Kingsland Wildflower Roof

When last we visited this Greenpoint wildflower garden, it was right after its opening.Now the first generation of wildflowers sprouting here have emerged, with more blooms to come.Currently, the garden is only open for events. Eric W. Sanderson was talking about Newtown Creek’s history, in the context of the Welikia Project. This is an elaboration of the Mannahatta Project, the envisioning of what was here before New York City (and New Amsterdam), a catalog of the landscapes, habitats, species, and interrelationships of all these things before the coming of the Europeans. It’s an absolutely fascinating study, ever expanding. Knowing what we’ve lost to vital to knowing what we can regain.

Newtown Creek was a tidal creek surrounded with saltwater marshes, with fresh water streaming in from the northeast. It was canalized and industrialized — at some point in the 19th century it was the country’s seconds busiest waterway after the Mississippi! — and now sits astride one of the largest underground oil leaks in the country. Civilization, we hardly knew ya! Actually, speaking of civilization, those are sewage digesters in the background of the first photo.

Look for Sanderson’s presentations. (And read his book Terra Nova, an entire course in our age of petroleum.)

An offshoot of the Creek is called Whale Creek. Why? Did a whale wash ashore there once? Were whales harvested there at some point? Before petroleum, light, fuel, and lubricants came from whales.

8 Responses to “Kingsland Wildflower Roof”


  1. 1 Deborah Allen May 13, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    Just wondering what that striking blue wildflower is. It’s blooming in several city parks right now.

  2. 4 David Burg May 15, 2017 at 12:15 am

    I do not think this flower is currently found wild in the city, range is usually listed as being a bit south of us. Happy to be wrong on that. Interesting plant, wild hyacinth, root was eaten by Native Americans. Related to camass, so important out west. Lots of plants on this roof, like columbine, are or were native in the region but no longer in the city. Nor anywhere too close, far as I know. I am skeptical about these green roofs. They are garden like assemblages of plants, nothing like wild communities. Might not solar panels be better for the environment, and perhaps fewer buildings but more green space? Ongoing collapse of retail should be providing opportunities for fewer buildings, but nobody seems to think about that. As for whales, I was surprised to learn that gray whales were once found here. These shore hugging whales were some of the first to go. I think they were extirpated by the 1700s, if I remember correctly. Learned about them from a display at the Smithsonian museum. The east coast version of Scammon Lagoon, the Pacific wintering and calving ground, was Chesapeake Bay. Now that numbers have built up out west again one was seen off the coast of Spain. Given enough time and freedom from exploitation it is nice to fantasize their recolonization of our area. Recent resurgence of other species gives hope?

  3. 5 Deborah Allen May 15, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Thanks David, I’ll have to get out my Newcomb’s and key out the plants in Shakespeare Garden, but the blooms are fading fast. The fresh flowers are purple, but many have faded to pale blue now, so matching photos on the net not a great idea. They’re also planted in Battery Park.

  4. 6 mthew May 15, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    A Twitter correspondent reports that a pink lady slipper has appeared on his Westchester property for the first time in 17 years. Wildflowers are wonderfully complicated parts of magnificent systems of species and chemistries; something this rooftop does not and can not replicate. I share David’s questions about the point of places like it. It was funded by $ from the settlement over the oil spill in one of those non-profit smackdowns. Such competitive distributions are subject to the whims of fashion: once it was solar roofs, now it’s green roofs, next time it will be something else. Is this any way to run a railroad?

  5. 7 Laurie McIntosh May 16, 2017 at 8:47 am

    So cool to know about this! I live in the Catskills, but my sister lives in Greenpoint. I’ll definitely check this out the next time I visit. BTW – I subscribed to your blog last spring while prepping to lead some nature-based Arts in Educations programs at schools in Brooklyn, so that I could reference what’s blooming locally & encourage the kids to check out blooms, bugs, birds etc in their own backyard. I love your posts, and will share the blog!


  1. 1 Other Rooftops | Backyard and Beyond Trackback on May 20, 2017 at 8:34 am

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