Brooklyn Greenway Will Fight Stormwater Surges as Nature Does

Part of a long-term plan for beautifying and bracing NYC, the project will offer a naturally enforced path along waterfront

After years of planning, Brooklyn is set to receive a lengthy stretch of new greenway for its residents’ enjoyment. As the project’s plans make clear, however, the added green space will also serve to protect the borough from rising water levels related to storms and other effects of climate change.

Released last week, the report conveys collaborative research and planning for the project from the NYS Department of State, Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI), multidisciplinary design and planning firm WE Design, and environmental engineering and planning firm eDesign Dynamics.

Running from Greenpoint through Sunset Park, Brooklyn as a continuous 14-mile path with separated bike and pedestrian lanes, the greenway project offers landscape-rich design for surge water protection but also seeks to improve “qualify of life” in the borough by beautifying public spaces and increasing their accessibility. The report noted:

Superstorm Sandy taught us that protection from storm surges, and climate change in general are also needed along NYC’s waterfront edges. This project will demonstrate how a network of city Greenways can play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change, in addressing our imminent stormwater challenges, and contributing to overall community resilience.

“When we think about the Brooklyn Greenway as a route, we think about it being a corridor that moves people, bikes, skaters, skateboarders,” said We Design co-founder Tricia Martin at a Jan. 13 press conference. Martin, a former president of the New York City Chapter of Landscape Architects, added, “We started to think it also could be a great corridor for moving water and the collection of water.”


The plans include a variety of landscaping and/or infrastructure typologies, ranging from plant life ones — such as wetlands, rain gardens, and multi-level resiliency barriers — to updated catch basins, gravel beds, and porous paving. As the report concludes, this combination of techniques could help to divert as much as a half-billion gallons of surge water from Brooklyn’s sewers, which were dangerously overburdened during Superstorm Sandy.


As the report revealed, the campaign to establish the greenway’s route and secure federal and state funding for its development has been a ten-year effort led by BGI, Regional Planning Association, and UPROSE. In addition to the Brooklyn greenway’s 14-mile path, city planners have also envisioned future greenway expansions to include 55 miles in the Bronx, 35 additional miles in Brooklyn, 32 in Manhattan, 63 in Queens, and 20 in Staten Island, all of which could buffer the five boroughs against high waters but also “link under-served communities to their waterfronts and recreational destinations.”

To date, the New York City Parks Department and its partners have secured $133 million in state and federal funding to move forward with 41.6 miles of new greenway space over the next four years.


“We can be environmentally friendly and have beautification at the same time,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams stated. BGI co-founder Milton Puryear also noted, “It would be a shame 20 years from now to look back and say, ‘I wish we had thought of green infrastructure.'”

Brooklyn Greenway Initiative