Monday, April 22, 2019

Breathing Easier: An Urban Green Space

First Visit to Green-Wood

I visited Green-Wood Cemetery Friday for the first time. I’m sure I had noticed it on a map of Brooklyn, which I am referencing constantly these days.  However it just didn’t occur to me that it was such an important asset for our community or that I would be so mesmerized by what it has to offer.

The World Health Organization summarizes the benefits of urban green spaces as:
        • Facilitating physical activity and relaxation
        • A refuge from noise
        • Trees that produce oxygen
        • Trees that help filter out harmful air pollution, including airborne particulate matter

An Introduction

Let’s start with the basics. Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838. It is now a National Historic Landmark and accredited arboretum. I was interested to learn it actually predates Central Park in Manhattan. Green-Wood is one of the islands of green space in an ocean of cityscape. Together they form a network for animals, insects and seeds to thrive in this urban environment.

        • 478 acres of mostly open land with 4 bodies of water
        • largest “collection” of mature trees in NYC
        • countless species of birds, insects and small mammals
        • supports honeybees with hives and flowering plant
        • proactive interest in environmental education

Violets Photo Credit: Jörg Hempel

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Spring: A Time and Place

Photo Credit: MusicAnimal, Heckscher Playground and Central Park South Skyline from Rat Rock, Wikipedia
I found myself in Central Park one afternoon last week. As an outdoor enthusiast and gardener, I was surprised I had not considered it a destination. In the past I have visited the Park numerous times, but not since I moved to Brooklyn 4 months ago. I was on my way from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to a meeting at Columbus Circle. I walked through the Park and felt like I was in a time warp.

Photo Credit: Danielle Racke

One of my dreams as an environmental educator/artist/media producer is to coordinate groups of students in different locations as they share their observations about signs of the changing seasons. This would be done on some cool web portal that let the student enter text and images and compare notes. I see this happening at the Claytor Nature Center at the University of Lynchburg, where I have conducted workshops and somewhere like the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Narrows Botanical Garden here in Brooklyn.

Photo Credit: Ingfbruno, Central Park, The Dairy

Back to my experience at Central Park....I was very surprised to see how many indicators of Spring were further along than what I was seeing everyday in my neighborhood in SW Brooklyn (Bay Ridge). For instance, Central Park had fields of daffodils, forsythia bursting forth, deciduous magnolias further along than my neighborhood and subtle differences in the flowering of maples and other trees. These may seem minor, but again my sense was that I had been fast forwarded in time. 

Extra excitement was provided by one hawk in flying through the trees and three over head. A good omen?

Photo Credit: Ram-Man, Red-tailed Hawk

As I walked, I pondered my hypothesis for the "dramatic" differences. Perhaps not all that dramatic but still...something was going on. I looked up and around and saw the high rises on all sides of the park. I wondered if it was some kind of "oven effect". The heat generated by the buildings and the heat reflected off of the buildings, streets and sidewalks were creating a micro-climate. Ecologists jump in here and help me out.

NOT springtime in this photo but great view of the park. Photo Credit: Martin St-Amant

I am  looking forward to getting more time in Central Park soon.

1870 Vaux and Olmstead Map of Central Park, New York City 

Quite a few things have changed this week since I was in Central Park. I haven't been back yet but I see a lot of changes in my neighborhood. Cherry trees are starting to blossom and the magnolias are out in full force. Spring is an express of a specific time and place. Like all things, it is constantly changing.

Dogwood flowers yet in Brooklyn, but coming soon,

One of the amazing things about Spring is that it comes in fits and starts and no matter how it manifests, it is appreciated. Today was 65 degree, a sunny day and glorious in its expression of Spring. I volunteered at the Narrows Botanical Garden which is part of the park system along the coast of Bay Ridge where I live in Brooklyn. I feel like a human being again. I had dirt under my finger nails and spent time this afternoon with other people who like to do the same thing....get their hands in dirt. Adjusting to life in the big city isn't necessarily easy but there are many benefits along the way.

A Plan Comes Together

It fascinates me that sometimes when inspiration comes, it's everywhere I look. I like that! My challenge to visualize the connection of...