This paper examines narratives from users and designers of a recently opened public park created via brownfield remediation processes on a historically industrial urban waterfront in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City. Interviews reveal that designers and community members were pivotal contributors to the transformation of a site that was previously associated with danger and toxicity into something of greater ecological and social value. Designers’ visions played a key role in subsequent user experiences in the park, but community input and struggle both sparked, and drastically altered, the park’s design trajectory in an effort to claim the park as a neighborhood asset and limit the degree to which it would contribute to displacement of existing residents. This project is unique because it is a publicly funded remediation of a municipally-owned contaminated site, yet initial project designs were geared toward on-site revenue generation to fund operations. Two broad implications of this study are (a) projects of this nature can represent a paradox of activism in that it is unclear how far community activism can go to address the systemic problems associated with environmental gentrification and (b) there is a need for studies of environmental gentrification to take a granulated approach to the positive and negative aspects associated with these spaces rather than look at them as more holistically positive or negative endeavors. The multiple scales of ambiguity and ambivalence that emerged from this study are emblematic of the dynamics associated with brownfield remediation, green space creation in historically underserved communities, and environmental gentrification.
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