Untapped Cities 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.