Brooklyn: green space programming in action

Unexpected Urban Nature

Community green spaces can spring to life in surprising places. Take the Naval Cemetery Landscape in Brooklyn, for example.

The former Naval Hospital Cemetery had been behind a fence, inaccessible to the public since for nearly a century, until recently. Just a few years ago, this green space was opened, as part of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. The space now offers a public green space that revitalizes “native plant and pollinator populations in the region and its design includes a raised walkway to allow visitors to enter the space without disturbing the hallowed ground,” per their website

Six years ago, when we embarked on a multi-million dollar grant program—the National Nature Sacred Awards Program—this space was one of the sites selected to create and build a Sacred Place with the specific intent of learning more about the healing effects of nature on people.  

Cultivating Community.

We love how this space is unfolding, evolving and engaging its community. It welcomes Brooklyn residents from all walks of life a means to come together in a beautiful space set apart from the busyness of urban life—in nature. In Brooklyn. In a cemetery, deep with history and meaning.

Just this May, we journeyed up to New York to participate in the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative’s Season Opener at the Naval Cemetery Landscape—a welcoming of the warm weather, and each other, after a long winter. Events such as these offer meaningful ways to grow awareness of a public green space; a neighborly nudge to visit, participate and return.

“We approached this event as though it was an open house—inviting the community to drop by, casually, anytime between 11 and 4. By contacting our partners who already offer programming in the space, we were able to offer the community a wide breadth of activities: sonic meditation, environmental education station, yoga, guided tours and a beekeeping demo,” said Terri Carta, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative. 


While the event was brimming with activities and togetherness, there was a larger intent—beyond generating awareness of the space.

“Something powerful happens when you bring people into this space—they recognize the value and beauty it offers. They come to connect with it, care for it and, over time, take a bit of ownership of it. This is where individuals shift from casual participants to environmental stewards of the space. And for us, that’s success on many levels,” quotes Terri, “Not only are they helping us keep the space vibrant, but are strengthening as community. It’s social cohesion, something often lost today.”

Photo credit: Maureen Porto

We also used this occasion to launch our short film, Greenspace For You, that tells the story of the creation of the space and its intent.

As the weather warms, we will continue to surface stories around programming—a big part of the “Step 4: Grow” phase of our model. We love the creative ways that our network of Sacred Places bring people together in the name of unity, strengthened communities and healthier societies.

Perhaps this sparks some ideas for your end? Let us know if we can lend any guidance.