Gateway Triangle, bounded by Fulton Street and Gates and Vanderbilt Avenues, is aptly named. It stands at the entrance to the neighborhoods of Clinton Hill and Fort Greene, two of Brooklyn’s best-preserved historic areas. This garden park is a testament to community determination to transform a pile of rubble left from the destruction and looting during the 1977 blackout into an idyllic haven of wildflowers and songbirds.
In the late 1980s, a group of local residents began clearing this site of car parts, bricks, and debris that had piled up for a decade. A local contractor, Gilbert Rivera, donated a crew to rid the site of unwieldy rubbish and erected a chain-link fence around the perimeter of the triangle. Neighborhood gardeners obtained a license to begin work on the triangle from Operation GreenThumb, a Parks program that facilitates the transformation of vacant City-owned lots into temporary community gardens. GreenThumb, which is funded largely by community-block grants from the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program, allowed this community to purchase the plants, cleaning supplies, and garden tools necessary to reshape this once-neglected property. The Fulton Street Revival Local Development Corporation provided vital financial support as well.
In 1992, following the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s re-leveling of the sinking triangle and the surrounding sidewalk, the site was transferred to the Division of Real Property and, subsequently, to Parks. Much to the delight of the gardeners, many of them residents of the apartment building across Gates Avenue, Parks designated Gateway Triangle for development as a garden and sitting area. City Council Member Mary Pinkett’s donation of unused redevelopment funds (on the condition that the local gardeners turn over control to Parks) proved to be a windfall. She funded a $325,000 renovation that added fertile topsoil, erected a tall cast-iron fence and, with the help of a city landscape architect and volunteers from The Friends of the Gateway Triangle, laid out a new plan for the creation of a prairie environment.
Modeled loosely after the Hempstead Plain on Long Island, Gateway Triangle boasts purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), pale green rattlesnake masters (Eryngium yuccafolium), fragrant Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) and prairie blazing-stars (Liatris ligulistilis). A stone path winds its way through a grove of River birches (Betula nigra). Blue and white shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia) and red columbine (Aquilegia caerula) blanket the dusty ground, while bees buzz among blueberry bushes (Vaccinium angustifolium) and fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), and mockingbirds scold from their perches in the dogwood (Cornus coreana) and Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) trees. On land that was fresh-water wetland before the first European settlers of New York City arrived, Brooklyn now has in Gateway Triangle a patch of restored “prairie” it can be proud to call its own.