Bettina’s Biocultural Brooklyn

Biocitizen is so lucky to have Brooklyn friends— parents who’ve enrolled their kids in our Western MA Our Place Summer School, so they can walk the Nonotuck Biome and get off the screen and into the green. One such friend is Bettina Schneider, whose two sons Nico and Lee were the first Brooklyn-ites to walk with us.

Here’s a pic of Nico with the Claws on the highest peak in New England; he’ll be climbing with us in two weeks, this time doing the entire Presidential Range, one of the world’s classic alpine treks. (2 spots still available btw; 6/30-7/4; drop off and pickup in Northampton MA).

One of the wonderful things about Biocitizen is that our students relay what we teach in the field, and stimulate environmental philosophy reflections and discussions at home. In our correspondence, while scheduling Nico’s participation in this summer’s offerings, Bettina wrote us this vignette about how she discovered a fragment of Brooklyn’s biocultural history through her father’s own investigations, and how that set off a deep enrichment of her sense of place:

below are a couple interesting maps my dad came across, in an attempt to piece together answers to a couple questions: 1) why does water keep making its way into a neighbors cellar? and 2) what exactly are the cut stones buried in the (their) yard? about 3 years ago he went to a talk at the brooklyn historical society on sewers and waterways. he met an environmental planner named eymund diegel. here’s a little about him:

i believe the next thing was that my dad came across an overlaid map that eymund diegel had made, using an historical map made in 1776 (?) by a british mapmaker named george sproule that showed a british fort built where my parents’ block is now. the fort was destroyed around 1825. here’s the sproule map:

the red house in the map is my parents’ house, and you can see that the fort wall ran right through one end of their lot (the yard).
if i understand correctly, i think deigel believes that the neighbor’s house with its sump pump was probably built near the water source that would have been the reason to build a fort in that particular location. my dad was just talking about how nature always finds its way in—all those cellar sump pumps are a great example of that!
he just mentioned when i was talking to him earlier tonight that there are tons of historical maps that help explain the waterways and development in the david rumsey collection.
and this group that eymund diegel seems to be a dream team of people you might be able to talk to about programming and education. but diegel’s background is so perfect for what you wrote about—i can’t even believe it. here’s the organization:

it would be incredible if eymund diegel could spend a day with the kids. they could spend an entire week (or career!) studying this stuff.

> THANK YOU SO MUCH Bettina!! Your family inspired Biocitizen to offer Our Place Summer School in Brooklyn—still a few spots open the week of July 22-26! Biocitizen is following up on all you’ve suggested too! Gowanus is one of our outdoor classrooms—more on that in our next post!

Source: Biocitizen, Inc. – New York, NY

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