The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.
― Masanobu Fukuoka
In some Native languages the term for plants translates to “those who take care of us.”
― Robin Wall Kimmerer
If change is to come, it will have to come from the margins.
― Wendell Berry
Stuy Cove Park serves the Lower Manhattan community and beyond as a resilient green space that has evolved from formal native plant gardens into a productive urban ecosystem. This engineered food forest is a vibrant example of regenerative stewardship on a former industrial site. Solar One manages this city-owned property in partnership with the NYC Economic Development Corporation.
Stuy Cove Park is…
Everyone loves a pretty city park, but at Stuy Cove our first goal is to create a healthy ecosystem for all of the city’s stakeholders: humans, animals, birds, insects, fungi, and microbes alike. Our management philosophy is rooted in traditional Indigenous and peasant based land practices– technologies often reframed today under terms like “permaculture”, “regenerative agriculture”, “agroforestry”, or “carbon farming”. We seek to work in mutualism and reciprocity with the land in ways that minimize waste through closed loop systems, produce a yield of wild food crops, maximize soil fertility, sequester carbon, and manage ecological imbalances through integrated pest management.
Stuyvesant Cove Park’s extensive range of native plants, organic maintenance methods, and naturalistic design attract a surprising array of wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation designated Stuyvesant Cove Park as Wildlife Habitat #50805, based on NWF’s standards of “conscientious planning, landscaping and sustainable gardening,” where “wildlife may find quality habitat, food, water, cover and places to raise their young.” The park showcases indigenous plant species and is home to estuary wildlife as well. Set back from the strong tidal currents, the cove provides shelter for many kinds of waterbirds and the occasional harbor seal.
Birdwatchers have spotted dozens of native birds, including Gray Catbirds, Double Crested Cormorants, and Red Tailed Hawks. Fishermen can often be found in the Park, catching bluefish, crabs, and striped bass. Last but not least, the Park is a welcoming habitat for the annual migration of Monarch butterflies, providing food and shelter on their 4,000-mile journey to their winter home in Mexico.
Edible urban ecosystems come with a lot of challenges, but they can also serve as resilient test sites for a new way forward where everything is an experiment. Nothing is certain but chaos and change, so come get involved at the park and learn alongside us. Sign up here to get notified about this spring’s volunteer events.
All of Manhattan (aka Manna-hatta) is the unceded territory of the Lenni Lenape tribe, an Unami word that means “the Original People”. As our nation continues to grapple with centuries of oppression and violence towards Indigenous, Black, and Immigrant communities, we want to acknowledge our role and responsibility as privileged settlers on this land. In 2021 Solar One will began paying rent to the American Indian Community House through their Manna-hata Fund, and we encourage all our non-Indigenous (particularly European-descended) neighbors to do the same.
As a former industrial site, Stuy Cove is also a case study in toxic legacies, environmental racism and classism, and the potential for a new way forward. Our culture must contend with our messy past while also planning for a precarious future, and we must respect and center the needs of marginalized communities. In a nation where racial and gender based violence are pervasive, economic disparity so great, where many lack access to physical and mental health care, housing and healthy food, we see our work as one drop in a wave of change towards a more just and peaceful world.
Urban communities suffer from a lack of connection to both the natural world and to one another. As we emerge from our COVID era cocoons, immersive experiences at Stuy Cove offer everyone hands-on opportunities to see, taste, smell and feel the many gifts planet Earth still has to offer us. Our mission is to provide access to real world solutions that increase literacy, agency, and competency with issues of climate crisis and adaptation. We hope you’ll join us for one (or more!) of our volunteer projects, hands-on workshops, educational field trips, or wild food events. To be notified of upcoming opportunities join our mailing list here.
We also want to make clear that we welcome all people regardless of color, class, creed, gender identification, sexual orientation, immigration, health or housing status. If you are a person currently seeking support for houselessness, substance abuse, food insecurity, mental health issues, etc… we offer this document of local providers in the area.
The original coastline of Stuyvesant Cove Park from approximately 14th to 30th streets prior to 1609. Orange outline shows the current shoreline as opposed to the original. Image via Welikia Project’s interactive map
The landmass we know as Stuyvesant Cove has been touched by many hands through time. Prior to European colonization our park was merely the submerged riverbed of the East River, and the adjacent coastline provided the Munsee band of Lenape people with fish, wild game, and edible and medicinal plants that sustainably supported their daily needs. In 1609, Dutch colonizers established New Amsterdam on the island under the governance of Peter Stuyvesant who retired to a 62 acre farm very close to the current park site after enslaving Africans, persecuting Jews and Huguenots, and driving the Lenape from their home. In the early 1800s’ the land we know as Stuy Cove was slowly built out of trash and landfill in order to create dry docks and shipyards for New York’s massive shipping industry, and the site increasingly stored manufactured coal gas tanks that leaked into the surrounding earth with regularity. In the 1930’s the area was transformed again with the construction of the FDR, and from the 1940s onward the site sat largely vacant, becoming a catch all dump site for individuals and businesses alike.
In the late 1990’s a group of developers set their sights on converting the coastline into a multi use project known as Riverwalk that would have dramatically increased the cost of living, driving out the middle class community adjacent. Fortunately, a group of local residents rallied to fight the developer’s plans and demand the creation of a community-oriented green space. Stuy Cove Park was established in 2002, and Solar 1 was created to manage the park under the ownership of the Economic Development Corporation . In the years since, the park’s mission has expanded to not only provide safe harbor for hundreds of native plant and animal species, but also to create holistic interventions that center decolonization, ecological reparation, and climate resilience.