By Clara Yang
Stuyvesant Cove Park, which runs from 18th Street to 23rd Street between FDR Drive and the East River in Manhattan, may be unknown to quite many, including its residents, New Yorkers. One of few parks in New York City with sustainability efforts, this public park is maintained by Solar One program, an environmental learning center located at the park’s north. Along with its future plans, the park manager Daisy Hoyt gives us an introduction to this 1.9 acre park.
Q & A
Journalism Inquiry: For those unfamiliar with Solar One, can you explain what Solar One is?
Hoyt: Solar One is educational facility and was built as a model for a sustainable house. The roof is covered with solar panels. It’s very well insolated and it has a variety of other things that make it more sustainable.
JI: What is Solar One’s mission here, at the Stuyvesant Cove Park?
H: Ultimately, we want to build in this space a new building called Solar Two that will be sort of a model of sustainability with solar panels and geothermal walls. And have exhibition space and classroom space and things like that.
JI: What was here before the park?
H: It was a brown field so prior to it being a park it was sort of an abandoned space. There has been a bunch of junk, trash, cars. And before that, I believe there was a concrete factory.
JI: Is the park owned by the City?
H: It’s city property so Economic Development Corporation (EDC) owns this land but we have no affiliation with Park’s department. It’s independent. Stuyvesant Cove is managed by Solar One. We’re connected to East River Park, the bike path, but we don’t really overlap in management.
JI: Why is it important for the park to have native plants?
H: There’s a couple reasons. One, native plants provide habitat for native animals. Two, native plants are endemic to the region, theoretically are easier to grow, that’s not necessarily true. Three, it’s just sort of educational providing example of how native species can be beautiful and just education people on what occurs naturally around them. Get people interested in natural world in their immediate surroundings.
JI: Is there any special focus of the plants?
H: I really like variety. We have about 100 different species and I like that number. But I do have to focus on what will grow, on what’s actually practical.
JI: What are some notable plants?
H: Milkweed is very interesting plant. It is the host plant for monarch butterflies. Their larva eat only milkweed. We have three different species of Asclepias, which is a genus of milkweed. Monarch butterflies like all three of those. We also have a variety of waterfront plants that I think are really unique. There’s bayberry, which is a cool suckering shrub that has nice scented leaves. We have 2 species of Monarda, which I hope will come back and those area really great for butterflies. They have really cool looking flowers in the summer. Caroline Rose, which also has really beautiful flower in June that smell amazing. Those are so my favorites.
JI: Do you think park goers appreciate this space?
H: I think some people do, I think some people absolutely do. Some people just value it as a green space and they don’t necessarily know much about plants or ecology and that’s fine. Some people are very curious and they ask questions and really are intrigued by the idea of all native species.
JI: Who are the regulars?
H: I don’t think we have a lot of tourists. Lots and lots of jugglers, lots and lots of dogwalkers, and lots of people who just wanted to hang out by the water or just sit in a park.
JI: What is the people’s reaction to this building and its sustainability?
H: A variety, we get all kinds. People are very curious. They’re generally, they seem very open to it and they have lots of questions of solar power and things like that.
JI: How do you publicize the park to the residents?
H: A lot of people in the neighborhood don’t even know we’re here because it’s kind of out of the way. People who come up and down the bike path from all over the city see the park. Other than that, we do a bit of advertising for events and things like that. We hand out flyers, we put posters up, things like that.
JI: Are there any challenges being in an urban city?
H: We have lots of challenges. I would say the biggest challenge that comes with being in an urban place is foot traffic. People don’t really understand walking through the beds and letting the dogs walk through the beds is damaging. Other than that, we have a very exposed location here, it’s very hot and bright in the summer. Lastly, the highway’s right there and there’s air pollution.
JI: How do you face these challenges?
H: My main goal is to find species that will strive.
JI: We saw some educational signs in the park. How else do you plan to grow this educational aspect of the park?
H: In addition to those educational signs, I run several walks throughout the year to talk about the plants and various other things of interest in the park. And one of these is I may partner with education program to come up with park ecology class.
JI: What are park’s future plans other than education-related work?
H: I’m always looking for new species. It would be nice to have some public art in the park and I’m looking into that with a colleague of mine. Someday I think it would be nice to have something sustainability themed public art.
JI: How do you see the building of Solar One expanding or developing?
H: We are planning on building Solar Two the building as I mentioned and that will be much bigger and much more visible center.
JI: What kind of icon is this park in New York City?
H: It’s an example of sustainability and a worker –a way to – it’s a good example of how parks can be managed sustainably and provide wildlife habitat and be beautiful and all that good stuff. We’re right between a gas station, a highway, and a power plant. Good contrast.