Flood-prone Gowanus Garden becomes storm-resilient oasis

Bette Midler unveils transformed space

September 27, 2013 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Gil Hodges Community Garden Opening_CREDIT Mia McDonald (2).jpeg
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The New York Restoration Project (NYRP) recently completed the renovation of its Gil Hodges Community Garden in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood, thanks to support from Jo Malone London and a New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Green Infrastructure Grant.

The transformation turns the space into the first NYRP community garden with high-performance storm water infrastructure. The 3,140-square-foot garden is located at the flood-prone intersection of Carroll Street and Denton Place, an area regularly impacted by storm water runoff and industrial pollutants. NYRP resolved to address the immediate hydrological needs of the neighborhood by retrofitting the garden with permeable pavers, flood-tolerant plants and a rain garden. NYRP also installed a DEP-designed bioswale in the sidewalk adjacent to the garden that manages stormwater runoff from Denton Place and the sidewalk. In total, these components will manage 150,000 gallons of stormwater annually, thereby easing pressure on the City’s sewer system and reducing overflows into the Gowanus Canal.

“Renovation of the Gil Hodges Community Garden showcases a powerful public-private partnership between NYRP, Jo Malone London, and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection,” said Amy Freitag, NYRP executive director. “Each partner is committed to building a vital community space that will reduce pollution, increase biodiversity and protect water quality.”

The design in and around the garden incorporates new elements that naturally absorb and filter rain water. On Denton Place, a DEP-designed street tree bioswale, which is a street tree in an enlarged bed with native plants and a low curb, diverts and reuses about 65,000 gallons of storm water annually. Monitoring equipment has also been installed in the bioswale that will record data for three years and be analyzed by the City College of New York. This data will supply helpful information about how the bioswale performs over time. A rain garden and permeable pavers will manage the nearly 85,000 gallons of stormwater that falls on the garden each year, making it a model for outdoor urban architecture and landscape design.

“By managing stormwater where it falls and keeping it out of the combined sewer system, the Gil Hodges Community Garden will reduce overflows and contribute to a healthier and cleaner  Gowanus Canal,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. “We are pleased to partner with NYRP on the renovation of the garden that will serve as a beautiful community amenity and help to  increase awareness about environmental stewardship.”

In addition to being a model for outdoor urban architecture and landscape design, the garden plays a crucial role as a public community asset that cultivates social resilience. Community members enjoy the garden’s new fragrance walk, inspired by Jo Malone London, featuring lush, textural and aromatic plants, including sweetbay magnolia, ruby spice summersweet, orange azalea and mountainmint. A birch reading grove and patio provide quiet getaways for passive recreation. The garden also has an outdoor classroom area complete with blackboard, a composting station and raised vegetable beds. Together, these garden features make Gil Hodges a beautiful retreat for all ages and seasons.

“Gardens are the heart of communities all over the world and represent a major source of inspiration for Jo Malone London,” says Maureen Case, President of Jo Malone London and Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, The Estee Lauder Companies. “We are thrilled to partner with NYRP and continue our mission of supporting charities that bring beauty – and enhanced environmental health – to urban spaces. We hope the Brooklyn garden renovation will inspire other neighborhood green spaces.”

The garden was designed by Yvi McEvilly, NYRP’s Director of Design and Stantec Consulting Inc., with help from EDesign Dynamics and Patrick Cullina, former High Line VP of Horticulture and Park Operations, and consulting from George Smith of The City College of New York. One of 52 community gardens owned and managed by NYRP throughout the city, the Gil Hodges Community Garden is located at 534 Carroll Street in Brooklyn, New York. 

Founded by Bette Midler in 1995, New York Restoration Project (NYRP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming open space in under-resourced communities to create a greener, more sustainable New York City. Unlike traditional conservancies that care for a specific place, NYRP is the only New York City conservancy that works citywide, bringing private resources to spaces that lack adequate municipal support. NYRP is also the leading private partner of the City of New York in MillionTreesNYC – an initiative to plant and care for one million new trees throughout New York City’s five boroughs. To learn more, visit www.nyrp.org.

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