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


A Warm Welcome

I got off the subway which provided easy access to the entrance at 4th Ave and 35th Street. Walking into the cemetery, the gentleman at the entry station came out and started waving. I was a bit surprised and gestured to confirm the greeting was for me. Well, it was. He was extremely welcoming and generous answering questions.  He gave me a map and general brochure. I learned I could walk anywhere I wanted on the grounds. The map clearly defined a route around the perimeter of the 478 acres and I was off.

In the expanse of green that greeted me immediately, I was happy to see patches of dandelions and other flowering “weeds”. I knew I was in a space supporting pollinators. I saw some beehives later on my walk.




The Trees

What captured my attention immediately and kept it were the trees. Green-Wood has the largest “collection” of mature trees in NYC. It was love at first sight.

I grew up in a tulip poplar forest in Virginia and my heart jumped when I saw a very tall one. Apparently it is the tallest tree in Green-Wood. That was the first of many trees I left my perimeter path to visit. I didn’t know it at the time, but next trip I will use their tree finder app. A visitor can search by species and it shows where trees are located on a map. Apparently it will also record your coordinates and identify a tree that way as well.


It took me almost 2 hours to walk along the road that circles the cemetery. I climbed to the highest natural point in Brooklyn, saw two of the small lakes and signage identifying geological features and flora and fauna.

More Trees




One More Tree


Camperdown Elm

Returning Soon with Sketchbook


I will be back to Green-Wood soon. I am very interested in learning more about their education programs with the thought of being able to contribute. On my perimeter walk I saw a number of signs identifying wildlife and suspect there are many more. The website has an informative discussion about phenology (study of seasonal changes and cycles in plants and animals).  This was an exciting “discovery” for me and I want to share the resource with you.

Keywords: GreenwoodCemetery, green space, urban green space, trees, Brooklyn, bees, pollinator graden, environmental education


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