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.
On September 29th, Freshkills Park opened its gates to the public for the fourth annual Sneak Peak event and attracted 3,500 people, a steady increase from previous years.
They came on bikes, on ferries, and in cars; with family, with friends. A girl from Brooklyn says, “This is a strange place. It does not feel like we are in the city at all.” Indeed, the tall yellow grass, the rolling hills, and the hawks in the sky seemed like neither the city nor the previous landfill site.
In the central area, a miniature horse pulled kids around for five minute rides. The goats that helped eat the site’s invasive phragmites, bleated at passerby. Families lounged on wooden-crates, as Staten Island artists transformed the stone bridge with spray paint. In the distance, a giant rock wall supported climbers of all ages; kayakers took boats into the river.
For a quieter experience, people trekked to the Overlook, a high point where they could see the Manhattan skyline. Or, on a steeper path, they climbed to the top of North Mound and flew Freshkills Park kites.
Art, nature, food and clear skies: we couldn’t have asked for a better day! Now, to start planning for next year’s Sneak Peak… In any case, stay posted on Freshkills Park happenings, and if you missed Sneak Peak this year, there’s always next year. Park tours are also available from April to November:
Canal Park in Washington DC, situated between the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, was originally a canal before it was paved over in the early 1900’s for a multitude of uses, including use as a lot for idling buses. The area was converted into a park in 2000 and shortly thereafter, in 2004, the non-profit Canal Park Development Association sponsored a sustainable park design competition for the site. OLIN, a landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm was selected to design the park.
Construction on Canal Park began in 2010 and the park opened in November 2012. The new design includes many sustainable, innovative features. Among these are underground cisterns that collect “grey water” runoff from the park and neighboring blocks to be reused in park fountains, toilets, ice skating pond and irrigation. Additionally, geothermal wells have been installed to provide heating and cooling in park amenities.
The transformation of Freshkills Park involves a similar commitment to sustainability. The Owl Hollow Fields, under construction at Freshkills Park, will have a geothermal-energy-heated, green-roofed comfort station designed by Sage & Coombe. Schmul Park, which opened in 2012 and is located in the Travis neighborhood of Staten Island, also includes many sustainable features. The comfort station designed by BKSK Architects features a rain garden and throughout the park there are native plantings and permeable pavement in order to mitigate surface stormwater runoff.
Both Freshkills and Canal Park are model examples of 21st century sustainable parks.
(via City Parks Blog)
(all images copyright : JD)
(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.
In 2010, two years after its closure, Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport was reopened to the public as Tempelhofer Freiheit, a large city park just two miles south of the city center. Since it’s reopening, little has been done to the airport’s landscape; existing walkways are largely disconnected and only minimal infrastructure and amenities are in place. However, with Gross Max and Sutherland Hussey Architects declared as the winners of the 2010 international design competition, and with Tempelhofer Freiheit selected as the location of the 2017 International Horticultural Exhibition, the new park will be well on its way to completion by 2017.
The planning principles behind Tempelhofer Freiheit combine themes of education, integration, efficiency, economy, health, and innovation, which will be evident in the repurposing of Tempelhof’s infrastructure. The southern portion of Tempelhofer Freiheit will include incubation space for clean technology businesses, the old terminal will act as a large event space, which may even include the New Central and Regional Library of Berlin, which leaves the center of Tempelhofer Freiheit available for year-round public use.
The ultimate goal of the designers is to build a landscape that parallels the individualism and dynamism of Berlin society. They propose that the best way to do so is to appoint curators to annually redesign the message of the park. According to the Wall Street Journal, the designers would like the park to function as an “outdoor living room” and “a contemporary prairie for the urban cowboy,” while reflecting the ideas of such diverse thinkers like Al Gore, Stephen Hawking, and Dolce & Gabbana. At over 900 acres, the former Tempelhof Airport will become a distinct recreational landscape for Berlin and an inspiration for innovative adaptive reuse projects all over the world.
Though the 2012 Olympic Games have come to a close, the landscape of London’s East End has been dramatically transformed for the long-term utilizing a ecologically-based design approach that has much in common with the Freshkills Park master plan.
According to The Dirt, nearly 250 acres of formerly-industrial land were turned into a beautiful setting for the Olympic venues inspired by Victorian and post-war English pleasure and festival gardens. The landscape design, by LDA Design and Hargreaves Associates, incorporated hillocks with views of the surrounding city, stormwater management practices including bioswales and rain gardens, and new bio-habitats such as wildflower meadows, wetlands, and wet and dry woodlands. The site designers even had an Olympic Park Biodiversity Action Plan to attract native species like kingfisher, sandmartin, and European eel! The River Lea, which flows through the site, was previously canalized, but now benefits from wider, more natural banks. All of these designed landscape improvements contributed to the 2012 Olympics being heralded as the most sustainable Olympic Games yet.
Many of the same types of interventions are being incorporated into Freshkills Park, as the former landfill site is transformed into an expanse of rolling hills and restored woodlands and wetlands. Many of the native flora and fauna have already begun to return to the site!
The Olympic site in London will now be converted to public park land. James Corner Field Operations (the landscape architecture firm that created the master plan for Freshkills Park) has re-designed a 55 acre piece of the new public park, set to open in 2014 as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. According to inhabitat.com:
The redesigned Olympic Park will include a 12-metre wide tree-lined promenade that will open up to a series of outdoor “rooms”, separated by tall grasses. These active spaces will host a classic carousel, an amphitheater and a play space with a climbing wall. There will also be spaces reserved for picnics, concerts and other events.
(via The Dirt)
In this election year, talk of the economy and jobs is pervasive. Parks aren’t typically cited by politicians as “job creators,” but it turns out, they are. Parks & Recreation jobs number 9 million in the U.S., and the Parks & Rec field has the potential to create up to 14 million jobs for many different education levels.
In addition to health benefits and job creation, park administrators and advocates are increasingly making the case that parks equal higher real estate values; that world-class cities must have world-class parks. Self-sustainability – diversified funding sources beyond city coffers – was a theme at this year’s International Urban Parks Conference.
(via The Dirt)
The Atlantic Cities recently reported on a fascinating psychology study being conducted at the University of Michigan, which proves just how much the brain can benefit from even brief interactions with nature, especially in contrast to an urban context. The team, led by the cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Marc Berman, asked Ann Arbor residents to take a one hour walk through either a densely populated neighborhood or Michigan’s Arboretum (see above for a map of the two routes). The results were astonishing, in many cases the participants’ mood and memory were dramatically improved after a stroll through the open green space.
Berman and his colleagues attribute this effect to the “attention restoration theory,” meaning that in a naturally calm setting such as a park, the brain processes less overwhelming stimulae and is therefore given a chance to effectively reboot from the stresses of city living. The study also produced similar mood and attention elevating results when it was later conducted with individuals diagnosed with major depression. These findings make the case for the development of urban parks even stronger, as this data gives scientific proof that parks are a necessity to the physical, and now, mental health of city residents.
If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Berman’s research, be sure to check out his column for the Huffington Post.
The City of Seattle is implementing an innovative program to protect their reservoir water supply and create 76 acres of new open space. Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has already replaced five open reservoirs with underground structures – a system that both improves water quality and provides better security for the water supply – and an additional project is in the works. Seattle Parks & Recreation (Parks) is working to eventually transform the new open space into “full-fledged parks.”
As part of the program, SPU covers the new underground reservoir structures with a layer of drain rock, soil, grass and other low maintenance plants so the community can use the additional open space immediately. Parks will then work with the community to create master plans for the parks, which will move forward when funding becomes available. The total costs for converting the Beacon, Myrtle, Maple Leaf and West Seattle Reservoirs is estimated by SPU at $150 million. A portion of the funding comes from the 2000 ProParks Levy.
(via Seattle Public Utilities)
Across the pond, the nonprofit organization greenspace scotland, in partnership with Scottish National Heritage, has created a fascinating new e-resource called “Creating Climate Change Parks.” The resource provides important design guidance for both the retro-fitting of older parks with climate change-friendly updates, such as tree planting schemes, green roofs and water management techniques, as well as guidelines for newly designed parks. This important initiative, although based in Scotland, is carving out an essential and potentially universal role for 21st century parks as leaders in the field of sustainable design.
Learn more about this exciting project on greenspace scotland’s website.