Environment, Parks

Brooklyn Greenway Initiative knows how to throw a great fundraiser, by Sarah Matusek

For BGI’s summer fundraiser, it’s a good idea to come hungry.

Photo by Sarah Matusek.

There’s more to Brooklyn than brunch. Just ask Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, whose annual summer fundraiser, Brooklyn Waterfront Tastes, combines the boozy weekend meal with bicycles and grassroots activism.

In its thirteenth year, BGI’s brunch-tasting event lucked out with a day of sunshine and drew a crowd of around 200 to an Industry City courtyard on Sunday, July 9, in Sunset Park.

Founded in 1998, BGI is committed to the development and long-term preservation of a fourteen mile Greenway spanning Greenpoint to Bay Ridge. The nonprofit has already transformed six miles of waterfront into mixed pedestrian and bicycle use.

As funding permits, New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has committed to 23 capital projects that comprise the Greenway’s construction. So far BGI has scored $20 million in federal funds for projects costing an estimated $1 million to 20 million each, notes the nonprofit’s website.

Headquartered in the Columbia Waterfront District, BGI sits close to its two-acre planned green space on Columbia Street between Kane and Degraw. The property in progress represents a collaboration between city and citizens; volunteers have planted native grasses while DOT has installed benches and bike racks.

BGI plans to utilize Greenway space as hurricane flood barriers in Red Hook and Sunset Park — two neighborhoods hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. BGI collaborates with landscape architects and environmental engineers to find sustainable solutions to stormwater infrastructure.

Brooklyn Waterfront Tastes guests ate, drank, and were merry. Photo by Sarah Matusek.

DJ TONY kept Sunday’s fundraiser crowd upbeat with jams worthy of a dance party, but most guests had their hands full with tapas-style bites and brews.

Participating eateries included Glasserie, Filament, Pok Pok, Nine Cakes, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies, Feel Good Foods, The Hop Shop, Baba’s Pierogis, Brooklyn Bread Lab, Pinto, and Grady’s Cold Brew. Some local vendors raffled off goods in support of the nonprofit. One lucky bruncher even walked away with a free VanMoof bike — a ride that’s priced at $948.

The Hop Shop, a craft beer hang-out, shares the same Columbia Street block as BGI.

“It’s always a pleasure for us,” said Alex Meija, dishing out kimchi quesadillas on behalf of The Hop Shop. “We like to help however we can…It’s good to give back to the neighborhood.”

Helena Fabiankovic, co-owner of Baba’s Pierogis, called her day serving mac-and-cheese-filled Polish dumplings “amazing.”

“We love participating in these kinds of events,” said Fabiankovic. “I’m a born and raised Sunset Parker, which is my neighborhood that I think [BGI] are trying to incorporate on this Greenway, which is pretty awesome.”

The comfort-food eatery owner pointed out that 3rd Avenue, a busy street used to access Industry City, is dangerous to cyclists with its heavy traffic and potholes.

According to BGI board chairman Michael Cairl, the city is about to begin construction of a Greenway segment along 2nd Avenue, transforming it into a “fully separated bike and pedestrian path” slated to open by 2019.

For BGI co-founder and interim executive director Brian McCormick, Brooklyn Waterfront Taste’s second year at Industry City was meaningful in light of the nonprofit’s vision for the Sunset Park waterfront.

“[The location] shines a spotlight on BGI’s long-held plan of creating a safe separated greenway route connecting the Red Hook Greenway to the Sunset Park Greenway and the Sunset Park Greenway to Owls Head Park in Bay Ridge,” McCormick commented in an email.

The BGI activist — a longtime local of the Columbia Waterfront — envisions millions of New Yorkers benefitting from the “borough-wide encircling greenway” not just for work commutes, but for recreation.

“With the explosive growth of businesses in Sunset Park and bike to work options increasingly embedded in lifestyle choices, we anticipate the Greenway in Sunset Park to be [a] heavily used corridor,” wrote McCormick. “The demand is there and it is now inevitable.”

Fundraiser attendees included some of BGI’s nonprofit and agency partners, elected officials, and a representative of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

“The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative’s commitment to open space and environmental stewardship has helped connect New Yorkers to our waterfront through trails and green spaces. It is up to all of us to do our part in fighting for a better future for our children and planet,” said Senator Gillibrand in a statement to the Star-Revue.

“In a bustling city where green space is in short supply, the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway has provided an invaluable resource to millions of New Yorkers,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.

“Too often we don’t have opportunities to interact with nature and this park has become a focal point for those seeking much needed outdoor activity and greenery. I want to thank the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative for their continued work to develop and maintain this resource that has had a tremendous impact on so many.”

Next up, Brooklyn Greenway will hold its annual “glowtastic night ride” — Brooklyn Bike Rave — on Saturday, July 22. Paced at a family-friendly speed, the dayglow party on wheels will feature hundreds of decked-out cyclists on a seven mile stretch of the Greenway. A live radio show pump tunes will through portable speakers.

Bike Rave tickets, between $25 and $45, can be purchased on the nonprofit’s website. Volunteer opportunities are also available.

The fundraiser took place in one of Industry City’s open-air courtyards. Photo by Sarah Matusek.


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