Restore Science to Brooklyn Botanic Garden
  • Petitioning Alton Murray
  • Responded

This petition will be delivered to:

Program Manager, Arts & Culture/Environment Programs, Con Edison Partnerships
Alton Murray
Director, Con Edison Public Affairs, Brooklyn
Antonia Yuille
Commissioner, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
Honorable Kate Levin
Speaker, New York City Council
Honorable Christine Quinn
Brooklyn Borough President
Honorable Marty Markowitz
Comptroller, City of New York
Honorable John C. Liu
Chair, Environmental Protection Committee, Brooklyn Community Board 9
Timothy Thomas
Chair, Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee, Brooklyn Community Board 9
Michael Cetera
Chair, Education Committee, Brooklyn Community Board 9
Fred Baptiste
President, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Scot Medbury
See response

Restore Science to Brooklyn Botanic Garden

    1. Chris Kreussling
    2. Petition by

      Chris Kreussling

      Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY, United States, NY

On Wednesday, August 21, 2013, Vice Presidents of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) notified four staff that they had been fired. The position of Director of Greenbridge, BBG’s community outreach program, was eliminated. Also eliminated were the last three research and science positions at BBG: Curator of the Herbarium, Herbarium Supervisor, and Manager of the New York Metropolitan Flora Project (NYMF). One Herbarium Technician and one part-time Herbarium Assistant, neither of which is a research position, were transferred to the Horticulture Department.

This latest round of layoffs eliminates the last vestige of support for research and science at BBG. Claims from BBG’s administration that this merely presages the “re-envisioning” of their science programs defy credibility. The current crisis is not a singular event. It's the just the most-recent expression of a pattern of decisions by which BBG has eroded its science staff, programs and activities to nothing, in violation of its mission.

The current administration was established in 2005. At every opportunity they have placed science and research last in priority. Science staff and the programs themselves have been demoted in BBG’s corporate hierarchy. No new science positions have been created. No one has been hired to fill science positions as they’ve been vacated.

Within its first two years, BBG's current administration transferred the Publications group from Science to Marketing. They demoted the Vice President of Science to Director of Science; even that diminished position no longer exists. In 2005, BBG had eight science Ph Ds on staff. Today it has none. The sole researcher BBG has claimed to have on staff is not paid by BBG, and no longer works there.

During the same period, BBG has created, expanded or maintained several senior and upper management positions in the areas of fundraising, development, communications, and marketing. BBG has completed three major infrastructure projects: the new Edibles Garden, the Visitor Center, and the Native Flora Garden expansion. A fourth project is already underway to overhaul the Children’s Garden area at the southern end of the Garden.

BBG has raised tens of millions of dollars of funding for these projects. But nothing for science.

Impacts

Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Herbarium (BKL) is an important resource to plant scientists worldwide. BKL contains many important historical plant collections, including the Whitney South Seas Expedition, the Mulford Expedition to the upper Amazon, the Camillo Schneider Cultivated Plants Collection, the Hall and Harbor Western US Expedition,  and the Nicholas Pike Mauritian Ferns, among others.

Closer to home, BKL includes records of local flora dating back to the 1700s, a history of native and invasive plants critical to conservation efforts, plant identification, and understanding of the natural history – and future – of the region. Recent collections from the New York Metropolitan Flora Project, the New Jersey watersheds and preserves, the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the New Jersey Moss Flora as well as the Catskill Mountains have added over 50,000 specimens.

Many government agencies and scientific institutions depend on the data collected by BBG scientists, including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), the Greenbelt Native Plant Center (GNPC), the New York Flora Association (NYFA), the New York Natural Heritage Program (NYNHP), the Long Island Native Plant Initiative (LINPI), the Long Island Botanical Society (LIBS), the New Jersey Natural Heritage Program (NJNHP), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Conservation (NJDEP), and others. BBG scientists, their collections, and their collaborations with all these agencies and organizations are the basis for ongoing and current understanding of the complex interactions of climate change, invasive species, habitat loss, widespread extirpation and extinction, and their impacts on the environment and ecology of the tri-state region.

Elimination of BBG’s science staff, program, and activities is a huge setback for  all of these efforts.

We call upon the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to:

  1. Reinstate Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s field work, herbarium and library access, and the scientists needed to support these programs and services.

  2. Restore science as a priority, as required by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s mission: “Engaging in research in plant sciences to expand human knowledge of plants, and disseminating the results to science professionals and the general public.”

  3. Include Brooklyn, its neighborhoods, and scientific communities – the public for which Brooklyn Botanic Garden was founded, and is funded, to serve – in all decisions affecting its research and education programs and activities.

To:
Alton Murray, Program Manager, Arts & Culture/Environment Programs, Con Edison Partnerships
Antonia Yuille, Director, Con Edison Public Affairs, Brooklyn
Honorable Kate Levin, Commissioner, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
Honorable Christine Quinn, Speaker, New York City Council
Honorable Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President
Honorable John C. Liu, Comptroller, City of New York
Timothy Thomas, Chair, Environmental Protection Committee, Brooklyn Community Board 9
Michael Cetera, Chair, Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee, Brooklyn Community Board 9
Fred Baptiste, Chair, Education Committee, Brooklyn Community Board 9
Scot Medbury, President, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Restore Science to Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Sincerely,
[Your name]

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Garden Rant, 2013-10-05

      Chris Kreussling
      Petition Organizer

      Brooklyn Botanic Garden Shuts Down Science Department
      http://gardenrant.com/?guest_post=brooklyn-botanic-garden-shuts-down-science-department

      This is my guest post on Garden Rant.

    2. Decision-maker Scot Medbury responds:

      Scot Medbury

      Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) remains strongly committed to ensuring that scientific research remains a fundamental part of its mission, and intends to resume a focused research program with an emphasis on plant conservation.

      Several ...


    3. Reached 3,000 signatures
    4. Technical.ly: Brooklyn, 2013-09-23

      Chris Kreussling
      Petition Organizer

      Science is on hiatus at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
      http://technical.ly/brooklyn/2013/09/23/science-is-on-hiatus-at-the-brooklyn-botanical-garden/

      Mostly digests other sources, such as BBG releases, the Brooklyn Eagle article, and the original DNAInfo article. Links to the petition. Uniquely, it suggests impact to Brooklyn Academy of Science and Environment (BASE).

    5. Reached 2,500 signatures
    6. Brokelyn, 2013-09-24

      Chris Kreussling
      Petition Organizer

      Petition seeks to bring science back to Brooklyn Botanic Garden
      http://brokelyn.com/petition-seeks-to-bring-science-back-to-brooklyn-botanic-garden/

      A short three paragraphs, favorable, and links to the petition.

      Opening sentence: "The Botanic Garden is nice to look at, but does anyone really think it should be relegated to the status of Brooklyn’s trophy wife?"

      Closing sentences: "Here at Brokelyn, we’re a friend of science given the many wonderful things it does for us. So count us as people who support more of it being done in our backyard."

    7. NY Times, 2013-09-22

      Chris Kreussling
      Petition Organizer

      Brooklyn Botanic Garden Defends Decision to Suspend Science Program
      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/23/nyregion/brooklyn-botanic-garden-defends-decision-to-suspend-science-program.html

      This is basically a puff piece for Scot Medbury at BBG. The petition gets mentioned, but not linked, in the second paragraph.

    8. NY Daily News, 2013-09-19

      Chris Kreussling
      Petition Organizer

      Angry tree huggers demand that Brooklyn Botanic Garden bring back axed researchers
      http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/plea-brooklyn-botanic-garden-back-roots-article-1.1461710

      (Get it? Tree? Axed?)

      The article is brief, but the quotes from Medbury signal a shift in BBG's stance. We are having an impact.

      The reporter contacted me late in the day today. We spoke for about 10 minutes. I was surprised to see it online so quickly. However, none of our conversation made it into the article. Again, the quotes attributed to me come directly from the text of the petition.

      The Daily News published an earlier article, before we launched the petition over the weekend, about the layoffs, shuttering of the herbarium, and cessation of research. A good read, especially if you are a fan of tortured horticultural puns.

      Botanic Garden’s celebrated plant research center wilts under layoffs
      http://www.nydailynews.com/botanic-garden-prunes-science-staff-article-1.1438606

    9. Reached 1,500 signatures
    10. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 2013-09-18

      Chris Kreussling
      Petition Organizer

      Brooklyn Botanic Garden denies it’s ending scientific research
      http://brooklyneagle.com/articles/brooklyn-botanic-garden-denies-it%E2%80%99s-ending-scientific-research-2013-09-18-202600

      Note that, although I'm quoted in this article, they made no attempt to contact me. (I'm easy to find!) Everything attributed to me comes from the petition.

    11. Ditmas Park Corner Blog, 2013-09-17

      Chris Kreussling
      Petition Organizer
    12. Reached 1,000 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • Wayne Fleshman NEW YORK, NY
      • 2 months ago

      I will forever be thankful for the knowledge gained at BBG's BUG program. The changes that reduce staff and research in Urban Horticulture is disappointing however I am hopeful for a resolution that builds on BBG's programming and success.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Aresh Javadi NEW YORK, NY
      • 2 months ago

      The GreenBridge program is critical in supporting the well being of thousands of low income communities who themselves help thousands around them. These community gardens are small satellite botanical programs created by urban green professors from all over the world. Creating small pockets of green oasis of food, medicine and culture - amongst the most challenging terrains in our city. The board needs to expand the GreenBridge program to highlight to the world how active Brooklyn botanical community gardeners are creating a new hope for our cities (ps i burrowed the community garden and hope part from Pete Seeger).

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
      • 2 months ago

      I am a botanist

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Mark Leger BROOKLYN, NY
      • 2 months ago

      Science is important to know what is happening in our urban environment, and the best approaches for restoration and amielioration.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Susan Pollock NEW YORK, NY
      • 2 months ago

      We need to have resources that will continue to allow us to learn more about plants and the world we live in!

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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