We recently had the opportunity to visit Kingsland Wildflowers, a little-known native wildflower rooftop garden located in Brooklyn along Newtown Creek. In collaboration with local businesses and wildlife experts, the garden seeks to promote New York City’s wildlife and provide educational programming regarding sustainable conservation.
The existence of Kingsland Wildflowers is in itself a bit of a secret. It’s a project of the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF), a fund created with money that the State of New York received from a settlement with ExxonMobil over the Greenpoint oil spill.
The spill began as early at 1948, but a Coast Guard helicopter spotted it in Newtown Creek in 1978. It has been estimated to be composed of 17 to 30 million gallons of oil and other chemicals. This left Newtown Creek’s biodiverse tidal estuary a virtual dead zone. A federal jury found ExxonMobil responsible for the spill in 2009, awarding $104.7 million to the city.
Today, the Kingsland Wildflowers roof garden spans the roof of a warehouse at 520 Kingsland Avenue which also houses Last Frontier NYC, a private art studio which frequently serves as a “presentation arena for international artists across multiple disciplines.”
It takes a lot of work to ensure the garden is able to thrive so many stories up from the ground. The construction process of the Kingsland Wildflowers was an intricate one. The first phase included the installation of a protective layer which separates roots and water from the actual roof along with drainage which diverts excess water off the building. Soil was lifted to the roof in one-ton bags using cranes and then was emptied out onto the protective layer.
The landscape of Kingsland Wildflowers was done by Alive Structures, a female-owned and Greenpoint-based landscaping company, which is responsible for green roofs and structures at a Lacoste Fashion Week Event, a roof atop Under Amour’s New York City office, and many other locations including in Park Slope, TriBeCa, Irving Place, and the Upper East Side. Founder Marni Marjorelle is a Green Roof Specialist, Gardener, and Biology Conservationalist.
Speaking to DNAinfo in August, Marjorelle emphazied the necessity to rooftop gardens. “Rooftops are underused real estate in New York City,” she said. “We could be doing so much.”
Today, the rooftop oasis acts as a natural habitat to foster local bird and wildlife populations in New York City. (New York City Audubon has listed 18 bird species on their “Species of Concern” List for the state of New York.) Among the birds likely found enjoying the roof garden include the wood-thrush and the orange-breasted robin. New York City Audubon, a grassroots community with about 10,000 members, has partnered with Kingsland Wildflowers to develop this habitat as well as to promote community programming.
For more information on the Newtown Creek, check out The Top 10 Secrets of Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and for more NYC secrets check out The Top 13 Secrets of NYC’s Staten Island Ferry.