Christmas came slightly early to Fort Greene Park this year when the gates to the long-awaited Willoughby Avenue Entrance capital project were opened to the public on the evening of December 24. The $2.5 million capital project had some delays earlier in the year primarily due to necessary engineering redesigns crucial to protecting several major city water mains that run beneath the park. Last Monday, after a meeting between the contractors, representatives from Nancy Owens Studio, Fort Greene Park Conservancy, and NYC Parks, the entrance and pathways of the project were deemed ready for public use a week before the New Year.
For many of us at Fort Greene Park, including myself, this is the first time all 30 acres of the park have been open to the public since we started working here, and it has been a thrill to explore a new part of our beloved park. Here are some things to check out the next time you walk through the Willoughby Avenue capital project area.
One of the most notable differences of the project is the new entrance and sidewalk extension along Washington Park and Willoughby Avenue. The new Willoughby Avenue entrance marks the newest ADA-accessible entrance for the park and helps us take another step towards Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver's vision of Park Equity.
The Trees & Shrubs
While there are 15 new trees to the area, there are several large, historic trees that make up the canopy. Thanks to careful consideration from our contractors, these trees are still standing tall. Next time you enter on Willoughby, take a look at the large Elms on your right and the Elm closest to the entrance when you make a left. Also look for a couple of Pines, American Lindens, and a Tulip Tree.
By the project's completion, over 500 shrubs will be planted in this area. During the winter months, the most recognizable is Ilex verticillata also known as the common winterberry with its red berries. The other recognizable shrub is Cornus sericea 'Isanti' or the eastern redtwig dogwood that, as its name suggests, has red twig branches.
The new groundcover plants will be harder to see as they may be buried beneath soil, leaves, and hay, but come springtime look out for over 5000 new plants in our flowerbeds. See if you can spot any of the green poking through.
Finally, Everything that is Not Visible
One thing that may be harder to appreciate is all the work that was done below the ground and invisible to us in its final product. 13 catch basins, 5 manholes, 8 dry wells, and 4", 8", and 12" corrugated piping were all installed beneath the surface to help combat the park's biggest problem--erosion and improper drainage. Next time there is a heavy rainstorm, take a walk around the park and see how this area compares. Hopefully, there is less runoff due to the efforts of our contractors and new plants.
All this said, the project is still not 100% complete. The chain-link fences will remain through the spring to help protect our thousands of new plants and to allow the reseeded lawns to take root. We sincerely thank you all for your patience and hope you're proud of the work that was accomplished. Next up on the capital project docket? Council member Laurie Cumbo and Borough President Eric Adams gave $3 million to improve the pathways in the Park. With input from the community at our scope meeting in October, the project is now in the design process.
I wish everyone a Happy New Year and look forward to what 2016 will bring to Fort Greene Park!