By Kevin McGovern
Stuyvesant Cove Park, tucked between FDR Drive and the East River and running from 18th Street to 23rd, is New York City’s latest effort to create and foster a green, sustainable environment. Completed in 2002, Stuyvesant Cove Park has been managed and maintained since 2004 by Solar One, an organization dedicated to promoting and sheltering urban sustainability. Solar One, New York’s first stand-alone solar powered building, stands at the north end of the park and are seeking to create Solar 2, an expansion to their current green center. This Earth Day, in an interview with NYU, Stuyvesant Cove Park manager Daisy Hoyt discusses the importance of the park, both symbolically and practically, and its plans for the future.
NYU: How big is Stuyvesant Cove Park?
Daisy Hoyt: It adds up to about two acres.
NYU: What was the space before it was transformed into Stuyvesant Cove Park.
Hoyt: It used to be a brown field. Before being a park, it was an abandoned space. There was a bunch of junk, trash, and cars. Before that, there was a concrete factory, and before that, it was a gas refinery.
NYU: How did you become involved and interested in this field of work?
Hoyt: I have always been interested in horticulture – I grew up in a rural area and my first job was at a greenhouse. I did a variety of greenhouse tasks, like watering, transplanting, things like that, which I’ve always liked.
NYU: What is Solar One’s mission? What are its goals?
Hoyt: Solar One does a variety of things. They have the education department that 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, also we want to build in this space a new building called Solar Two that will be a model of sustainability with solar panels and geothermal walls, and will have an exhibition space and classroom space and things like that.
NYU: Where does the funding come for Solar One?
Hoyt: The funding comes from a variety of private sources. The park is also funded partially by the city.
NYU: So does Stuyvesant Cove Park work or connect with other New York City parks?
Hoyt: No, it’s independent. Stuyvesant Cove is managed by Solar One and it has no affiliation with the Parks Department. We are connected to East River Park via the bike path, but we don’t overlap in management.
NYU: Did Solar One take the initiative to oversee Stuyvesant Cove Park?
Hoyt: No, Solar One was created after the park was built. The park was built about 10 years ago after a lengthy community battle. There were plans to fill in the river even more and develop high rises, some big developments. But folks in the community decided they didn’t want that and fought against it for years and finally they won. They were asked what they wanted and they said a park, so the city built Stuyvesant Cove Park. Solar One was created to manage the park.
NYU: What are some of the challenges for Solar One in regards to building and maintaining such a park in an urban setting?
Hoyt: We have lots of challenges. I would say the biggest challenge that comes from being in an urban place is foot traffic. People really don’t understand that walking through the (flower) beds or letting their dogs walk through the beds is damaging. Other than that, this is a very exposed location here, and it’s very hot and bright in the summer. Lastly, the highway is very near and there is air pollution.
NYU: Do you think park-goers and the community appreciates the efforts of Solar One?
Hoyt: 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 curious and they ask questions and really are intrigued by the idea of all-native species and solar power.
NYU: Why does the park focus on and only use native plants? Why is it so important?
Hoyt: There are a couple reasons. One, native plants provide habitat for native animals. Two, native plants are endemic to the region and theoretically are easier to grow, thought that’s not necessarily true. And three, it’s just educational – it provides 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: What would you like to add or improve to the park in the near future?
Hoyt: It would be nice to have some sustainably-themed public art in the park and I am looking into that with a colleague of mine.
NYU: Are there plans for Solar Two in place?
Hoyt: Yes. The architectural plans are done, and we are just in the last stages of fundraising.
NYU: Does the park serve as an example of New York sustainability and as an icon for the urban green movement? How is it a symbol of Earth Day?
Hoyt: Absolutely, yes! It’s a great example of how you can manage a space sustainably. We’re right between a gas station, a highway, and a power plant. It’s a good contrast. It’s also good example of how parks can be managed sustainably, and provide wildlife habitat and be beautiful.
NYU: Would you like to dedicate your life to environmental efforts such as Solar One and Stuyvesant Cove Park?
Hoyt: Yeah, I would always like it to be a focus in my life. It’s always been a presence in my life… my parents are hippies!