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East River

“I Was an Urban Goatherd in Stuyvesant Cove Park”

Last month, thanks to an anonymous West Indian woman who put the idea in our heads, we undertook an experiment in urban goatscaping in Stuyvesant Cove Park. It was a resounding success- the goats did a great job and everyone loved them- and also a unique experience for Candace Thompson, the new Park Manager. Here’s her description of what it was like to spend three days and two nights as an onsite goatherd in Stuy Cove Park:

For 3 straight days, 20 goats and I did heavy “goatscaping”, and for 2 nights we slept together… under the FDR… in lower Manhattan…during a global pandemic.

It was a week for the bucket list, to be sure.

If you’re unfamiliar, goatscaping is an ancient land clearing practice in which humans allow goats to do what they do best: eat. When they’re done you’re left with a weed free, well fertilized growing space with no gas-powered machines or herbicides needed. So, last month Caramelo, Chloe, Cheech and co were let loose inside SCP’s teaching garden and given carte blanche, and while they munched, volunteers pulled weeds from other areas of the park and carried them over to their enclosure. One little girl accurately described it as “goat room service”.

When I awoke in the middle of the night to check on them they’d still be standing there, chewing away. They, too, knew this was the city that never sleeps.

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green goats

Due To Covid-19, Twenty Goats Will Soon Be Eating Lower Manhattan

green goatsStuyvesant Cove Park, New York NYNew York City’s parks are proving to be yet another unwitting victim of the pandemic crisis. Short staffing, budget cuts, and reduced volunteer opportunities have left many of our green spaces to their own devices, and the weeds have been having a (literal) hay day. Compounding the issue is the fact that as New York residents have needfully turned to parks as safe outlets for socialization and recreation, they have also, sadly, left excessive trash and trampled plantings in their wake.

“It’s just a lot for our two person team to handle”, says Candace Thompson, the manager of Stuyvesant Cove Park in lower Manhattan. “Mother Nature really got the jump on us with the weeds this spring and I feel like we’ll never catch up on top of everything else.”

Which is why that particular park has decided to hire some help of the non-human variety. Starting September 8th, 20 goats from Green Goats of Rhinebeck will be taking a Manhattan mini-vacation within a fenced off area of “Stuy Cove” Park, a 2 acre native food forest on the East River. During their tenure, the goats will be charged with a simple task: eat everything in sight. Solar One, the environmental education non-profit that manages the space, hopes this will assist park staff in minimizing excessive plant biomass while also fertilizing the soil for next season, all in just a few short days. While goats may seem an unorthodox fix to a weed problem, foraging animals have long been used in sustainable agricultural practices to manage overabundant species, and Green Goats in particular have been lending their services to public spaces and institutions across the greater New York area for over 15 years.

“When Larry and I first started our goatscaping company, my family back home in Guayana all teased me.” says Annilita Cihanek, co-owner of Green Goats of Rhinebeck. “Now we work full time on contracts for city, state and national parks, we travel constantly, and get lots of press. Let me tell you, my family isn’t laughing any more!”

Over the past three decades goatscaping has become increasingly popular as an herbicide-free way to manage invasive species. Goats have been used for weed control both on Chinese tea plantations and in California forests for brush control and wildfire prevention. Now they’ll be taking a stab (or nibble, as it were) at Stuy Cove’s bindweed problem.

Interested in being a part of the action? You can sign up to volunteer, support Stuy Cove’s GOAT FUND ME, or follow along with these walking weedeaters from home via the park’s Instagram. With remote and in-person learning starting the same week here in NYC, students and teachers alike can visit the park’s ‘Goat Cam’ to check their progress, or take a Zoom break and come watch sustainable land stewardship in action.

Solar One (CEC Stuyvesant Cove, Inc.): Solar One is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to design and deliver innovative education, training, and technical assistance that fosters sustainability and resiliency in diverse urban environments. We empower learning that changes the way people think about energy, sustainability, and resilience by engaging and educating a diverse set of stakeholders and beneficiaries. Our programs help individuals and communities explore new ways of living and working that are more adaptive to a changing world.

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For more info contact Candace Thompson, Stuy Cove Park Manager at candace@solar1.org or Michael Barry, Solar One Communications Manager at (646) 741-5225 or via email at barry@solar.org.

 

Phytoremediation, Park Intern Hannah Schanzer’s Summer Project

Hannah Schanzer is a Park Intern at Solar One this summer, working in Stuyvesant Cove Park. She is a rising junior at Washington University in St. Louis, studying Environmental Policy and Urban Studies. She has come to the Park this summer to learn more about urban park stewardship and urban ecology.

For my summer research project, I really wanted to focus on studying how the urban setting impacts the biodiversity of the park. Stuyvesant Cove Park is situated between a gas station, a power plant, and the highway. Additionally, it is located on the former site of a cement mixing factory.

Preliminary testing revealed that the soil in some beds of the park have slightly elevated levels of lead, although not enough to cause concern with park operations (highest lead concentration in a bed was 80 ppm (parts per million), anything less than 100 ppm is considered safe for children to play in). I was curious to find out whether there was a way to “clean” the soil with the highest lead concentration without treating it with chemicals or replacing it with imported soil.

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How Antarctic Ice Affects Climate in NYC

When we consider how best to address climate change, we tend to focus on the everyday actions we can do at the local level, whether that happens at the scale of personal habits like  recycling, composting or bicycling or the citywide effort to retrofit our aging building stock. But some climate effects begin far, far away- notably 8,000 miles away in Antarctica.

A new study from the National Academy of Sciences uses computer projections based on climate info from prehistory and projects its models to 2300, using thousands of computer simulations. What they found was good news in some ways, and bad news in others.

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L Train Closure Open Houses Are Coming

Got questions about the planned L train closures? Join the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the NYC Department of Transportation for a series of open houses to learn and ask questions about plans for the 15-month closure of the Canarsie Tunnel, beginning in April 2019. Please join us at one of these events, and feel free to arrive anytime during the timeframes listed.

East Williamsburg: Wednesday, January 24
5-8pm
Progress High School
850 Grand Street bet Bushwick Ave & Waterbury St, Brooklyn

Manhattan East Side: Wednesday, January 31
5-8pm
344 East 14th Street bet First & Second Aves, Manhattan

Williamsburg: Thursday, February 8
5-8pm
Williamsburg Community Center
195 Graham Avenue bet Scoles & Stagg Sts, Brooklyn

Manhattan West Side: Wednesday, February 14
5-8pm
Our Lady of Guadalupe
328 West 14th Street bet Eighth Ave & Hudson St, Manhattan

You can download the flyer here.

Winter Blooms in NYC

While most people look to spring as the season when flowers start blooming in NYC, some plants don’t care that the weather is cold. And as it happens, both Madison Square and Stuyvesant Cove Parks are home to a few…and the ones in Stuy Cove are, of course, native species.

Zizea aurea, or golden Alexander, a native perennial that can be found across the entire East Coast, from Canada to Florida. It generally prefers moist conditions in woodlands or prairies, and grows in Stuy Cove. Last winter, it flowered continuously!

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