When I first met Brian McCormick, Milton Puryear and Meg Fellerath in the spring of 2002, they were picking up trash and planting tulips alongside a Brooklyn-Queens Expressway off-ramp in Cobble Hill. I asked them what they were up to and they told me they were working to create a waterfront greenway for Brooklyn — a linear park running from Greenpoint to Red Hook. I didn’t have the heart to tell them they looked like a gang of juvenile delinquents paying off 40 hours of community service for shop-lifting. Clearly, these people were either insane or visionary.
At the time, Brian, Milton and Meg had no serious funding, no office and no particularly powerful allies or sponsors. They just had a great idea and a ton of persistence. They kept picking up trash, planting flowers, organizing the community and pushing their idea. Today the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative is a professional non-profit organization with capital funding from the federal government, an office on Columbia Street and all kinds of high-powered allies and sponsors. They may or may not be insane, but they are definitely visionary.
Personally, I find the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative to be one of the most inspired and exciting community-driven development projects in all of New York City (take that, High Line). This Thursday evening, BGI is hosting a benefit event on the beach at East River State Park. There will be cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and music. If you are not already involved in the Greenway, this is a great chance to get in on the ground floor of shaping the future of Brooklyn’s waterfront and, in the process, creating a more livable city.