Keep the toxins, save the trees: Plan to save park in Fort Greene leaves poisons

Makeover: An aerial rendering of the new Bam Park, which could open as early as 2019.
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What a tree-lemma!

A long-shuttered Fort Greene park near the Brooklyn Academy of Music must not clean up all of its toxic soil if residents want to save its lavish collection of trees, an architect heading the green space’s makeover told members of Community Board 2’s Parks Committee meeting on Monday night.

“There are a lot of existing trees in the park, their roots fill 80 percent of the park so we’ve been trying to keep the really fine specimens of trees,” said Andrew Moore, who drew up designs to revamp “BAM Park.” “You can’t excavate soil or fill on top of it without killing trees.”

The triangular park bounded by Lafayette Avenue and Fulton and St. Felix streets has been closed for 12 years due to unstable ground filled with contaminated soil. The dirt contains metals, plastic, and lumber containing high levels of arsenic, mercury, lead, and pesticides, according to a 2012 study by Langan Enviornmental and Engineering Services. That fill came from tenement buildings that once stood there.

Residents concerned by the unnatural findings enlisted the expertise of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice to dig deeper and it discovered the contaminants are probably carcinogens that may also damage skin, developing brains, and pulmonary, renal, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems, according to local Sandy Reiburn, who pushed for the investigation.

Experts recommend excavating the entire lot and removing the pernicious dirt entirely, but doing so would kill the trees that have root systems deep throughout the triangle, according to Moore. Instead, he has come up with a plan with the city’s Office of Environmental Remediation — which has supported it — to clean up part of the park and pave over those portions to cap it. Remaining areas containing the toxic soil will be fenced off and filled with vegetation planted in mulch.

People should not touch the soil or breathe it in, said Moore, who assured locals its effect on humans and the environment will be closely monitored.

“The areas that are contaminated, people shouldn’t be in contact with the soil,” he said. “During the construction process there’s procedures to make sure it doesn’t become airborne.”

And locals don’t have to worry about storm water carrying the soil through the streets because rainwater stays on the site, Moore claimed.

Plans for the long-awaited $2.5 million new park that is being funded with money from city and state coffers include removing four trees that are creating too much shade and saving three beech trees that have made the most of their time in the noxious soil, said Moore.

“They’re really thrived in this sort of odd, difficult condition,” he said.

An elevated walkway will be installed around the timbers so people can walk through the park without harming the root system. And a wood-like deck will be put in at the tip of the park that people can sit on. New honey locusts will be planted behind the deck to provide shade, said Moore.

Residents were pumped that the park could finally be unlocked soon, but asked for assurances the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership — which is overseeing the project — be open with them about further soil and air testing and not rush it to create a nicer front yard for people living in the new high-rises that border the area.

“People are concerned because they live there. I’m still very concerned about transparency issues having to do with how this is being remediated,” said Reiburn.

Officials from the business booster group told locals they would keep them posted on any findings and will set up a special phone line and e-mail address for people to reach out to during construction.

If all goes to plan, construction will begin in the fall and would take roughly a year and a half.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 5:59 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Winter from Brooklyn Heights says:
The irony of it all - those people who get in such a huff over "toxins" and "poison" will gladly consume gluten! i.e. Poison! That will kill you!
May 17, 2017, 5:56 am
Joe from Clinton Hill says:
Sounds like a good plan!
May 17, 2017, 10:49 am
Ami Shah from Fort Greene says:
A Fort Green Brooklyn resident and student at Brooklyn Technical High School won the Babson Boston Cup 2017 for an app he created, currently available on Apple's iTunes store called PrepUP: The New SAT and SAT app.
This Junior created this App because many students can not afford expensive preparation courses. The app is free to use and free to download. It is also unique because students can use social medial to study with each other. Students can play with each other in a live, head-to-head match in a series of multiple-choice questions. Students can also take customizable practice tests and the question of the day.

Here are some links to more information:
May 17, 2017, 1:30 pm
Ami Shah from Fort Greene says:
May 17, 2017, 1:31 pm
lk from fort greene says:
Please, don't allow any entertainment at this very small park. Keep it as a place to sit in quiet. There is already enough noise and noisy entertainment in the area.
May 17, 2017, 2:22 pm
Pswarnda from Housing Project says:
These chemicals are making our kids high! They send them on a drug trip! I demand they be removed at once!
May 18, 2017, 12:59 am
Evangeline Jones from Fort Greene says:
While you are at it, putting all of this money into this park, please put aside a few hundred to pay someone to keep in front of the park shoveled when it snows. That entire triangle is a hazard..... especially for the elderly and children!
May 18, 2017, 7:56 am
Adamben from Bedstuy says:
Oh pleeze! Take the toxic soil and trees out and replant!!!

You're welcome.
May 18, 2017, 9:13 am
Mom from Clinton Hill says:
Uproot this park and put it in Atlantic Yards. FCRC promised us a public park.
May 18, 2017, 9:02 pm
Belle from Fort Greene says:
How come the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is in charge of this park? Why isn't the Parks Department? Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is a bunch of real estate developers. Are they dictating the plantings to go with the luxury apartment buildings they're blackening our shy with? I assume all the species being planted are all-shade varieties. Will it be named Downtown Brooklyn Partnership Park? No one would be surprised.
May 19, 2017, 12:04 am
Natalie from Fort Greene says:
What about myco-remediation? What has kept that from being proposed as a solultion that would clean up the soil without having to cap it and kill off more of the trees?

I just wrote a grant to apply it here in Brooklyn to spaces for public benefit. I would like to ask Andrew Moore whence his non-organic design came to prevail over this possibility.
June 6, 2017, 11:37 am

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