Navy Yard reinvents old cemetery site as place for reflection

Brooklyn Navy Yard (BNY), while known for its innovative commercial spaces and growing job market, has debuted its first open, public space, part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, located on the site of a decades-old former Naval Cemetery.

The design of the 1.7 acre Naval Cemetery Landscape, open to the public as of Friday, May 20, is said to pay tribute to veterans.

“After 90 years, the transformation of this space will create a place where the community can come together,” said Brooklyn Navy Yard President and CEO David Ehrenberg. “As we approach Memorial Day, we are reminded of the significant military history of the Yard, and through the thoughtful landscape design, we hope to honor those roots.”

According the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC), the new open space “reimagines the site as a public place for passive recreation” and “an immersive experience in native ecology that provides visitors with an escape from the urban environment.”

The result of a partnership between the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) and BNYDC, the site is one of six across the country funded by TKF Foundation – a private nonprofit private that supports, informs and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces – and will be part of a study that explores the importance of nearby nature to human resiliency.

“This sacred space embodies how the human-nature connection can be realized in cities,” stated Tom Stoner, TKF Foundation co-founder. “It is an excellent example of how green space can foster social cohesion and the research being done here should offer insights for other city planners on the value such spaces bring to cities and their residents.”

“We hope this site will provide many area residents with the opportunity to step out of the city momentarily and immerse themselves in natural surroundings that provide relief from stress and help restore focus, attention and personal resiliency,” added Milton Puryear, BGI’s co-founder and director of project development.

The former Brooklyn Naval Hospital Cemetery site is located in the southeast corner of the Yard and was active from 1834 to 1910, according to BNYDC.  It was the burial site for more than 2,000 individuals, most of them officers and enlisted men of the US Navy and Marine Corps.

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