the state, Greenpoint residents have $7 million to spend on waterfront improvements, and can vote for 26 such projects that have been approved by the City Parks Foundation. (The ultimate decision will lie with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.) One such project, “The Green Eggs Wetland Project,” would create nature walks and biosculptures, providing new green space and filtering stormwater runoff (which North Brooklyn really needs!) “It sounds really boring,” Deborah Masters, one of the project’s planners, said a recent community board meeting. “But it’s actually really exciting.” I caught up with the three women behind the Green Eggs—Masters, Jackie Brookner and Kate Zidar—via e-mail to see how exciting the project really is. They responded collaboratively.

The “Green Eggs Wetland Project” seems to have a few components. Can you talk about the parks/nature walks first?
In this wetland and waterfront park people can walk along boardwalks that meander across and through the wetland areas, where plants such as yellow and purple irises and slender grasses will be working to filter the stormwater from the neighborhood before it enters Newtown Creek. The plants will also provide habitat for butterflies and birds, so the park will offer an opportunity for experiencing “nature.” This will extend the eventual third phase of the nature walk. The walkways will also provide access to the inlet off of Newtown Creek.

How would these green spaces fit into the surrounding landscape? Would they be like strips of green within industrial wasteland?
This project will provide open space and clean air within the industrial environment. The Green Eggs Wetland Park, working together with the three phases of the Nature Walk, will be a significant area of beautiful and interesting green space for the community. Part of The Green Eggs project is a vegetated dividing wall along N. Henry Street that will be a sound barrier, helping to create a peaceful atmosphere in the park. Some of the water that will be filtered as it falls over the wall will be used to keep dust down on the roadway on the other side of the wall. The wall will also have relief sculptures made with local youth, so it will also be a participatory educational and art experience.

OK. Now, what the heck are the “eggs”?
The eggs are three large-scale living sculptures, called “Biosculptures,” whose shapes echo the egg shapes of the iconic digesters across the street in the Sewage Treatment Plant. Like the wetlands, the Biosculptures will be beautiful at the same time as they are functional. Veils of water will trickle down the foliage as the plants perform the last stage of the water filtration, called “polishing” the water. In the Biosculptures and the wetlands, the plants—and the microorganisms that live in their roots—filter stormwater by transforming waste and toxins into food for their own metabolism.

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How would people be able to interact with all of these components?
Besides enjoying the Green Eggs and wetlands as people walk around the park you will be able to go inside the eggs to enjoy the contemplative, fresh air space inside. “The Third Egg” will contain a room that can be used for environmental classes, community meetings, or ongoing exhibits about the ecological processes happening in the park. During the planning and design phases, we will offer a teaching module in the neighborhood, for schools and youth groups, that will provide some background for this project—drainage infrastructure, Newtown Creek ecology, pollution remediation—and get young people involved with it. When we are constructing the project, we hope to include the students and community members in some of the building and planting as well. In this way, we hope to create an element of long-term stewardship.

How much would this all cost to finance? How long would it take to build?
We estimate it will cost $2.4 million dollars, and plan for it to be completed within 3 years.

Are the parts interdependent? Would it be possible to create the parks without the eggs? Or the eggs without all of the surrounding greenspaces?
We conceived of the parts to be an interdependent ecosystem, and it would certainly be most exciting and effective if the project is built that way. The wetlands, or the Biosculptures, by themselves are capable of cleaning the stormwater, though it would be done best and offer the most to the community with all parts of the system.

Birds and butterflies, solar power, clean water, community gathering…it all sounds fantastical. Is it really practical?
We think it is visionary, not fantastical. We all very much need to be thinking of how to create more humane and healthy cities, and to be creating pilot projects that demonstrate how to do this. This is a very doable project that could be a great model for other places within New York City, and across the country.

Why should people vote for your project instead of the others?
While there are some excellent projects, The Green Eggs Wetland project provides many features at the same time—green space, beauty, stormwater filtration, education, art, access to the water, and so many opportunities for people of all ages to be involved. This project is unique and uniquely designed for this particular place. We think it gives the most value for the dollars spent.