Brooklyn Greenway Initiative
Brooklyn has about 30 miles of some of the city’s most beautiful waterfront, with views of New York’s famous skyline and the Statue of Liberty. But many born and bred here have never seen it.
That is changing, thanks in large part to the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative's decade of work to open up access to the waterfront with a path that runs along nearly half of Brooklyn’s shore.
The Greenway will stretch 14 miles from Greenpoint to Sunset Park, touching neighborhoods where more than 500,000 Brooklynites live. More than simply provide miles for runners, bikers and commuters, it will offer unique opportunities for health and economic development. It will also link Brooklyn together from north to south, as well as connect to Manhattan’s network of paths.
More than 10,400 Brooklynites regularly commute to work by bicycle.
The project threads together four regional parks along the waterfront, enabling free access to open space at a time when few have money for extras like gym memberships and weekend getaways.
BGI’s co-founders—Milton Puryear, Meg Fellerath and Brian McCormick—began advocating for the project as volunteers in the 1990s, spearheading broad-based community support. In 2002, the Brooklyn Community Foundation gave the group one of its first grants.
At the time, “we had no money, we had zero,” says McCormick.
The $2,500 grant from the Community Foundation went to “paperclips, an ink cartridge, ten reams of paper,” says McCormick. “That seed money enabled us to have a presence out there in the world.”
From that first grant the BGI took hold. The organization now has a list of more than 10,000 supporters, as well as partners in government, private industry, nonprofits and most importantly, in the four community boards along the route, all working to push the project forward.
Subsequent grants from the Community Foundation, including $40,000 in 2011, have propelled the Greenway from an idea to a reality. The Community Foundation contributed toward workshops to gather community input and maps to distribute during grassroots organizing. It also provided funds to match government commitments.
Now BGI’s co-founders are gearing up to transition into the role of stewards of the Greenway. They will coordinate projects, monitor upkeep and foster economic development along the permanent path, which will begin construction in 2014. BGI secured a storm-water study to use plantings to improve water quality, and has started designing new open spaces along the Greenway.
Though much remains in the early stages, Brooklynites already pound the interim paths that have opened a hint of future success.
The project has come a long way since that first small grant nine years ago, but the Brooklyn Community Foundation remains key to the organization’s day to day operations. Smiling, McCormick says, “They’re still funding paperclips.”