North Brooklyn Parks 20th Anniversary Gala captivates Under the K
All Brooklyn, all the time, fighting for open spaces
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UNDER THE K BRIDGE — On Oct. 5, 2023, the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance threw a 20th Anniversary Gala in the innovative and unconventional reforested lip of Under the K Bridge Park. The night paid homage to public space titans, budding eco-warriors and a nightlife legend. NBK Parks Executive Director Katie Denny Horowitz awarded honorees, celebrated the tremendous projects underway and vowed to elevate public space to epic levels in the years to come.
The symbolic ground of the park was a palpable presence. In 2019, this oasis was an abandoned industrial space underneath where the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway crosses Newtown Creek by the Kosciuszko Bridge. Two years later, NBK Parks unveiled a 7-acre linear promenade of greenery, with over 20,000 trees and native plant species, event space, bike lanes and a skate park. This kind of “el-space” is a modern concept around using land below elevated transportation (in this case, a hundred feet under the BQE), and an ethos around finding solutions in dense urban design; seeing what’s already there and available. This is the mission that the 503-C non-profit champions: vibrant and accessible open space systems in our community.
On the night of the Gala, the light show of the Kosciuszko Bridge lit up the skyline, as performers from House of Yes shimmered past on stilts. Singers from New Camerata Opera hid in the crowd to perform an immersive, free-floating opera: Duo des Fleurs from Lakmé by Léo Delibes. “On the river bank covered with flowers…” Facing Newtown Creek, the gala’s theme was the element of water.
Since the 2005 rezoning of the North Brooklyn waterfront, a surge in residential development has outpaced the promised expansion of green spaces. NBK Parks is the only group of its kind in NYC: a team built to work with myriad agencies to preserve green and open space. Another one of their claims to fame is the restoration of the McCarren Park pool, which reopened in 2012.
The night’s honorees included Norm and Elaine Brodsky, respectively, a founding director of NBK Parks and Chair of the North Brooklyn Chamber. Norm Brodsky was pivotal in acquiring the Bushwick Inlet Park for public usage. Founding directors Steve Hindy of Brooklyn Brewery and Joseph Vance, the award-winning architect who steered the construction and design of the park, were also recognized. Together NBK Parks and Brooklyn Brewery are currently working to connect McCarren Park and Bushwick Inlet Parks with a corridor of public spaces.
NYC nightlife legend Rayne Baron aka LadyFag, was honored as a new partner with plans to elevate the K Bridge Park to a cultural destination. Her festival LadyLand, a Pride month lynchpin, brought 6000 people to the park this year to celebrate Queer culture and will return next year, at an even bigger scale. A longtime Greenpoint resident, LadyFag spoke about becoming a mother this year (“I went from club mom to real mom!”) and the park taking on a heightened meaning beyond the powerful affirmation of state park support for queer culture, but also as a safe space where children can be in nature and open air.
New York City Council member Lincoln Restler repping District 33 announced the winners of the 2023 Sister Francis Kress “Eco-Warriors” awards. Sister Kress was a legendary local nun and beloved figure. She once donned a hazmat suit and went swimming in the Newtown Creek post the oil spill of 1978 to raise awareness of the 20 million-gallon spillage. Many Greenpoint residents are probably not aware that one of the largest oil spills in the United States ever (ever) took place in our backyard, with soil vapor tests returning positive as late as 2008! The Eco-Warriors awardees are considered the next generation of environmental leaders and advocates. Among the winners were: The Greenpoint and Williamsburg Youth Soccer League, Broken Bones Skate Club, Girl Scout Adrienne Cui, PTAs of P.S. 84 and P.S. 110 and the Williamsburg High School of Architecture and Design.
NBK Parks offers training for residents, fellows and interns to do specialized work that has a massive impact on our city. Check out some of the before and after photos on the North Brooklyn Park Alliance’s site to see some of the amazing contributions over the past two decades and join the party by signing up for ongoing volunteering events.
Janna Shaftan is a writer, engineer and journalist covering local wonders in her column Brooklyn Glimmer. Follow her at jannavrs@
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