Plants & Gardens Blog

BBG Weathers Hurricane Sandy

Four days after the worst of the storm hit Brooklyn, the newly reopened Garden was full of visitors and goodwill, suffused with the sort of community spirit that seems to catch New Yorkers by surprise after winter’s first snowfall. On Sunday, birdwatchers documented 26 visiting species, families enjoyed drop-in children’s activities, and a group of visitors practiced calming yoga and meditation in the Lillian and Amy Goldman Atrium. Immediately following the storm, the BBG horticulture team jumped into action to clear major areas and make the Garden safe for visitors, and we were happy to be able to offer a place of beauty and refuge.

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy remains amply evident in the piles of brush and downed trees lining paths and areas of the Garden that remain cordoned off for visitor safety. Though the Garden was lucky to be spared more extensive damage, the storm’s impact was substantial. In the Osborne Garden, a line of 80-year-old little-leaf lindens (Tilia cordata) lie on their sides, roots exposed. In other parts of the Garden, several large pin oaks (Quercus palustris), fruit trees (Prunus species), and a historically significant Chinese parasol tree (Firmiana simplex) were destroyed.

The past few years have been particularly tough for New York City’s green spaces. Droughty summers and early, wet snows have created challenges only compounded by a series of major storms that have struck the area—the worst snowstorm in 60 years, an unprecedented tornado, and two hurricanes, the last one of nearly unimaginable magnitude. In recent years, BBG has lost or sustained major damage to more than 100 mature trees and shrubs, all of which were historically and botanically significant. Replacing them will require care for generations to come. The good news is that, however distressing the losses, we can plan for the future and start again. Times like this remind us that plants, trees, and gardens are about renewal. Seeds and saplings will be nurtured and the collection will rebound.

Meanwhile, post-storm cleanup continues. On Monday, four arborists hoisted themselves into treetops (to heights that lifts can’t reach) to assess crown damage and remove hanging limbs so that teams can work safely below. Where trees have fallen, staff are sectioning and chipping them into a mountain of future mulch for BBG’s collections. Cleanup work will be ongoing through the next month, and restricted areas of the Garden will reopen as they are cleared. We plan to post additional blog items as the cleanup proceeds.

Many members of BBG’s community have asked how they can help with our renewal efforts. If you would like to support the Garden’s recovery, you can make a contribution to BBG.


  • Stephanie Pietrangelo November 15, 2012

    I was raised in Park Slope and the Botanic Garden filled my soul and spirit with beauty. I would pass it every day going back and forth to high school. On Sundays,  I would walk and walk from one part to the other—each season of the year.
    I moved across the bridge and returned often with my children. We loved the Japanese Garden the most. Now my daughter lives directly across from BBG and has a membership.

    The downed trees brought tears to my eyes. I LOVE that Garden!

  • Elli November 10, 2012

    I visited the garden and saw some of the little leaf lindens lying on their side (I could have cried). The trees still look whole, can they be replanted or is the root system too damaged?

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