Brooklyn has a new park. A neglected former cemetery in the Brooklyn Navy Yard has been transformed into a green oasis.
Striking in its simplicity, the Naval Cemetery Landscape consists of a wooden boardwalk that wends through a wildflower meadow and among trees. There is also a small amphitheater.
There are 100 new trees and more than 20,000 plants on the site, representing more than 50 species of native plants. Attractive to pollinators such as bees and butterflies, the plants are arranged in strict geometric patterns at the moment, but will drift and create new patterns over time.
The park, located at 63 Williamsburg Street West on the southeastern corner of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, is open to the public. It was designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects and Marvel Architects.
After years of neglect, the former Brooklyn Naval Hospital Cemetery reopened to much fanfare Friday. Local and state officials including Council Member Stephen Levin, Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James and NYS Deputy Secretary of State Sandra Allen were in attendance, as well as Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation President David Ehrenberg.
Milton Purer, Director of Project Development at the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, said he hopes one day the plants and trees grow to the point that all buildings and highways are rendered invisible to those within the park.
“So many who’ve walked by this space have wondered what was behind those walls,” Letitia James said of the Naval Cemetery at the opening ceremony, referring to the mystery that formerly shrouded the long fenced-off lot.
Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna referred to the park’s rejuvenation as “an example of bringing dignity to mother Earth.”
The 1.7 acre park, located at 35 Williamsburg Street West on the southeastern corner of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday. A variety of events will take place on site, outlined in further detail on the park’s website, including free weekly yoga and urban ecology tours.
The park was developed in partnership between the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, a nonprofit committed to creating The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a borough-spanning assortment of public parks and green spaces.
The park joins the Navy Yard’s in-the-works public food hall as one of the industrial park’s new ventures into opening its facilities to the public. Along with BLDG 92, the Yard’s visitor center, it is one of only two publicly accessible Yard locations for now.
The Brooklyn Naval Hospital Cemetery operated on the site from 1831 to 1910, serving as a the final resting place for more than 2,000 souls. Many of the remains interred at the cemetery were relocated by the Navy to Cypress Hills National Cemetery in 1926. Then, in the 1990s, another 987 individuals were relocated. With many burials unaccounted for between the two relocations, it is possible that hundreds of remains are still buried at the site.
The site, while far from the subway and thus difficult to access for many Brooklynites, is still a gem in a portion of the borough especially lacking in nature.
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