ISSUE 47  |  Dining and Entertaining

How Brooklyn Bridge Park Survived A Hurricane

November 19, 2012 8:00 PM

BY Jeanne Rostaing

On the night Hurricane Sandy roared into New York City, residents of “Zone A”–defined as an area likely to flood–were ordered to evacuate. People packed up their kids and pets and other valuables and moved to higher ground. But the gardens in Zone A, needless to say, were left behind:

Photos by Jeanne Rostaing for Gardenista, except where noted.


Above: The brand new Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo would appear to be a textbook example of a vulnerable location. It has 85 acres of narrow riverside land, including that most rare New York City amenity: actual access to the water, including a place to launch kayaks and canoes. Sandy whipped up the East River and it poured over the banks, through the park, across the now ironically named Water Street and into the neighborhood. Photograph by Toni Tan via Flickr.


Above: The park’s most recognizable landmark, a restored merry-go-round known as Jane’s Carousel, was just barely spared, but the trees and shrubs of the various gardens, including the native plants of the salt marsh garden and thousands of square feet of organically maintained lawns were submerged in a murky sea of salt water. Photograph by Maggie McKenna via Flickr.


The day after the storm, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy immediately put out a call for volunteers to begin the Herculean task of cleaning debris and assessing damage. Large numbers of people in rubber boots and work gloves showed up to clear storm drains and rake paths. Workers began drenching beds with fresh water to force the salt out of the soil.


Less than three weeks after the hurricane, the park bears some signs of its ordeal but, at least to the casual visitor, looks surprisingly healthy and beautiful. There are some shrubs that appear to be dead, but most plants seem to have survived amazingly well.


Above: Because the park is new, its first phase only opened in March of 2010, its trees are young and more pliable than older trees found in the city’s more established parks. In many cases trees were anchored by supports which helped them stand up to the howling winds.


Plants in beds still bear the signs of swirling water, grasses mashed to the ground, asters broken down but still hanging on to some tired looking flowers. Oak leaf hydrangeas near the snack bar are covered in torn leaves and broken branches, but are upright.


Brooklyn Bridge Park was created on an old industrial site which, back in the day, lent a menacing air to the waterfront between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges and barred access to the river. New York City is lucky to have people with vision who understood that this small piece of real estate could be turned into a paradise.


Take a trip to the park. It is a little ragged around the edges now, but time and the gardeners will take care of that. The so-called “Frankenstorm” failed to do one iota of damage to this park’s most incredible feature: its world class views. Look across the river at the forest of skyscrapers in Manhattan with the gleaming new Freedom Tower. Look to the left and see the Statue of Liberty. It’s too far away to hear the Staten Island Ferry as it chugs along, but you can get a really good look at it. Photograph by Lori Heddinger via Flickr.


Above: The electrical and irrigation systems were damaged by the storm so check the park’s website before heading out. Normal hours (6 am to 1 am) are curtailed until further notice.


Above: Resilience: less than a week after the hurricane, a rose bloomed in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photograph by Toni Tan, via Flickr.