The Fight for Sunlight

Jessica Mannhaupt, Staff Writer

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden is a floral utopia in the middle of an urban landscape. It has been a huge part of Brooklyn’s history since 1911 and houses 18,608 species. I visited the gardens in late April for their annual cherry blossom festival and witnessed the beauty of the landmark. Rows of cascading cherry blossom trees create a pink roof over everyone’s heads. Along with these trees are various other plants and flowers with long and confusing names. These gardens are a breath of fresh air in the midst of the cityscape. However, the lives of these plants are now being threatened by the possibility of skyscrapers blocking hours of sunlight from the gardens.

Plans to build a high-rise development are being proposed at 960 Franklin Avenue. This includes two 39-story towers that are very close to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. The proposal would block a huge amount of sunlight and harm the garden’s vast plant collection. Zone laws currently cap building height near this location at 75 feet in order to protect BBG’s access to sunlight. The plans for the new building state that the development will be six times the legal limit. The area surrounding the Gardens is strictly for low rise buildings and the fact that corporations want to disregard this is absurd. Developers want to rezone several lots at this location which will have a significant negative effect on the Brooklyn Botanical Garden nurseries, conservatories, and greenhouses. The changes will cause as much as three hours of sunlight lost daily in the spring, summer, and fall. The president of BBG, Scot Medbury, told The Wall Street Journal, “We’re worried that less light can lead to poorer plant health, greater problems with fungal diseases.” The current zoning is designed to protect the Garden’s plant collection and must not be changed.

In the continually growing cityscape of NYC, there has to be a limit to the development when it begins to damage the landmarks that bring plant life to the city. There are many things that you can do to help this cause. Add your name to the petition to urge elected officials to vote against rezoning near the Garden. You can also opt to receive updates on the cause and other ways to make your voice heard. Stand with Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s fight for sunlight!

* Photo by Jessica Mannhaupt