Neighborhood residents dreaming of a new park at the end of Emmons Avenue dug deep into beach plum jam and “Brigham bucks” inside the Comfort Inn last week.
They don’t yet have any money to pay for the multi-million-dollar project set to rise on a 2.5-acre site on Brigham Street, but what they do have is a pair of bright, young designers from the Harvard School of Design and the City College of New York dedicated to making their dream a reality.
On June 25, residents sat down with the energetic duo, rolled up their sleeves, put on their thinking caps and talked about the features they would like to see incorporated in the new green space.
Providing everyone with a “pretend budget” of 12 “Brigham bucks” each allowed residents like Community Board 15 Chair Theresa Scavo to think about passive recreation, sports, playgrounds and ecological restoration in a critical manner.
That last item placed high on the list of priorities as residents discussed ways of integrating the park with nearby Plumb Beach.
Currently suffering from an overabundance of nitrogen in the water and erosion on the shore, Plumb Beach needs a lot more tender loving care than it’s been getting.
“We felt that if we’re going to develop an area, we should also look into natural restoration as a way to bring in federal money,” said lead organizer Gene Berardelli.
Gerritsen Beach’s own Jon Fouskaris, who says he first learned about the Brigham Park project in the pages of the Bay News, has been studying Plumb Beach very closely as one half of the New Yorkers 4 Parks design team.
The City College graduate student was just 12 years old when he won his first design competition planning a community garden for the Brooklyn Public Library at Gotham and Gerritsen avenues.
According to Fouskaris, just one oyster can filter 35 gallons of water in a single day, and beach plums – in addition to tasting good on a cracker – can act as a buffer against beach erosion when planted in greater numbers.
Melissa Guerrero is the other half of the New Yorkers 4 Parks design team. She’s been out canvassing the area surrounding the Brigham Street site and says that the new park would be “a destination for people from all over the city” after it’s built.
According to Berardelli, similar workshops will be held at roughly three-week intervals as planning proceeds. The next one is set for mid-July at a larger location to be determined.
Organizers also want to hold mini-workshops at P.S. 52 later on this summer.
“The energy in the room really surprised me,” Berardelli said. “I knew there was enthusiasm, but I didn’t think there was this many people willing to get their hands dirty.”