‘Brooklyn Bridge Forest’ a finalist in contest to reimagine Brooklyn Bridge

July 27, 2020 Editorial Staff
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The “Brooklyn Bridge Forest,” which calls for sustainably harvested wood to benefit local communities in Guatemala while safeguarding 200,000 acres of rainforest, is a finalist in a competition to Reimagine the Brooklyn Bridge. The public can vote online to support this project from July 24-30.

The competition, held by the New York City Council and Van Alen Institute, calls for rethinking the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, improving walkways on the bridge that are often crowded with bicyclists and pedestrians. As made even clearer by recent events, our streets and shared spaces must foster equitable, accessible, and sustainable transportation options, creating a healthy and safe environment for all New Yorkers.

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In response to this call, the Brooklyn Bridge Forest project reimagines the bridge as an icon of climate action and social equity, improving mobility while respecting the landmark structure. The historic wooden walkway is expanded using planks of FSC-certified wood sustainably sourced from the Uaxactun community in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, which protects a 200,000-acre rainforest. A dedicated bike path and reclaimed traffic lane create new space for cyclists and low-carbon transit, while biodiverse “microforests” at either end of the bridge bring nature to New York City and serve as green spaces for underserved communities.

The project is a collaborative effort between WCS, Pilot Projects Design Collective LLC, Cities4Forests, Grimshaw Architects LLP, and Silman DPC.

The 200,000-acre Uaxactun forest is considered one of the best-managed in the world. Forest managers use an extremely selective harvesting intensity (less than one tree per acre); follow a 40-year cutting cycle; and employ reduced-impact logging techniques. WCS has been monitoring the impacts of timber management in the Uaxactun forest since the year 2000 and has been working with the local community for more than 25 years to ensure forest management practices are protecting and not harming wildlife.

The Brooklyn Bridge Forest project will also help NYC meet its commitment to an “80×50” plan, to cut its emissions by 80 percent by 2050, an ambitious goal that will require very creative and far-reaching strategies.

“The Brooklyn Bridge Forest not only reimagines the Brooklyn Bridge; it reimagines humanity’s relationship with nature and our global climate, using the Brooklyn Bridge to lead us there,” said Jeremy Radachowsky, WCS Mesoamerica regional director.

“This is the right time for cities to lead on global change, starting with their own infrastructure,” said Scott Francisco, director of Pilot Projects Design Collective and Cities4Forests. “There could be no better place to start than the Brooklyn Bridge.”

The Uaxactun lies in the heart of the Maya Forest, the largest of Mesoamerica’s last Five Great Forests. These five intact forests span from Mexico to Colombia and are biodiversity hotspots and strongholds for globally irreplaceable species such as the jaguar, scarlet macaw, and critically endangered Central American river turtle; they are also vital flyways and wintering grounds for migratory birds.

Together they cover more than 12 million hectares (three times the size of Switzerland); hold about half the region’s forest carbon stocks, helping to curb climate change; provide water and other life-giving natural resources to 5 million people; and harbor several World Heritage sites, including the ruins of ancient civilizations. Nearly half are managed by Indigenous and local communities.

Mesoamerica’s people, culture, biodiversity, economic health, resilience to climate change — the very essence of Mesoamerica — all depend on the Five Great Forests.

Added Radachowsky: “By voting for the Brooklyn Bridge Forest, you can help protect the environment and the climate, bring nature back to the City and its people, and push towards a future of healthy open spaces and decarbonized mobility. Together we can build a NYC and a world that is healthier and ready for our greatest challenges.”

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