Dead space to green space — Navy Yard may turn burial ground into park

The Brooklyn Paper
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An abandoned naval cemetery will be transformed into a peaceful, wildlife-filled respite under a proposal being pushed by the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative.

On Thursday, the group — which is creating a 14-mile bike path along the borough’s industrial waterfront — presented plans to make the Naval Hospital Cemetery in the Brooklyn Navy Yard along Williamsburg Street West into a public sanctuary.

“When you pass the area, you think, ‘Wow, that was bleak,’ ” said Milton Puryear, planning director for the initiative. “Now this can be a beautiful place to get relief from buildings and concrete.”

The 1.7-acre site between Kent and Flushing avenues once included a ball field and, as rumor has it, a training ground for police dogs. But for decades, it’s been a fenced-off eyesore and home for feral cats.

The plans will create an urban oasis, with an elevated boardwalk, greenhouse, outdoor theater and grove of black cherry trees.

A giant meadow of native grasses and wildflowers will lure butterflies, birds, bees and bats, and steel rectangles holding different species of plants will light up at night to symbolize the nearly 2,000 long-forgotten graves.

In the 1820s, the Navy established the former farmland as a cemetery for sailors who died at the nearby Naval Hospital. Many of the remains were moved to Cypress Hills Cemetery in 1926.

But fragments of bone and coffin are still beneath the ground, making landscapers subject to a deed restriction that prevents soil disruption.

“It’s a site you can’t build on, so the question is: what’s the best use for it?” Puryear asked.

A landscape architecture firm created a design that memorializes the historic ground while stimulating ecological growth.

“It’s a place for reflection,” said co-designer Jennifer Brooks. “Bird watchers, nature lovers, students and families will find respite here. We’re treating it as sacred ground.”

The Greenway Initiative — which is currently plotting its bike path from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge — said the $2-million park could be built in 2013, if the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation can secure funding.

Reach reporter Kate Briquelet at or by calling (718) 260-2511.
Updated 5:27 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

anabdul from cobble hill says:
The dead will be ripped out of their graves. Why can't white folks leave things alone?
Nov. 14, 2011, 7:46 am
adamben from bedstuy says:
greenway would be a great idea.

btw, ana, washington sq pk in the village used to be a cemetery (civil war era) and has been of great service to the nabe.
Nov. 14, 2011, 9:03 am
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
On the surface this seems like a fantastic idea--on that account i agree with adamben. However, "under the surface" there needs to be regard to the human remains. Yes, we desperately need parks, but the issue of sacrilege is not insignificant, so I also nod towards anabdul's observation.

That's interesting about Washington Square Park, by the way.
Nov. 14, 2011, 10:05 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Anyone aware that Washington Square Park used to be a potters field too?
Nov. 14, 2011, 1:18 pm
ty from pps says:
Umm... how is creating a park sacrilege? Seriously.

The dead were *already* "ripped out of their graves" -- and this is a solution that provides the remaining bits and pieces something that can be honored. A grim, abandoned lot with rusted chainlink fence and feral cats isn't exactly a place to pay your respects for dead sailors. Why would it be preferable to maintain the status quo?

In short -- Anabdul's comment is just inflammatory and, well, dumb. Yes, everyone can have their opinion, but some opinions are worth more than others.
Nov. 14, 2011, 2:42 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Considerations based on human remains in the Navy Yard are not facile. But ty from pps is again projecting with his own inflammation since he got his ass kicked up and down the street on other threads so he's got to puff up his chest here to try to quash a reasonable argument, since no one is calling for a halt to the proceedings--only sensitivity. But go ahead, whatever makes you feel like a man, whatever makes you think you're a winner in your own mind.
Nov. 14, 2011, 7:20 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
And from a strictly religious perspective, anywhere "bodies are already ripped from the grave" is in a state of sacrilege, and remains so, even up to the laying down of park, gasp, over. That is what is meant by "sacrilege." Look it up and settle down on the heavy breathing and tortured logic.
Nov. 14, 2011, 7:25 pm
ty from pps says:
"The dead will be ripped out of their graves. Why can't white folks leave things alone?" -- Anabdul

That's not inflammatory? (BOTH sentences) That's not calling for a halt to the proceedings? I read that comment as EXACTLY that. Where exactly is the "reasonable argument" there that I was trying to quash?

I'm also curious where I got my "ass kicked" -- but that's neither here nor there.
Nov. 14, 2011, 7:52 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Which part of it exactly is inflammatory? The exhumation of bodies, or that white folks can't leave things alone? The latter may be so, but that is not what you addressed with your petulant response. You addressed the former, and the exhumation of bodies is a profound event irrespective of the state and condition of the remains or the location where the remains are interred. Instead of recognizing the solemnity of that, you wanted to act like an impatient hipster [not that you are, but you do read like a mean-spirited petulant].
Nov. 14, 2011, 11:39 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
And I read "you getting your ass kicked up and down the metaphysical block" from your responses to other commenters and to our own communications, where you strike me as what we call un cabezon--mostly skull and little brain.
Nov. 14, 2011, 11:41 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Oh, and if you think a comment on a thread has the power to halt these proceedings, then I don't know what to tell you, but that you either are a hypersensitive individual or one who has a grossly inflated estimate of his influence on the social scheme. Anabdul can be accused of inflammation for the remark about whites, but of obstructionism? That's beyond the pale.
Nov. 14, 2011, 11:50 pm
ty from pps says:
Dennis -- you're a piece of work.
Nov. 15, 2011, 12:33 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
So I'm told.
Nov. 15, 2011, 12:52 pm
nancy from coney says:
why dont they just excume the remains and put it in a vault if they cant find living relattives like they did in ft greene park a few blocks away its sad 2 desecrate graves 4 a park when u have one a few blocks away
Nov. 15, 2011, 8:27 pm

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