Brooklyn Revealed series celebrates Summer Solstice on Kingsland Wildflowers

North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Holds Reception atop Broadway Stages

June 29, 2017 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Broadways Stages owner Tony Argento exults amid the Kingsland Wildflower garden in the fading light. Eagle photos by Andy Katz
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The North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce marked 2017’s longest day on June 21 with the third event in its Brooklyn Revealed series, a reception held atop the Broadway Stages building where Marni Majorelle’s Kingsland Wildflowers Rooftop projects an eco-friendly compromise in the midst of one of Brooklyn’s most heavily industrialized neighborhoods.

“What we are, in a nutshell,” explained Kingsland Wildflowers Project Coordinator for the NYC Audubon Society Niki Jackson, “is a habitat expansion program. The footprint of this building [Broadway Stages] is being replaced by the roof. We’re creating a habitat for birds, bats, wildflowers, butterflies, bees.”

Proposed in 2015 by a partnership of Majorelle’s Alive Structures, Broadway Stages, the NYC Audubon Society, Newtown Creek Alliance and Trout in the Classroom, the rooftop habitat was funded in part by the Greenpoint Environmental Fund, with matching funds from other sources, not to mention interior work to shore up the roofs to bear the weight of the added, soil, stone and water by Broadway Stages owner Tony Argento.

“Before this roof was done,” Dustin Partridge of NYC Audubon explained, “nothing was really using it. When you restore a roof like this water comes in, insects come in — food comes in — after that birds come in that are both breeding and migratory.”

Willis Elkins, program manager of the Newtown Creek Alliance, spoke next, pointing out: “Our organization is interested in finding ways to revitalize the creek from multiple perspectives … We want to have environmental restoration and remediation of these areas, but there is also revitalization of the core business area around Newtown Creek. Pretty much all of the creek is zoned for industrial uses. We’re looking for ways to expand access to the creek that don’t dispose business and also allow for environmental restoration.”

Elkins went on to describe the well-known issue of heavy rainfall overwhelming the storm drainage system, causing untreated sewage to flood into the creek. “The more green roofs you have like this — where you can absorb rainwater — benefits Newtown Creek, because it prevents rainwater from flowing into the storm drains and overflowing the creek.”

“There are a lot of interesting things going on right now,” Alive Structures founder and CEO Marni Marjorelle told the audience, “and I just hope we can keep it going and make this a part of Greenpoint’s future … We’re creating jobs, we’re creating opportunities. We need everyone to be a part of it, because who knows if the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] is even going to exist a year from now?”

With that, North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Paul Samulski announced, “Magic hour up on the roof — drinks allowed, but no food!”

As the sun finally deigned to set behind the high rises of Upper Manhattan, amber light streaked across the Wildflower Rooftop. Nearby the Newtown Creek Digester Eggs, clad in futuristic stainless steel and containing some of the nastiest stuff on earth, glowed in an array of colored lights that kept changing from blue to yellow to purple to green, and so on.

A small spherical fountain with water running along the surface of its glass globe, illuminated from within, was the latest addition to the wildflower roof. Originally planned and funded for just under 22,000 square feet, the entire roof now covers more than 32,000 square feet and includes a lower level of the Broadway Stages complex.

The largest roof section holds nearly 8 inches of soil, along with paving stones and a web-like irrigation system running underneath the dirt, according to Alive Structure’s Richard Jenkins. Shoring up the interior to bear the additional 50lbs-per-square-foot weight cannot have been easy or cheap for Broadway Stages.

“More than $800,000,” Stages owner Tony Argento admitted as he stood in the rapidly fading sunlight, a fluted wine glass in one hand.

“Worth your while?” he was asked.

Argento paused before spreading his arms wide. “Just look around you,” he said.


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