CB1 Calls for Fewer Plantings, More Entrances in BPC Oval Lawn Redo Plan

Detail of rendering shows proposed addition of perenials and a hedge around the oval lawn in Brookfield Place. The hedge would offer greenery during the winter and encourage people to enter the lawn at access points in order to help reduce erosion. Permeable pavers would replace the asphalt walkway. Rendering: Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects

Nov. 05, 2019

Closer. But not close enough. That was the opinion of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee after seeing a revised plan last month for redoing two adjacent park spaces in Brookfield Place. 

Brookfield Properties, which maintains the oval lawn near Liberty Street, and the shady, maze-like Birch Grove to the north, wants to fix a drainage problem in the lawn. That has led to a plan to raise the lawn slightly towards the center and replace the asphalt path with water permeable pavers as part of a makeover for both spaces. 

As James Morrissey, Brookfield’s director of operations, told the committee, “It grew into a much bigger project because as soon as you attempt to do one thing then it creates two other things that need to be done in order for the first thing to be done effectively.”

The committee objected to the first redo plan for the lawn, shown in June by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLM), because it reduced the amount of lawn area by adding plantings and an evergreen hedge around the grass, a design meant to reduce erosion by limiting access points onto the lawn and helping with drainage. The revised plan, which added two more lawn entrances, called for narrower plantings.

“We reduced the amount of [proposed] planting that is below the cherry trees,” said Alexis Gagnè of MNLM, referring to the trees that stand along the edge of the lawn. “We tried to tighten the plantings up as close to the cherry trees so that we maintain the most active lawn space.” The plantings are needed, the landscape architects say, to help protect the exposed tree balls from being trampled, or creating trip hazards.

But the committee, in its resolution, complained that the revised design does not give back enough lawn. Though it provided five entry points instead of the previously proposed three, they said they wanted still less planting and more lawn access. “I like the idea of some [plantings],” said committee chair Tammy Meltzer. “But minimal.”

As the committee requested, the designers did away with its earlier idea of reconfiguring what is now a squarish, maze-like path in the Birch Grove. And new benches and picnic tables will be fixed, not movable. But the reaction to proposed light-colored pavers, still in the plan, didn’t sit well with the committee. 

“It changes the whole character. It doesn’t blend in,” said committee member Justine Cuccia. “All of a sudden it looks like you’re in an office. I get that that may be what Brookfield is wanting, because they’re a business but this is our neighborhood park, too, and the coloring matters.”

To this point, Signe Nielsen, a principal of the landscape firm, could be reassuring.

“There are many color options and there are ones that certainly go to the tans, the browns.

Brookfield Properties is making “further, final modifications to the plan in response to feedback from the community and will submit the final design to [the Battery Park City Authority] soon,” Brookfield spokesman Andrew Brent said in an email.