Envisioning Gateway

By Adam Brock

Gateway National Recreation Area is one of New York City’s best-kept natural secrets. A collection of playing fields, tidal marshes and islands on the southeastern edge of Brooklyn, Gateway is chronically underfunded and poorly served by mass transit – with the result that hardly any New Yorkers (myself included) have ever been there.

With the Envisioning Gateway contest, it looks like that might be changing. Sponsored by the National Parks Conservation Association, the contest lets you vote on one of 8 professional proposals to revamp the area – most of them with a serious ecological bent.

GtwyPro2The Reassembling Ecologies proposal suggests clustering all the human activity along a single axis, leaving the rest to remain untouched. [un]natural selection takes the opposite approach, creating a constructed wetland and connecting the islands with bridges and causeways, with the premise that “human health and ecology exist within and not separate from the surrounding environment”. There are also proposals to turn Gateway into a “national eco-urban research zone” and to flood the area and install a network of hydroponic pods.

Voting ends at the end of the year, after which NPCA will present the designs and public feedback to the National Park Service. Definitely worth a look – and a vote.

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One thought on “Envisioning Gateway

  1. Jeremy Friedman says:

    Hello all,

    I voted for the Reassembling Ecologies proposal, because though many of the others invoked environmental values or projects, they also involved ambitious moving of dirt or larger-scale industries on site, which I think would inevitably cause harm to the Park.

    My responses to the questions for the vote:

    4. Imagine that you, your children, or future generations will be enjoying Gateway in the 21st Century. What are your hopes and expectations?

    My greatest hope is that Gateway will be around for future generations to see at all – with rapidly eroding salt marshes (not to mention the potential for catastrophic sea level rise everywhere, not just in the Park), there is real cause to wonder whether this extraordinary place will survive.

    I want to see the outcome of this design competition be restorational excellence – channeling much greater resources toward sustaining current habitats and ecosystems, fostering an environment that brings lost diversity back, and engaging in top-notch research to figure out how to solve some of the catastrophic problems which could destroy the park.

    On a much less important note, I’d like to see better public transportation options for reaching the park developed – right now, it’s challenging even for residents of Brooklyn like me to get to Floyd Bennett and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

    5. What role do you think Gateway as an urban National Park should play in the lives of regional residents and visitors from around the world?

    I would love to see a park design that enables residents (and to a much lesser extent, out-of-town visitors) to experience the remarkable mix of ecosystems present. I see this as SECONDARY to the vital ecological functions the area serves, and to its importance to people like me as a space left (comparatively) “wild”.

    Additional interpretive resources, special events, and most importantly, transportation, would enable people to experience Gateway in their lives – but this does NOT mean increased development of wetland areas! That’s why I prefer the design proposal that consolidates the development into a smaller area and rewilds the rest!

    6. List some of the particular projects and programs you think should be built or implemented by the National Park Service or others at Gateway in the next 10 years.

    How about a small telescope rental for NYers keen on seeing the stars once in a while?
    Ecological restoration volunteer projects (with shuttle transport to the site??), like the Chicago River Project and the Bronx River cleanups that have been so successful.

    Maybe annual boat tours of the park?

    Intensive urban ecological research, with full websites, partnership with NYU or Rutgers urban ecology faculty, webcams for observing natural life…

    Development of networked “ecological corridors” throughout Brooklyn and SI, using greenroofs and roadside swales, with Gateway at its heart.

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