Brooklyn Bridge Forest watercolor drawing

Brooklyn Bridge Forest

The Brooklyn Bridge is a symbol of welcome and vision to the world: over one million people walk or bike across this New York City icon each year. The wood-planked Promenade is a draw for locals and visitors from around the world and has been the muse of famous artists from Georgia O'Keefe and Walt Whitman to Frank Sinatra.

The Promenade is made of tropical hardwood which, historically, has been harvested in an unsustainable manner from Latin American forests. We wondered if, instead, the Promenade could be employed to actually protect threatened tropical forests.

We believed the answer was yes, and set out to see what this would look like. This was the beginning of the Brooklyn Bridge Forest (BBF) story.

download the Brooklyn Bridge Forest two-page info sheet

learn about Wood at Work, a companion project to BBF

Every 35 years, the Brooklyn Bridge's boardwalk must be replaced. As we approach the next cycle of plank replacement (2017), the City is considering how to responsibly source the wood. Growing concern for rainforest protection, climate change, and NYC’s commitment to sustainability demand a new model for boardwalk replacement that maintains the Promenade’s historic integrity.

BBF is an innovative model for proactive sourcing that would provide New York City the wood it needs in perpetuity, while protecting an endangered ecosystem—linking a bridge with a forest.

Over the last five years, Pilot Projects has consulted with dozens of committed conservationists, environmental organizations, and forest experts from around the world. We have partnered with several venerable organizations who share our vision and want to help it come to fruition: Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), The Municipal Art Society of New York, Natural Areas Conservancy, and The Hudson Company. We have traveled to several threatened tropical forests, talked with local people and organizations there, tested wood samples, and reviewed management plans, conservation initiatives, and certification programs.

"The Brooklyn Bridge Forest connects New York City with rainforest conservation
and pilots a new model for civic engagement and partnerships."

All of this research has led us to an ideal forest partner to supply the 11,000 planks needed: a community located in Uaxactún, Guatemala that manages and protects a lush, FSC-certified rainforest covering almost 200,000 acres—the size of New York City’s five boroughs. The community of Uaxactún has worked in partnership with WCS and other agencies for two decades to certify, manage, and protect its forest, which is the keystone of the vast but threatened Maya Biosphere Reserve.

After gaining City approval for this plan, supporters—individuals, community groups, and schools, from New York or abroad—would provide ponsorship donations on a sliding scale and have their signatures inscribed at the end of each new plank. This innovative partnership model would provide a new boardwalk while helping to protect 18 acres of primary rainforest per plank. It would also create a powerful symbol: a petition of 11,000 signatures, stretching more than half a mile long, telling world leaders it's time to take action on climate change, and showing that cities can play a central role.

Engaging Citizens in Preserving a Historic Landmark and Protecting the Global Environment
Brooklyn Bridge Forest will:

  • Enable New Yorkers of all income levels to sponsor a plank on the historic Brooklyn Bridge Promenade.
  • Re-plank the Promenade with sustainably sourced wood at no cost to NYC.
  • Protect a tropical rainforest covering 200,000 acres—the same size as NYC.
  • Fund public school programs, scholarships, exchanges, and research, in NYC and abroad, for NYC K-12 public schools and universities.

Restoring and Enhancing NYC’s Green Spaces
Brooklyn Bridge Forest will:

  • Provide resources for urban parks and natural areas across the five boroughs.
  • Restore NYC’s 10,000 acres of forests, dunes, and wetlands that make it more resilient to the ramifications of climate change.
  • Create green jobs for New Yorkers.
  • Support community service and environmental education programs.

Investing in Civic Leadership
Brooklyn Bridge Forest will:

  • Help create a new model of citizen participation in public-private partnerships based on tangible linkages.
  • Boost NYC’s role as a global leader in urban sustainability and environmental education.
  • Demonstrate NYC’s commitment to reducing global deforestation and addressing climate change.

 

This part I call the elevated promenade, because its principle use will be to allow people of leisure, and young and old... to promenade over the bridge on fine days, in order to enjoy the beautiful views and the pure air.
John A. Roebling, 1868



Photograph (c) Billy Powers

 

              

See the Brooklyn Bridge Forest website for more information, or contact us at info@pilot-projects.org.



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