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Scaling the heights at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

June 7, 2018 By Paul Frangipane Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Botanic Garden staffers and Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust members break ground on renovations of the garden’s overlook. From right: Botanic Garden President Scot Medbury, Chairwoman of the garden, Diane Steinberg, Robert W. Wilson trustee Richard Schneiderman. Eagle photos by Paul Frangipane

Brooklyn Botanic Garden staffers and architects broke ground Wednesday on renovations for a newly designed overlook of the Cherry Esplanade, famous for its annual cherry blossom festival, which will increase accessibility to the now-neglected slope.

Expected to begin construction in July and reopen next summer, architectural firm Weiss/Manfredi plans to create fully ADA accessible weaving pathways that will connect the esplanade up to the hill that is equipped with seating. The plan comes as part of a broader initiative to remove barriers on visitors to the garden with disabilities, said Scot Medbury, president of the Botanic Garden.

“What this will do is kind of create a way to move through the space in a way you can’t,” Medbury said. “It’s a bit of an obstacle currently … so it’s very much about accessibility and for visitors with mobility disabilities.”

The 1.25-acre overlook, difficult to spot from below, currently only has entrances between the visitor center and the Osborne Garden stretched from one end of the hill to the other.

The renovation, part of the Garden for the Next Century series of improvements, will also seek sustainability improvements, in part by fighting erosion that has created a steep slope. Bringing it to a more “reasonable angle,” as Medbury put it, will give the garden’s increased number of visitors a relaxed place to enjoy the crape myrtle trees, ornamental grasses and perennials.

“We think that this will be a really completely immersive experience,” said Michael Manfredi of Weiss/Manfredi, the firm that redesigned the garden’s visitor center.

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The new overlook was paid in part by $10 million donated from the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust for the centennial renovation campaign and it will bear Wilson’s name.

The 52-acre Brooklyn Botanic Garden founded in 1910 is home to more than 18,000 kinds of plants drawing more than 900,000 visitors a year.

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