Shirley Chisholm State Park is a transformative project that encompasses 407 acres of land on the Brooklyn, New York waterfront. Now the largest State Park in New York City, it sits atop two capped landfills, which had previously restricted visual and physical access to Jamaica Bay.
The new park contains a range of opportunities for the public to enjoy the beauty of the site with elements of ecological restoration.
WSP served as prime consultant and led project management, design and construction support. Project elements feature lawn and raised landscape patio areas, water access locations including a dock and gangway, shade structures, park entrance roads, pedestrian paths and sidewalks, wayfinding and signage, site lighting and an overall invasive species control plan.
The project required extensive coordination with both state and federal agencies including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, New York City Parks, New York State Department of Transportation, New York City Department of Transportation and the National Park Service.
Two important needs of this park were activity space and shade. These two features helped transform the park into an oasis of natural beauty and life.
Because of drainage, settlement and loading limitations on the existing landfill cap, WSP came up with a unique system of geofoam, glass aggregate, petroleum resistant membrane and drainage mat. The system was utilized to create landscape atop the landfill.
This system was unique in application as well. It was being constructed in an elevated location (over 100 feet) in an area with high winds (up to 110 miles per hour). Yet, the system still conformed to the shape of a natural landform. The finished system underneath the soil and plantings is evocative of a jigsaw puzzle.
Topping it off, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the architect that created the amphitheater-like design, along with soil scientist Tim Craul, found a way to plant shade trees on and around it.
This team had to utilize a limited list of approved plant species not only because of the ecological limitations, but also because of nearby John F. Kennedy International Airport. The Port Authority restricts trees that could have multitudes of birds nesting nearby. Regardless of these restrictions, the Skybowl (as it is named) provides relaxing overlooks to Jamaica Bay and skyline views of the surrounding city.
Shipping containers that have been repurposed as education centers and yurts are located on both sides of the park. These structures are used for similar learning, but also include information on wetlands, coastal protection and, of course, Shirley Chisholm herself.
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