The number of people who choose to live in cities is on the rise, with 80% of the US population living in urban areas as of the 2010 census. While living in cities like New York reduces our individual environmental impact, it also causes the displacement of wildlife. But, as we all know, the city is not devoid of wildlife, so what types of creatures live here?
Just as the people from New York come from many different areas, the wildlife that inhabits the city often has origins in other places. For example, the Monk Parrot, a bright green tropical bird from Argentina, has established a breeding colony in NYC. This city-dwelling wildlife, whether native or not, faces unique challenges that have prompted some interesting animal adaptations. Like their human counterparts, city-dwelling animals have adapted to denser populations, smaller territories, changes in breeding patterns, and different diets.
Wildlife in the city often finds refuge in the city’s ~29,000 acres of parkland. While Freshkills has not formally been mapped as parkland yet, the wildlife has already recognized the resources that the landscape can provide and has been flocking back to the site. Inhabiting the rolling grassy hills that were once landfill mounds swarming with gulls are foxes, bald eagles, and coyotes. If you’d like to observe the transformation of Freshkills for yourself, join us for one of our spring tours or field trips.
The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its cleanup plan for Gowanus Canal. The Brooklyn Canal, bound by Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, was declared a Superfund site in 2010 and communities have long been pushing for its cleanup.
Judith A. Enck, the EPA Regional Administrator, said:
“The cleanup plan announced today by the EPA will reverse the legacy of water pollution in the Gowanus. The plan is a comprehensive, scientifically-sound roadmap to turn this urban waterway into a community asset once more.”
One-hundred and fifty years of industrial activity has left the waterway filled with PCBs, PAHs, coal tar waste, heavy metals and volatile organics, and poisoned both the water and fish. The cleanup will take 8 to 10 years and, even then, swimming and fishing would be ill-advised. However, the effort initiates a process of ecological revitalization and sets a precedent that holds companies accountable for their actions.
If this federal decision pulls through, its long term benefits, in terms of residential health and re-investment in the NY Harbor area, are immense.
Bush Terminal Piers Park is slated to open this October, the new waterfront park is located between 43rd to 51st Streets in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Sandwiched between modernized industrial parcels along the waterfront, the park was designed by AECOM. The new park will provide the residents of nearby neighborhoods the first new open space in the area in decades.
Bush Terminal was a historic integrated manufacturing and shipping complex throughout much of the twentieth century. By the 1970s the site where the park is located was abandoned and contaminants found in the soil discouraged redevelopment. In 2007 the NYC Economic Development Corporation launched Sunset Park Vision Plan, a plan to reinvigorate sections of the industrial waterfront as well as provide increased public access and open space.
Following the (completed) brownfield remediation effort, the park will feature numerous sustainable elements including designated spaces for environmental education, urban reforestation, wetland restoration, and the installation of various types of stormwater management infrastructure. Additionally, Bush Terminal Pier Park will have three turf playing fields, a sloping lawn, picnic areas, walkways, and concession stands (Source via Curbed).
Freshkills Park is another example of land transformation and reuse of a brownfield. Like Bush Terminal Piers Park, Freshkills Park is committed to implementing sustainable practices and engaging the public with exciting recreational opportunities as well as providing educational information about the site and its history. Currently two areas of Freshkills Park are open, Schuml Park and Owl Hollow playing fields. Both areas incorporate many sustainable elements, check them out!
The complex relationship between cities and agriculture was a hot topic this spring at the “Feeding Cities” conference at the University of Pennsylvania. Growing populations are demanding more food, as well as increasing the geographic footprint of cities. Once fertile land on the outskirts of cities is being developed, and agriculture has become dominated by large scale corporate farming, which further complicates food distribution issues. However, Heather Grady of the Rockefeller Foundation stated in her key note speech at the conference that by getting rid of waste in processing, delivery and sales, as well as conserving land for agriculture within and surrounding urban areas can help address global food security issues.
Although food security issues are present at a global scale, solutions are being explored at a more local level. The Urban Design Lab (UDL) of Columbia University’s Earth Institute undertook a study of the feasibility of urban agriculture in New York City. The UDL published their results in The Potential for Urban Agriculture in New York City report in 2011. The study identified almost 5,000 acres of vacant land likely to be suitable for farming in the five boroughs of New York City, as well as more than 1,000 acres of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) green space, underutilized open spaces, and Greenstreets.
On Staten Island in particular, a large portion of the vacant land was found not to be suitable for farming, due to the difficulty of establishing a farm on such sites, as well as the problems innate in converting valuable ecological resources such as wetland or forest to food production, including much of Freshkills Park. Although there are currently no plans to incorporate agriculture into the park plans, the study found over 4,000 acres on Staten Island that have the potential for urban agriculture.
The report outlined the numerous benefits to developing agricultural spaces within or near urban areas, including the potential to reduce food transportation costs and environmental effects, as well as provide opportunities for economic development and diminish the disparities in access to healthy foods. However, in order to become a viable option to food production for the masses, urban agriculture must overcome challenges of scalability, energy efficiency and labor costs.
(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.