A Touch of Nature in the City: Visiting Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Environmental Center (Photos)

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    With last month’s opening of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Environmental Education Center, Brooklynites gain a new way to connect with the great outdoors. Though the center caters primarily to curious youngsters, visitors of all ages will leave with a new view of the borough’s backyard.

    Brownstoner recently paid the center a visit and got a taste of the experiences and insights on offer. Tucked beneath the Manhattan Bridge at 99 Plymouth Street in Dumbo, it’s a great stop for families interested in learning about the ecology of the park and the kinds of plants and animals that thrive in the midst of one of the country’s major urban centers.

    Read on for a tour.

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    The recently renovated building previously served as maintenance for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    The open, high-ceilinged space was designed pro bono by Mesh Architectures and contains a range of different experiences and activities — everything from a reading nook to a touch pool.

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    This millipede and praying mantis are species found in the park. When Brownstoner visited, members of the Center’s staff removed the bugs from their terrariums and showed kids how to carefully handle the creatures.

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    A large central cabinet — the Nancy Bowe Discovery Station — contains a dozen or so interactive lessons illustrating different aspects of the park’s construction and ecology.

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    This is a cutaway of the wire fiber bundles that form the suspension system of the Brooklyn Bridge.

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center     Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    A 250-gallon aquarium and touch pool at the north end of the room was a source of unending fascination for recent visitors.

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    The aquarium’s residents — like the flying gunard fish, above — were all found in the East River, many caught by researchers beneath the Manhattan Bridge just a stone’s throw from the center itself.

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    The touch pool contains a number of smaller fish, shells and hermit crabs.

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    During the week, the Environmental Education Center is used as a home base for visiting school groups. This year, the park expects to educate over 10,000 students on the history and ecology of the waterfront.

    Brooklyn Bridge Park Environmental Center

    Public open hours are Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

    How to Get There

    From the Brooklyn Bridge: exit down the pedestrian staircase at Washington Street and turn left to walk down Washington (5-minute walk from stairway)

    A/C train to High Street: walk through Cadman Plaza and down Washington Street (8-minute walk)

    F train to York Street: walk down York under the Manhattan Bridge and the right on Washington (6-minute walk)

    Water taxi to Pier 1: walk down Water Street and take a left onWashington (8-minute walk)

    Citi Bike: the closest dock is at the corner of Washington Street and Front Street, but there are a handful of others close by

    Have you visited? Are you going to?

    [Photos: Barbara Eldredge]

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