Taking on Mugwort in Bay Ridge

By the Narrows Botanical Gardens. Photo by Salma Elazab/Bklyner

James Johnson, a landscape designer and co-founder of the Narrows Botanical Garden, would love to see mugwort gone from the neighborhood. To this end, Johnson proposed the installation of a native plant garden along the Belt Parkway in Bay Ridge at the Community Board 10 (Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights) transportation committee meeting, on January 26.

Aerial view of the Belt Parkway and Narrows Botanical Garden Area, with bordering strip of land highlighted. Image from project presentation.

The area to be tackled is a strip of land, marked up in green in the image above. The area is approximately a quarter of a mile long, and about 20 to 30 feet wide, depending on location. It is visible from the highway, as well as from inside the Narrows Botanical Garden.

Currently, the space is occupied by weeds and plants that have accumulated from lack of care, as well as overgrown bushes and invasive species that were not purposefully planted there. One of the plants that grow in the area is mugwort, an invasive species from Europe that is not only expensive to maintain but also displaces native plants and promotes seasonal hay fever.

“It’s as beneficial for us environmentally as having cement there”, said Johnson. “It does nothing for the environment or native plants and insects.”

Screenshot from Johnson’s presentation

Replacing mugwort with native plants and meadow flowers would lower maintenance costs and add to the aesthetic beauty of the neighborhood. Native grasses would also be wind and salt tolerant, help prevent flooding, and accommodate native species.

Native birds, such as the bluebird, would return to the area.

The strip of land is owned and managed by the Department of Transportation, which has not yet approved the proposal.

“We don’t want D.O.T. to do anything except permit us to use the area,” said Johnson.

While Johnson’s plan to fund this project is unclear, Leroy Branch, a representative from the Department of Transportation and community coordinator for Community Board 10 was present during the meeting and volunteered to present the proposal to the Department of Transportation.

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