January 10, 2016
The Brooklyn Bridge Forest project is still alive and well, and the basic information on this website is still accurate and relevant.
But we’ve folded our blog and social media in with Pilot Projects’, so you can find new BBF updates here:
And you can now download this BBF two-page info sheet.
Thank you for following along!
This entry is the first of many guest bloggers. Zev is the Director of Development here at Pilot Projects, a poet and a life-long enthusiast of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Hey Brooklyn Bridge Forest Fans-
I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge twice yesterday. Once in the early evening with the Poets House and once by myself with the Ghost of Old Walt Whitman and all the other Ghosts of New York to keep me company.
It is so interesting being in that rainbow space above the East River, a space that until about 130 years ago was only occupied by the mists, wind and birds. Since the creation of the bridge millions of people have walked through that space, crossing the river for trade or inspiration, gathering sustenance of one sort or another. My grandparents Max and Yetta crossed it to move from the tenements of the Lower East Side into a building they bought in Brooklyn to help their family survive during the depression. From there my family grew and moved out across America until nearly 70 years later I moved back to the Lower East Side from California and now I get to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with my ghosts; and all the Ghosts.
We started the Poets House walk on the Manhattan side. We were by city hall and heard a couple of short speeches by the director of the Poets House Lee Bricetta, poet Thomas Lux and my city council person Margaret Chin. There were also a couple of Poems read by the poet Marie Howe. We heard her read “Brooklyn Bridge” by Lola Ridge (great rhyme) and “Steps” by Frank O’Hara. Then it was off across the Bridge.
I love the walk part of this event. We start out as mostly strangers and by the time we get to Brooklyn we have formed all sorts of bridges together. I talked with some other poets about the promenade and the idea of its next replacement being done with sustainable hardwoods through a possible Brooklyn Bridge Forest. The folks I talked to were very open to the idea and took my BBF cards so that they could get more information (and inspiration) from the website. We also talked about the current construction and rehab of the bridge which was everywhere in evidence.
We stopped at the first arch and heard more poetry. Ted Berrigan’s “Whitman In Black” (love that poem), Muriel Rukeyser’s “O City” and “Untitled”. We also heard Audre Lord’s “Bridge Through My Window” and Hart Crane’s “Poem: To Brooklyn Bridge” The poets Sharon Olds and Tracy K Smith did a terrific job reading above the noise of the roadway.
On the walk down to the Brooklyn side I took pictures of the feet of the poet walkers on the promenade. The first picture is of Bill Murray’s feet. He laughed when he saw me take a picture of his feet instead of his face.
The walk ended at the Ferry Landing in Brooklyn where for the seventeenth year in a row we heard the great poet Galway Kinnell read Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”.
After the Reading we all headed to dinner and more readings at Bubby’s of Brooklyn. Galway received the Elizabeth Kray award and he read a new poem called “Astonished”. It was astonishing! My favorite poem reading of the night! We had great dinner and all the poets read again. Bill Murray finished the reading with some great oral interpretation of some Wallace Stevens poems.
As we left, we got a great goody bag full of, yes you guessed it, more poetry!
I walked home slowly with the lights of Mannahatta in front of me and the warm hills of Brookland behind me. And of course I wrote a poem:
brooklyn bridge forest
fragile stone people are hurrying scurrying raindrops home but i am on a walk to walk over the brooklyn bridge to smell the sea and hear poetry and to sing with the poets all the ayes all the masts intertwined with cables steel gray sky breathing with us as we amble and stride strive to hear the music the words the horn of the ferries bright beyond the underneath the promenade still stands fast greenheart of the fragile forest
zev keisch 6/12/12
June 23, 2012
March 22, 2011
Is Wood Good?
Presentation and discussion hosted by the Brooklyn Bridge Forest
Greenspaces, 394 Broadway, New York NY
March 16, 2011
- Introduction – Scott Francisco
- EcoMadera – Peter Pinchot
- Patagonia Sur – Divya Mankikar
- TerraMai, Reclaimed Woods – Andy Kjellgren
- Brooklyn Bridge Forest – Scott Francisco
- Group Discussion
The “Is Wood Good?” event was a great success. Many thanks to Greenspaces and everyone who attended. A video recording of event highlights will be available on through Facebook.
The evening began with introductory remarks by Scott Francisco of Brooklyn Bridge Forest. He started by raising the question about criteria for sustainability in terms of architecture and building materials, using a quote from Peter Buchanan’s Ten Shades of Green. http://www.tenshadesofgreen.org/10shades.html
“…Green design is not only about energy efficiency…it involves a whole nexus of interrelated issues, the social, cultural, psychological and economic dimensions of which are as important as the technical and ecological… ‘Ten shades’ refers to ten key issues that need to be considered to create a fully green architecture: 1.low energy/high performance, 2. replenishable sources; 3. recycling; 4.embodied energy; 5.long life, loose fit; 6.total life cycle costing; 7.embedded in place; 8. access and urban context; 9.health and happiness; and 10.community and connection. “
Scott went on to describe “embodied energy” and the difference in the energy embodied in wood compared to other common building materials:
“…The common building material with least embodied energy is wood, with about 640 kilowatt-hours per ton (most of it consumed by the industrial drying process.) Hence the greenest building material is wood from sustainably managed forests. Brick is the material with the next lowest amount of embodied energy, (4X) that of wood, then concrete (5 X), plastic (6X), glass (14X), steel (24X) and aluminum (126X).
Scott then introduced the first presenter, Peter Pinchot, who spoke of his EcoMadera project. ( http://www.pinchot.org/gp/Ecomadera) This project in Ecuador is protecting forests from agricultural expansion by creating economic alternatives for local communities through a new business venture. Ecomadera is a multifaceted forest business based on a mix of forest products such as plantation Balsa and limited harvesting of old growth hardwoods strategically extracted without the creation of new roads. Peter emphasized the need to balance the harvest of tree species that reflect the diversity of the forest. Ecomadera has developed a hardwood flooring product that combines several wood species to encourage this diversification.
Next we learned from Divya Mankikar about Patagonia Sur’s ( www.patagoniasur.com) success in reforesting large areas of degraded pasture in Chile’s Patagonia region. This business has successfully created massive reserves of existing and recently planted forest. This effort is sustained by a for-profit business model that mixes ecotourism, carbon offsets, and sustainable land development. Patagonia Sur’s success has been made possible through a combination of local stakeholder involvement and investment from developed global economies.
We also heard from Andy Kjellgren of TerraMai ( www.terramai.com), a company that specializes in the reclamation and re-use of wood as a means of extending the material’s life cycle. Terra Mai is particularly focused on reclamation of tropical hardwood. Andy cited several projects which exemplify his company’s business model, including, most notably, the latest phase of the High Line decking, which was built from reclaimed teak rather than the old-growth ipe used in the first phase of construction. He also presented ideas for re-use of the wood that will be salvaged from the Brooklyn Bridge boardwalk. Potential uses include down-cycling the wood into city projects like benches and other exterior applications which could create local employment and new cottage industries.
Scott Francisco began the Brooklyn Bridge Forest presentation with the new mission statement, refined through ongoing research and conversation with collaborators, critics and advisors: The BBF mission is to create a global landmark in rainforest conservation by leveraging the prominence of the Brooklyn Bridge boardwalk to secure sponsorship funds, research support and oversight partnerships. Local community stakeholders are considered to be critical partners in economic, educational and social dimensions of the project. Global “transparency” was also emphasized as a critical mission of the project; i.e., how can the Brooklyn Bridge Forest help to build world-wide awareness of real life long-term environmental impacts of consumption? It was also stressed that the Brooklyn Bridge Forest is based on the educational and research potential of a ‘bounded’ land area that will be used to study long-term impacts of the forestry model as well as provide opportunities to visit an actual place that provides the wood for the Brooklyn Bridge.
Following these presentations the discussion lasted past 10pm, interspersed with wine, cheese and snacks. We heard from a wide variety of participants in the conversation. Tim Keating from Rainforest Relief led with questions to the panel on the assumptions of sustainability, biodiversity and carbon sequestration. This in turn led to a much more detailed conversation about the relationship between different tree species, forest ecosystems, wood quality and outdoor service lifespan of old growth versus young/plantation species. While there were many different and sometimes conflicting viewpoints, it was generally agreed that a holistic view was the only way to assess the benefits and potential pitfalls of any particular model, and that “long term impacts” were the ultimate test of success.
Questions and comparisons were raised between tropical species and domestic species such as black locust. (It was noted that this wood has been used recently in NYC with mixed results.) Tim Keating asked: why not use the BBF project to cultivate a domestic forest (eg black locust) to supply material needs, and thus preserve an acreage of untouched rainforest? The answer from Scott Francisco was that the BBF project is not simply about finding the most sustainable material for the boardwalk, but rather about advancing rainforest conservation. It was raised that the primary value of the BBF project was to fund a visible and sustainable example of rainforest protection at a global level, a bulwark at the frontier of rainforest destruction, and that the project must be scalable and/or catalyze other change. The financial resources that the Brooklyn Bridge Forest unlocks should be used strategically in the area of greatest need for long term rainforest protection.
Other strategies discussed included: architectural design focused on sustainability, reforestation, well-managed timber harvest and valuable timber products, forest certification and sourcing certified products, carbon offset projects that reward conservation, increased indigenous ownership and governance of forests, and taking pressure off tropical forests by recycling wood and utilizing North American species to serve North American markets.
Conclusion: With many different viewpoints, organizations and fields of expertise represented the event was lively, and productive. Speakers and audience represented a wide range of valid strategies for addressing the threats to tropical forests and the communities within them. Many new connections were made with opportunities for follow up. It was widely agreed that this was a rare opportunity to bring proponents of different strategies into a common dialog and to see how we fit into a larger picture of sustainability.
Our next event will follow a similar format, but we intend to address new themes and topics. We hope to recruit another line-up of interesting contributors, and gather at a larger venue. Please make sure you are on our mailing list to get the next event notification!
February 16, 2011
Dear Brooklyn Bridge Forest Supporters,
Having just returned from the tropics and still recovering from hundreds of fire ant and other mysterious insect bites, I wanted to write immediately with exciting news. The trip to Nicaragua surpassed my hopes for a quick immersion in the complex realities of sustainable forestry. Dozens of people from many walks of life received our project with real enthusiasm—whether Nicaragua is the BBF’s ultimate home or not.
Here’s a short summary of what we saw and heard; jump the bullets for the long story:
• Nicaragua has the largest area of standing rain forest in the Western Hemisphere after the Amazon, but deforestation is progressing rapidly.
• Deforestation is due to agricultural expansion, mostly by small-scale farmers. Converting forests to cow pasture is currently the easiest (and often only) way to survive off of the land.
• In many senses, indigenous people represent the intact forest within the local economy. They have considerable autonomy over decisions impacting the intact forests, and a real cultural interest in preserving these forests, but limited economic development options.
• Working directly with these people is critical to maintaining and increasing rainforest cover. Everyone we spoke to in Nicaragua insisted that sustainable development was a must for both indigenous people and forest protection.
• Numerous sustainable forestry initiatives exist in Nicaragua, and all suffer from meager start-up capital, undeveloped international markets for certified sustainable wood products, and/or lack of viable entrepreneurship models.
Exploring Sustainable Forestry in Nicaragua:
After landing in Managua, our journey began south of the beach town of San Juan Del Sur. We were met by Aram Terry of Maderas Sostenibles, who took us out to several tree plantations that grow a mix of native and non-native species. Tree plantations (both monoculture and mixed species) offer carbon-capture and biodiversity benefits over open pasture, to be sure, but don’t fully address the need for rainforest protection. Seeing any reforestation in action, however, was encouraging. Land that had been cow pasture only five years ago was now beginning to look like a forest, which is certainly a step in the right direction.
From the southwest corner of the country we traveled north through Managua to visit one of Nicaragua’s forestry gurus. Adrian Ubeda is a sawmill owner who has worked in virtually every aspect of forestry and timber for over 30 years. Adrian nurtures a lifelong interest in creating community enterprises, and he was able to share with us a plan based on his decades of hands-on, practical experience. Great, we thought—esp. given that so many well-meaning projects suffer from an imbalance of idealism and realism. We weren’t disappointed. Adrian’s model for a 4500-hectare “perpetual forest” employing and supporting 50 indigenous families became the base plan we refined over the rest of the trip.
From Managua we boarded a single-prop plane bound for the RAAN area, the frontier where most of Nicaragua’s intact rainforest remains. The flight promised to be depressing. To get to RAAN you fly over hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland that were once rainforest—some until quite recently. Our plane landed on a small dirt strip outside Rosita, a lively, tiny town that put the Wild West frozen in time in mind. But rather than hitching our horses and ducking into the saloon we set out to explore some community forestry initiatives that are already underway.
Standing for hours—yes, hours—in the back of a Land Cruiser, we bucked and bounced our way to the community center of the Layasika people. This group has been working on a Rainforest Alliance and FSC-certified community forestry project for 4 years. With some “Miskito” language translation we were able to discuss the goals and challenges of their project, and present the idea of partnering with Brooklyn Bridge Forest. This idea was met with much enthusiasm, as two of the greatest challenges the Layasika face are 1) lack of seed capital and 2) how to boost the market value of sustainably harvested wood and wood products. The BBF is poised to provide the first and accomplish the second.
Then we traveled deeper into the forest to see some small-scale logging, both FSC-certified and uncertified. Much of this forest region was devastated by Hurricane Felix in 2007, and as the government struggles to balance the extraction of windfall timber with conventional logging, regulations remain in flux. We were able to witness firsthand the impact of timber extraction—the process of removing trees or timber from a forest—and compare it to the “slash-and-burn” conversion of rainforest to pasture we had seen on the edge of the forest not too far away. Small-scale felling and extraction of “chain-saw timber” seemed vastly preferable to the alternative. It also supported a roughly equal number of families.
But the question remained, Do sustainable forestry projects ensure that the area won’t be converted to agriculture?
After several days exploring the RAAN area around Rosita, we headed back to Managua to discuss Brooklyn Bridge Forest with several other experts in sustainable forestry. We met with representatives of Futuro Forestal and the president of JAGWOOD. These organizations have invested tremendously in the issues of tropical forest protection and expansion by creating and supporting truly sustainable community and business models. Through these meetings it became very clear that the defining feature of a successful project (in terms of forest protection) was long-term planning for the wellbeing of the local people. This in turn requires a balance of incentives and oversight, start-up capital, and most importantly, a market that supports the additional cost/value of small-scale sustainable timber yields. Currently, certified forest methods increase the costs for local people, often without a corresponding increase in wood price to these forest owners. This reduces the incentive to use sustainable methods, or even to keep the forests intact and standing at all.
We were also able to visit the showroom of Simplemente Madera, a social entrepreneurship business featuring locally crafted wood furniture made from sustainably harvested, reclaimed, and plantation-grown wood. Let me just say that as an architect, I found their products gorgeous. They’re beautifully designed and constructed. Please visit their site; I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
All in all, the trip was immensely eye-opening. The challenges that we face in our project and the cause of rainforest protection are enormous. But as several representatives said, the problem is real and new answers are urgently needed. More than ever we believe that a partnership between the Brooklyn Bridge boardwalk and a local forestry initiative may be part of the solution for rainforest protection.
Brooklyn Bridge Forest
Dear Brooklyn Bridge Forest supporters,
It has been another busy and exciting month for the Brooklyn Bridge Forest project. I’ve had the opportunity to be out on the Boardwalk several times this past month and every time I’m struck again by its timelessness and power. I mentioned in our last letter that we had been contacted by a number of interested organizations. Several of these contacts are now developing into productive collaborations.
On the forestry front, Aram Terry from Maderas Sostenibles visited us from Nicaragua. He provided us with a detailed view of his company, which is dedicated to forestry that delivers positive economic and environmental impact in Central America. Read more about Aram Terry and his efforts here: http://forestryblog.blogspot.com, http://www.nicaraguahardwoods.com
We have also had a number of meetings with PInchot Institute leadership (on the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade itself!) These expert foresters have created the Ecomadera Project in Ecuador, and Ecomadera Forest Conservation LLC. You can read more about Ecomadera and see a slide show here: www.pinchot.org/current_projects/sustainable/ecomadera
Both of these groups understand the complexity and the details of tropical forestry, and both stress the urgency of creating integrated social, economic and cultural solutions to rain forest protection.
On a slightly different note we had an intense but fruitful meeting with one of our country’s leading rain forest activists. In our long conversation we learned that biodiversity is one of the greatest concerns of the activist groups. Preserving biodiversity has always been an aim of the BBF proposal. But after hours of discussion we realized the need to integrate this concern more fully into the BBF plan. Therefore, we intend to engage biologists in assessing the biodiversity impact in the development of our forest management model.
Another meeting brought us together with Chad Berkowitz, a supportive NY lawyer with a passion for NY’s public space. Not only did he help connect us with lawyers for the public interest http://www.nylpi.org, but he also reminded us of the important role the promenade boardwalk plays in the network of NYC civic spaces. He wanted to remind BBF to take this legacy seriously – and we certainly intend too! The fact that the boardwalk remains natural wood from a sustainable source is only the beginning. BBF will address a host of issues that are important to public space. With enough momentum, we will propose solutions to address the growing bike/pedestrian conflict, and the access points at each end of the boardwalk.
What’s next: Planning is underway for a BBF Symposium in February 2011 that will bring together BBF supporters, leadership and a panel of subject experts. This panel will give short talks on a series of related topics including Brooklyn Bridge history, the rainforest, sustainable forestry and NYC civic spaces. The purpose of the event is to allow supporters and press to meet, field questions, hear details of the project, and of course, have a good time. We believe the BBF is not only about contributing to a healthy future but also about enriching lives today through shared interests and efforts: Life is full of moments framed by the things we make and how we make them. We want to make things well and have something to share …which introduces the next topic:
Competition! As part of the upcoming symposium, BBF will be hosting a competition for creative submissions embracing the subject of the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade. Submission details and prizes to be announced shortly.
With the ever-increasing momentum and support, there is much to be done and we’re so excited to move forward. As ever, we advance because of the encouragement and support from our partners and supporters, so thank you to those who have contributed their time, money, and expertise. As a reminder, the Brooklyn Bridge Forest, like all Pilot Projects, is a community focused collaborative effort. If you would like to partner, contribute or participate in any way we would love to hear from you.
Best wishes to all,
Brooklyn Bridge Forest
Dear Brooklyn Bridge Forest Supporters,
What an exciting month August has been for the project! We started the month with two intern architects from Paris coming to help on the project, then had another great public showing at the New Amsterdam Market, and are continuing to further our groundwork on website design and research. We now have hundreds of supporters and are growing daily.
When our story broke in the New York Times on August 24 it sparked a flurry of interest and debate that moved the cause straight into the public eye. The result was our interview on Channel 7 News, and an intense conversation across numerous blogs about the merits of tropical forestry in partnership with the Brooklyn Bridge restoration. I hope everyone will have a look at this online debate and weigh in where possible – the visibility of supportive representation will have an enormous impact on the project. Meanwhile, this public discourse is exactly what we have been hoping for as it has flushed out some of the fundamental issues. Many of these topics are already addressed in our website’s FAQ page, but it is important to have solid answers, so we will be updating the page with more data where it might be helpful. Please send us your questions or thoughts too, so we can continue to refine and improve the project and our communication.
Perhaps most exciting, all of the news coverage has led to three new unique rainforest interest groups – one from Nicaragua, one from Puerto Rico and one from Ecuador – reaching out to us about exploring possible partnerships. These are people “on the ground” in these regions who know the issues first hand, love our idea, and believe it could play a significant role in preserving their forests. The latest post on the NYTimes blog is a “must-read” from one of these representatives, summarizing the reality of forest preservation via real economic and social conditions.
Upcoming: We have recently reached out to local leaders in rainforest activism and are planning to organize a public forum to discuss, debate, and brainstorm the issues surrounding rainforest protection and the role of New York City in supporting a healthy global economy and ecosystem. We will send out a notification of when and where this will occur. I am also planning a rainforest excursion this Fall to gather more detailed intelligence on some of the areas, communities, tree species and existing forestry programs in question.
A special thanks to those that have been contributing in numerous ways through time, money, and expertise. As a reminder, the Brooklyn Bridge Forest, like all Pilot Projects, is a community-focused collaborative effort. If you would like to partner, contribute, or participate in any way we would love to hear from you.
Dear friends of the Brooklyn Bridge Forest,
If you missed us last time, please come visit us this Sunday August 22nd at the New Amsterdam Market. The Market is a fantastic New York City venue featuring an incredible variety of local foods, treats and crafts. We will have a table with informational materials and the Brooklyn Bridge as our backdrop. Once again we will be talking to New Yorkers about the project and our goals of protecting the Brooklyn Bridge promenade, preserving the rainforest and involving supporters directly in a globally transparent and educational process. We had a fantastic response at the last Market and are hoping to have another great day. Also, there will be a special ice cream tasting in case you need an extra incentive!
Over the last few weeks we’ve been having some interesting adventures. Two architecture students from Paris are working with Pilot Projects, and created a device to precisely count the boards on the promenade. Visit our Facebook page to see the results of their hard work – or just come on Sunday and meet them at the Market. We also had a first conversation with WNYC (who are monitoring the progress of the Brooklyn Bridge restoration) and are hoping our story will make it on the air soon.
We look forward to seeing you on Sunday,
Brooklyn Bridge Forest team
PS. For more frequent updates, join us on Facebook and Twitter!
Dear friends of the Brooklyn Bridge Forest,
Thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday to the New Amsterdam Market! It was a pleasure to talk with so many knowledgeable New Yorkers (and visitors) about the Brooklyn Bridge Forest, and great to hear your thoughts and questions as we begin to seek public support for preserving both the Brooklyn Bridge boardwalk and the environment. We have posted some photos of the event on our Facebook page.
Our plan is to continue to build momentum with more publicity and support in the coming weeks, so please spread the word about the Brooklyn Bridge Forest to your friends and family by sending them to our website, where they can sign up. This is critical as we approach the city. We would like to have 1,000 friends of the project registered this month.
We are also accepting financial donations and corporate sponsorships that will help the project gain further public support, and fund our 501C3 registration. If you know of particular people or organizations that we should be talking to, please email us at email@example.com.
Thanks again for joining us in the first step towards making the Brooklyn Bridge Forest a reality,
Brooklyn Bridge Forest team
PS. For more frequent updates, join us on Facebook and Twitter!
Dear friends of the Brooklyn Bridge Forest,
We are currently constructing a small-scale architectural model of the Promenade boardwalk showing the new sustainable hardwood planks and the signatures as they would appear on the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade. This model will be on display at the New Amsterdam Market next weekend July 24th (which we hope you will visit!).
We would love to use your signatures on this model. We need to collect 25 signatures for the model by this coming Tuesday. If you would like to support the project in this way and see your John Hancock on a very cool little architectural model, please send us an image of your signature (as a PDF or JPEG) that we will laser etch onto the planks.
You may have security concerns about doing this (although the word is still out on the implications of signature images given how easily available they are today). Of course we commit to destroying these image files once they have been used for the etching. But if you have this concern you can create a “fake” signature that we will be just as happy to use. Here is a chance to test out that new identity! This is simply a fun and graphic way to convey the message of individual sponsorship of a great cause. So, sign a piece of white paper any way you like, scan it and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then come and visit us at the New Amsterdam Market next to the South Street Seaport on July 24th, or watch for the photos on Facebook to check out the results!
Brooklyn Bridge Forest Team