(image source: American Forests)
The conservation group American Forests has just released a ranking of the top 10 best U.S. cities for urban forests, and New York City made the list! After an independent collection of data on the 50 most populous American cities, a panel of technical advisors from the U.S. Forest Service ranked the cities based on their overall commitment to improving and expanding urban forests, green infrastructure, and environmental resources.
The top cities were selected because they recognize the important roles that trees play beyond beautifying urban landscapes. Among the other parameters considered by the U.S. Forest Service were community engagement around urban forests, new developments in energy conservation and stormwater management, and public access to green spaces.
“These 10 cities are examples of the type of dedication and leadership needed to improve the health and vitality of urban forests in some of the largest cities in the U.S.,” says Scott Steen, CEO of American Forests. “Whether it is achieving cleaner air and water, managing stormwater, reducing energy usage or stemming erosion, no two cities have worked exactly the same way to achieve their place on our top 10 list, but they each serve as a role model for others.”
New York City, which is more than half way to its goal of one million trees planted by 2017, has nearly 20% of its 300 square miles of land covered by parks like Freshkills Park and Central Park. With all of this green space it is estimated that more than 2,000 tons of pollution is removed from the air each year, a value of $10.6 million. New York’s commitment to providing easy access to green space is an example of the city’s dedication to sustainability, health, and the overall well-being of the people.
If you’ve been to Sneak Peak, perhaps you’ve noticed your own reflection in the side of a Department of Sanitation garbage truck.
This 20 cubic-yard garbage truck faced with hand-tempered mirror is The Social Mirror by artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles. The Social Mirror debuted in the grand finale of the first NYC Art Parade in 1983 and was most recently exhibited at the 2007 Armory Show. According to Ukeles, “This project allowed citizens to see themselves linked with the handlers of their waste.”
Since publishing Manifesto for Maintenance Art, 1969!, Ukeles’s work has revolved around the role of the artist and our relationship to maintenance and service work, and most importantly the workers who perform these essential, everyday tasks for the rest of society. She has worked as the first and only official artist-in-residence for the New York City Department of Sanitation since 1977, where her projects have included Touch Sanitation (1978-1984) and Flow City (1983-1996) .
Not surprisingly, Ukeles has also played an important role in the Freshkills Park project, advocating for a public park on the site since 1989. She has produced several gallery installations on Freshkills and was a contributor to the Draft Master Plan for the park. Ukeles is currently designing a permanent nature viewing platform and two related earth works in South Park as part of the City’s Percent for Art program.
Find out more about maintenance art and Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s work in this video from the 2011 Creative Time Summit.
If you, like us, are currently immersed in the London 2012 Summer Olympics, it is fascinating to imagine if the games were instead taking place in our own backyard… More specifically at Freshkills Park!
As WNYC has reminded us, during New York City’s bid for the Olympics back in 2005, Staten Island and Freshkills Park were featured as a prominent site for large scale sporting events. The park itself would have hosted the Staten Island Olympic Cycling Center where the BMX and Mountain biking events would have taken place. While the rest of the borough was set to become home to the Greenbelt Equestrian Center, Fort Wadsworth Road Cycling Course Cycling and Richmond Olympic Softball Stadium. Thankfully both horseback riding and biking will eventually be offered on the island as part of the Freshkills Park master plan.
Despite losing out to London, New York City has still gone forward with several Olympics’ related infrastructure and venue plans. For instance, the proposed gymnastics arena, has been built instead as the Brooklyn Nets Stadium at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. WNYC has also produced a fascinating interactive feature which depicts all the proposed Olympic sites throughout the rest of the city.
For more than 20 years, Department of Sanitation New York City worker Nelson Molina has curated a collection…of trash. Call it a gallery, a collection, or a museum, Molina and other Sanitation workers have transformed an unused room in an Upper East Side sanitation facility, located on 99th Street between First and Second Avenues, into a showplace for found art in collected trash.
Though the sanitation workers are not permitted to keep anything from trash collection for personal use, this special scenario has been ok’d by the powers that be. The collection has become so well known that Sanitation workers from outside the neighborhood bring Molina items they deem ‘art’ or, at least, interesting, and Molina then decides if and how to display the pieces.
This is truly a great example of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’
The Department of Sanitation is a partner, along with the Department of Parks & Recreation, in the creation of 2,200-acre Freshkills Park, which is being built over the course of 30 years on NYC’s former landfill.
(via The New York Times)
The 2012 International Urban Parks Conference is around the corner! From July 14th-17th, park professionals, politicians and urban park advocates from around the world will attend “Greater & Greener: Reimagining Parks for 21st Century Cities,” held in New York City. The conference is presented by City Parks Alliance.
Freshkills Park will be a featured tour on July 14th from 2-5pm, along with tours throughout to other innovative New York City Department of Parks & Recreation parks. On July 15th & 16th, the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) will be anonymously premiering the submissions to the 2012 LAGI design competition for a site within Freshkills Park.
An interesting experiment in water pollution management is taking place in the Bronx River estuary near Hunts Point in New York City. Scientists are testing the use of a ‘Mussel Raft’ for addressing nitrogen pollution from treated sewage that ends up in the water from a nearby treatment facility.
Mussels are known for their filtration properties and are being tied to lines on the raft to assist in water filtration. Non-edible ribbed mussels were chosen in the hope they would not be harvested to be eaten. The mussels filter about 1.6 liters of water (0.4 gallons) every hour. Find the full story in The New York Times.
Happy 4th of July! Be safe, and get out and enjoy the great outdoors!
Be sure to check out our Facebook and Flickr pages for tons more photos of the goats in action. Our newest residents, with names such as Mozart, Haydn and Van Goat, seem to already be enjoying life (and lunch) at Freshkills Park!
With the support of a New York State Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant, the Department of Parks & Recreation is undertaking restoration of two acres of wetland habitat along Main Creek within Freshkills Park that will include goat grazing as a method of invasive plant control. This pilot project will provide guidance for further wetland restoration projects within the 2,200-acre site, which is the largest landfill-to-park transformation project in the world.
The project seeks to lessen the current erosive impacts at the shoreline while planting native species to enhance habitat value and prevent the return of Phragmites, a highly invasive species. It will create a wider band of salt marsh habitat and a mosaic of coastal habitat including coastal grassland for a variety of marine, avian and wildlife species. The project will stabilize the shoreline to provide additional protection for habitat from potential climate change and sea level rise and will improve water quality through increased interface between coastal plants and tidal waters.
Prior to the wetland construction, a herd of goats will perform conservation grazing to clear invasive plants from the site, particularly Phragmites. Prescribed goat grazing is more common in the rangelands of the western U.S., but is being used more often in the eastern half of the country and in more urban areas, including Governors Island and Ft. Wadsworth in New York City. Benefits of utilizing goats for prescribed grazing include:
- Goats are adept at accessing fence borders, steep slopes and other “hard to reach” plots.
- Although goats produce low levels of methane, they emit far less greenhouse gases than traditional “spark-ignition” lawn mowers.
- Research suggests grazing animals encourage root growth and denser sod cover.
- Correctly managed, animal waste is a source for free, organic fertilizer.
The pilot project will be monitored for success in Phragmites eradication and reintroduction of native plant species. For more information on the Main Creek Wetland Restoration and other projects at the site, visit the Freshkills Park website.
A new method for lighting spaces adjacent to urban waterways uses renewable energy powered by water currents. The ‘Light Reeds,’ from New York City-based Pensa, mimic the reeds you might find along creeks or other natural waterways and provide a more ambient light source than harsh street lights. The Light Reeds are powered by the water currents and an underwater rotor, and even sway with the currents. There’s a video of the innovative sustainable lighting product.