By: Leah Li
Completed in 2002, Stuyvesant Cove Park is a public green space on the East side of New York City that focuses on sustainable management and natural wildlife. Since 2004, the park has been managed by Solar One, New York City’s Green Energy, Arts and Education Center. Over the years, Solar One has grown into an award-winning organization that provides extensive environmental education programs and free public events throughout the five boroughs.
Daisy Hoyt became the Manager of Stuyvesant Cove Park in 2010. In an interview with a first-level reporting course at NYU taught by Professor Philip Rosenbaum, Hoyt discusses some of the challenges the park has faced, as well as its aspirations for the future.
NYU: How big is Stuyvesant Cove Park?
Hoyt: It adds up to about two acres.
NYU: Is the Cove Park a city-owned park? Is it connected to other parks in the city?
Hoyt: Well, it’s city property, so EDC (Economic Development Corporation) owns this land. But [the park] is independent. Stuy Cove is managed by Solar One and has no affiliation with the Parks Department. We’re connected to East River Park via the bike path but we don’t overlap in management or anything like that.
NYU: Are we standing in Solar One now? How do you describe what we are standing in?
Hoyt: Yes. Solar One is the educational facility and it was built as a model for a sustainable house. So, the roof is covered in solar panels, it’s very well-insulated, and it has a variety of other things that make it more sustainable.
NYU: What is Solar One’s mission here?
Hoyt: Solar One does a variety of things. They have an education department then runs K-12 programming through schools, in schools throughout the city. They also have a workforce training program in Long Island City that trains folks for green jobs. And we have arts programs. Ultimately, we also 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 will have an exhibition space and classroom space and things like that.
NYU: Are there [Solar Two] plans being talked right now?
Hoyt: Yes, the architectural plans are done, and we’re just in the last stages of fundraising.
NYU: Where does the funding come from?
Hoyt: A variety of private sources. The park is also funded partially by the city.
NYU: What are the challenges of building such a park?
Hoyt: 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 that walking through the beds, or letting their dogs walk through the beds, is damaging. Other than that, this is a very exposed location here, it’s very hot and bright in the summer. Lastly, the highway is right there, and there’s air pollution.
NYU: What are you doing to manage those negative effects on the park?
Hoyt: It’s an ongoing experiment to find species that do well here that can handle things like foot traffic, soil compaction, air quality, etc. So, that’s really my main goal: to find species that will thrive.
NYU: Why is it so important for the park to just have native plants?
Hoyt: There’s a couple of reasons. One, native plants provide habitats for native animals. Two, native plants are endemic to the region and theoretically, are easier to grow, although that’s not necessarily true. And three, it’s educational; to provide an example of how native species can be beautiful. And also, to educate people on what occurs naturally around them – to get people interested in the natural world, in their immediate surroundings.
NYU: How did Hurricane Sandy affect the park? We’re seeing that a lot of plants haven’t come in yet.
Hoyt: Yeah, that’s pretty normal at this time of year. We got lots of flooding here, and [Hurricane Sandy] also deposited a pretty incredible amount of debris in the park. We filled up I think three dumpsters worth of [debris]. [The hurricane] soaked the park in saltwater, and that’s not very good for plants. And at this point, I’m sort of waiting to see what comes back and what doesn’t. So far, so good; we’ve been seeing a lot of things come back that I was a little bit skeptical about.
NYU: Can you talk about what this space was prior to being a park?
Hoyt: It was a brownfield. Prior to it being a park, it was an abandoned space. There was a bunch of junk, trash, cars. And before that, there was I believe a concrete factory, and before that, there was a gas refinery, I think.
NYU: Did that cause any problems to growing plants?
Hoyt: The soil is imported; the soil is not from on-site. So, it’s not contaminated with the site.
NYU: Is there anything you would like to see more of happening in the park?
Hoyt: 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 some sustainability-themed public art.