By Canyun Zhang
In today’s quick growing industrial world, particularly in Manhattan, there seems to be a small number of natural havens to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Luckily, one of the beautiful parks in New York next to the East River is Stuyvesant Cove Park, now managed by Solar One. NYU Journalism spoke with Daisy Hoyt, Park Manager, about the new sustainability efforts in keeping the park – and the environment – alive and well.
NYU: How did you first get interested in the environment and sustainability?
Hoyt: I have always been interested in horticulture. I grew up in a rural area and my first job was at a greenhouse. Always liked it.
NYU: So, now that you work with horticulture, what are some of the tasks involved in your job now?
Hoyt: At the greenhouse? Just a variety of sort of greenhouse tasks, like watering and transplanting and things like that. My daily tasks are I order supplies, I arrange community events, I deal with various community folks and I go to community board meetings, things like that. I oversee a seasonal gardener and a maintenance person, and I write reports and grants and various managerial things like that.
NYU: Hurricane Sandy probably managed to disrupt Stuyvesant Cove last year when it passed through. We see some plants haven’t even come in yet. How did that turn out?
Hoyt: That’s pretty normal at this time of year. So we got lots of flooding here and it also deposited a pretty incredible amount of debris in the park. We filled up I think three dumpsters worth of stuff, at least three dumpsters worth of stuff, from the park. It also soaked the park in saltwater, and that’s not very good for plants. At this point I’m sort of waiting to see what comes back and what doesn’t. So, so far so good, we’ve been seeing a lot of things come back that I was a little skeptical about.
NYU: Are there any species that you are particularly worried about that may not come in this year because of Sandy?
Hoyt: I have a couple species of Monarda that are not very salt tolerant. We did lose some trees, we lost all of our Eastern Red Cedars. They’re evergreen trees and they just got really pushed around by the storm surge, so they’re all gone. I am also worried about some of other sort of woodland species that don’t have any natural tolerance to salt.
NYU: And what about the animals?
Hoyt: The birds I think weren’t necessarily affected by the storm, but other than that we don’t really have ground animals except for rats, and they’re back.
NYU: We know that the Stuyvesant Cove Park is managed by Solar One. What does Solar One do to help run this park and keep it going?
Hoyt: Solar One does a variety of things. They have an 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, 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 have an exhibition space and classroom space and things like that.
NYU: What was the intention behind building and creating Solar One?
Hoyt: Solar One is an educational facility and it was a built as a model for a sustainable house. So the roof is covered with solar panels, it’s very well insulated; it has a variety of other things that make it more sustainable.
NYU: Then how is Stuyvesant Cove Park and Solar One modeling a green way of living?
Hoyt: It’s an example of sustainability – 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 have challenges. I would say the biggest challenge that comes with being 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.
It sort of is an ongoing experiment to find species that do well here, that can handle things like foot traffic, soil compaction, air quality, et cetera. That’s really my main goal, to find species that will thrive.
NYU: Why are native plants so crucial to the park?
Hoyt: Well, there’s 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, that’s not necessarily true. Three, it’s just a sort of an educational, provide an example of how native species can be beautiful and also to just educate people on what occurs naturally around and get people interested in the natural world in their immediate surroundings.
NYU: Do you think some people value the park in a certain kind of way?
Hoyt: 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 with the idea of native species and things like that.
NYU: So overall, what kinds of people enjoy the park?
Hoyt: All kinds. Generally I don’t think we have that many tourists. Lots and lots of joggers and bikers. Lots and lots of dog walkers. And lots of people just wanting to come hang out by the water or just sit in a park.