By: Sam Kim
What once was a field of cement for construction of office buildings and high-rise apartments is now an eco-friendly park park runs from 18th street to 23rd street along the East River.
Two years after the parks completion, Solar One was created as the first solar powered Education Center to oversee the park.
In an interview with NYU’s Journalistic Inquiry class–fittingly on Earth Day–Park Manager Daisy Hoyt discussed Solar One’s management of the park as well as ongoing and future endeavors to promote sustainability in urban environments.
Q: Can you talk about this place prior to it being a park?
Hoyt: It was a brownfield, it was a sort of an abandoned space–bunch of junk trash, and cars. Before that, there was a concrete factory, and before that a concrete factory.
Q: Did Solar One take the initiative to run the park?
Hoyt: 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 some big development. Folks in the community fought against it for years and they finally won. They asked “what do you want?” They said “we want a park!” And Solar One was created in order to manage the park.
Q: Are we standing in Solar One now? What is it, how do you describe it?
Hoyt: Solar One is an educational facility, it was built as a model for a sustainable house. The roof is covered in solar panels, it’s very well insulated; it has a variety of other things that make it sustainable.
Q: What is Solar One’s mission?
Hoyt: Solar One does a variety of things. They have the education department that runs K-12 programming throughout schools in schools throughout the city. They also have a workforce-training program in Long Island City that trains folks for green jobs. We have arts programs.
Ultimately we want to build a new building in this space called Solar 2 that will be sort of a model of sustainability with solar panels and geothermal walls and have a classroom space and exhibition space.
Q: What are challenges to building a park in new york city?
Hoyt: The biggest challenge in being in an urban place is the foot traffic. people don’t understand that walking through the beds is damaging. This is a very exposed location it’s very hot in the summer. Lastly, there is a highway right here and there is air pollution.
Q: What are you doing to manage the negative effects?
Hoyt: We are trying to find plants that will do well here. My main goal is to find species that will thrive.
Q: Why is it important for the plants to just have native plants?
Hoyt: One native plants provide habitat for native animals, two native plants are endemic to the region and theoretically are easier to grow. And three to provide an educational example of how native species can be beautiful and also to educate people on what occurs naturally around them–get people interested in the natural world, in their immediate surroundings.
Q: I saw there were educational signs in the park. Are you looking to bring a more educational aspect to the park?
Hoyt: In addition to the education signs, I run several walks throughout the year to talk about the plants and various interest in the park. One of these days we may partner with an education program.
Q: How do the efforts In Stuy Cove Park compare to ones in the High Line or Brooklyn Park?
Hoyt: I imagine we are all thinking about the same things…how to grow plants without using pesticides, inorganic organic fertilizers, things like that.
Q: What does this park mean in the larger idea of New York? Is it an icon of sustainability?
Hoyt: Absolutely. 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, and it’s a good contrast.