A design by Pilot Projects Design Collective, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Cities4Forests, Grimshaw Architects LLP, and Silman DPC has won the professional category in the worldwide Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge contest.

The announcement was made today by the Van Alen Institute and New York City Council.

The winning design, “Brooklyn Bridge Forest,” reimagines the bridge as an icon of climate action and social equity, improving mobility while respecting the landmark structure. The historic wooden walkway is expanded using sustainably harvested wood that benefits local communities in Guatemala while safeguarding 200,000 acres of rainforest. A dedicated bike path and reclaimed traffic lane create new space for cyclists and low-carbon transit, while biodiverse “microforests” at either end of the bridge bring nature to New York City and serve as green spaces for underserved communities.

Brooklyn Bridge Forest was made the winner by a combination of public vote and scores from the competition’s interdisciplinary jury.

“We deeply thank Van Alen Institute, New York City Council, and the thousands of people in NYC and around the world who voted for the Brooklyn Bridge Forest concept and its vision of a more sustainable, equitable future,” said Jeremy Radachowsky, WCS Mesoamerica Regional Director. “Our team would be excited to work with NYC to implement the Brooklyn Bridge Forest and take the lead on a more sustainable future for NYC and the world.”

“We are thrilled by this victory for healthier cities and the global environment!” said Scott Francisco, founder of Pilot Projects Design Collective. “Brooklyn Bridge Forest is a new kind of urbanism designed to help NYC engage community stakeholders, quickly implement a series of highly visible and impactful changes that will support active transit and connect New York City and its residents to forests and natural systems that sustain life for all. Our team is ready and excited to help New York City reach its full potential for an optimistic and restorative future.”

The planks to expand the Bridge’s historic wooden walkway would be sustainably sourced from a “partner forest”, a community called Uaxactun in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve that protects a 200,000-acre rainforest. The Uaxactun forest is FSC-certified and considered one of the best-managed in the world. Forest managers use an extremely selective harvesting intensity (less than one tree per acre); follow a 40-year cutting cycle; and employ reduced-impact logging techniques. WCS has been monitoring the impacts of timber management in the Uaxactun forest since the year 2000 and has been working with the local community for more than 25 years to ensure forest management practices are protecting and not harming wildlife.

Fredi Enrique Gualib Morales, President of Uaxactún’s forest management organization, OMYC, said “We are delighted by this news, as this initiative not only implies worldwide recognition of our conservation efforts as a community, but also gives us a market opportunity for our sustainable forest products and opens the door for participation of other community concessions in the Maya Biosphere Reserve.”

The Brooklyn Bridge Forest project would also help NYC meet its commitment to an “80x50” plan, to cut its emissions by 80 percent by 2050, an ambitious goal that will require very creative and far-reaching strategies.

The Brooklyn Bridge Forest lies in the heart of the Maya Forest - the largest of Mesoamerica’s last Five Great Forests. These five intact forests span from Mexico to Colombia and are biodiversity hotspots and strongholds for globally irreplaceable species such as the jaguar, scarlet macaw, and critically endangered Central American river turtle; they are also vital flyways and wintering grounds for migratory birds.

Together the Five Great Forests cover more than 12 million hectares (three times the size of Switzerland); hold about half the region’s forest carbon stocks, helping to curb climate change; provide water and other life-giving natural resources to 5 million people; and harbor several World Heritage sites, including the ruins of ancient civilizations. Nearly half are managed by indigenous and local communities. Mesoamerica’s people, culture, biodiversity, economic health, resilience to climate change—the very essence of Mesoamerica—all depend on the Five Great Forests.

“The Brooklyn Bridge Forest not only reimagines the Brooklyn Bridge; it reimagines humanity’s relationship with nature and our global climate,” said Radachowsky.  “The proposal shows how NYC can use the iconic Brooklyn Bridge to chart a path towards green, resilient infrastructure and an inclusive post-COVID recovery.”