Tag Archives: environment

The Urban forest that is New York City

Callery Pear trees in bloom

Callery Pear trees in bloom

I lived in that jungle for nineteen years.  During that period, I owned a home on Riverside Drive and 77th Street, on the Upper West side. During that period, a tree died in front of our Whitestone building.  I undertook the task of getting one tree replanted there.  I learned that there is only ONE man in charge of planting trees in Manhattan, the department that controls this is titled Manhattan Forest Department, and being the determined New Yorker, I hounded his voice mail until one was placed in front of my home. It took months!  I built a boxed-in wood frame to hold dirt and moister from four by fours, and watered it faithfully. The replacement tree was the renowned London Plain tree that adapts well to polluted environs, like London.  It flourished under my care, and lives to this day.

Jill Hubley's NYC Street Trees map shows off the 52 species of trees that grow along New York City's streets, map by Jill Hubley

Jill Hubley’s NYC Street Trees map shows off the 52 species of trees that grow along New York City’s streets, map by Jill Hubley

Starting in May 2015, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation will begin a five to seven month-long street census to locate and identify the species of every street-side tree.  There are 592,130 street trees (52 species) in New York.  Queens has the  most trees, honey locusts, rarely found in the Northeast, are found in great numbers on the streets of Manhattan. Callery pears, a invasive species from China, are all over the region, particularly in Staten Island (but they smell like rotting fish, chlorine or semen).

New York now plants just 20 or 30 Callerys per year, while literally thousands are lost to attrition (from storm damage and such). Jeremy Barrick, the deputy chief of forestry, horticulture and natural resources at the Parks Department, expects the Callery to lose its number 3 spot in the 2015 census. He anticipates a total Callery count of roughly 30,000—a 50-percent decline from 2006.

The Callery pear is an invasive species that has taken over many of New York’s sidewalks, map by Jill Hubley

The Callery pear is an invasive species that has taken over many of New York’s sidewalks, map by Jill Hubley

Even when it comes to species you might expect to find in New York—such as oak, maple, and elm—the Parks Department chose to plant Asian cultivars instead of North American ones. “There’s only one oak species on the list that isn’t from Asia—and it’s an English oak, native to Europe,” says Doug Tallamy, a wildlife ecologist from the University of Delaware.

The solutions to this  linear planting scheme are actually quite easy to implement. Many of the Asian cultivars can be replaced with a North American counterpart—such as Chinese elms with American elms, or Japanese and Norway maples with sugar maples. Tallamy dismisses any grumblings that native species are too big or too difficult to grow as nonsense. “We have native species that are smaller that we can still grow—we just need to start planting them.”

Promenade in Bryant Park, London plane trees, platanus acerifolia, in midtown

Promenade in Bryant Park, London plane trees, platanus acerifolia, in midtown

Rich Hallett, an ecologist at the US Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, cites plans to integrate the data on a digital platform that can be updated in real time and act as a “living document.”

There are other factors impacting ‘greenification’ of our urban areas.  In San Francisco, the resident population in the ‘outer Sunset and Richmond’ (which is virtually treeless) do not favor trees, and have been reported to kill them with scalding water because they feel they are ‘dirty’ and need maintenance.

So it is not everyone who wishes to promote tree propagation in the US.

Special thanks to Neel V. Patel of Wired Magazine for his inspiring research.

NOTE: All maps in this post developed by Brooklyn web developer (and amazing artist) Jill Hubley


California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Science, now under construction in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, is designed by the renowned Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Renzo Piano. The innovative structure will be the highest rated LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) platinum level, joining only eight other buildings in the United States.

Photovoltaic Cells on Roof

Here are some of highlights of this remarkable building:
1. 60,000 photo voltaic cells in the roof supplying almost 213,000 kWh
2. The planted roof will provide thermal insulation

Natural Thermal Insulation

3. Reverse osmosis humidification system will reduce energy consumption 95%
4. Living roof will reduce storm water runoff by 50%

Water Testing Porous Roof

5. Reclaimed water will reduce the potable wastewater by 90%
6. Saltwater for the aquariums will be piped from the Pacific Ocean

Saltwater Aquarium

7. 90% of the occupied space will have access to daylight

Overhang Entryway

8. Skylights in the dooms will draw cool air from below and feed rainforest
9. 100% of the demolition waste from old Academy was re-cycled
10. Recycled steel will be used in 100% of the building structure

Recycled Materials and Ventilation

11. Building walls are made from re-cycled blue jeans (85% post industrial)
12. All the concrete contains 30% fly ash (waste product of coal-fired plants)

Recycled Materials

The massive, living roof, which is being constructed now, is the most remarkable biosphere. About 1.7 million plants will thrive on the roof. Nine native species planted on the roof that will not require irrigation and will provide sustenance to many native species of birds and insects.

The issue of water is addressed on the ‘living roof.’ 90% of the gray water will be reclaimed from the roof run off.

Some of the remarkable presentation in the Academy will include the most biodiversity and interactive aquariums in the world. Home to 38,000 animals, the Coral Reef tank will be the second largest in the world, with animals including sharks, rays, sea turtles and 4,000 colorful reef fish.

The90 foot tall, glass dome roof will provide light and water to the four distinct rainforest environments: the Amazonian Flooded Forest; the Borneo Rainforest Floor; the Madagascar Rainforest Understory; and the Costa Rica Rainforest Canopy.

One of the world’s largest planetariums, New Morrison Dome, will be a part of the Academy as well.

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