Sustainability Practices

In 2012 SuperStorm Sandy struck The Battery ‘s waterfront with a 14-foot tidal surge, and with it, climate change and rising sea levels became a reality.

This disaster reinforced our goals to create a biodiverse environment, and increase climate awareness by implementing a plan for sustainability through design, construction, management and educational programs. The Battery must continue to serve New Yorkers, welcome the world’s visitors, and become a model of preparedness for urban parks throughout the nation.

Biodiversity

Design and Management

As The Battery Conservancy moves forward with capital projects, we aim to be a model of preparedness, incorporating new strategies for resiliency in New York’s oldest waterfront park. When we commissioned a horticultural master plan for extensive gardens, we selected salt-tolerant perennial plants and grasses. We replaced acres of concrete with porous gravel and toxin-free lawns, reducing runoff and providing natural cooling. All structures, as SeaGlass Carousel, are built to the 100-year flood levels. We planted a half-acre of native plants in our edible forest farm. Post-Sandy, we are planting only native trees, which were our survivors. In addition, the standard-setting Playscape, which is completing design, will include granite hills and sand dunes to manage rain and flooding along with natural berms for active play.

Next time you’re enjoying a sunny afternoon on The Battery Oval or Woodland lawn, take a close look at the grass. With high-volume visitorship in mind, we plant our lawns with Kentucky Bluegrass, overseeded with a blend of tall turf type fescues and add clover. We realize the common practice to rid lawns of anything other than one species of grass, but at The Battery Conservancy, we recognize the critical role nitrogen producing clover plays in soil health. Clover is a legume, and legumes pull nitrogen from the air around them and store it in nodules on their roots. These capsules of nitrogen eventually break off, mix in with the soil, and get absorbed by other plants. Clover provides nutrients for our grass naturally, so the Conservancy need not use the harmful synthetic fertilizers.

We extend sustainable practices to all park operations. Efficient use of water is ensured by timed, weather-responsive watering systems. Rather than rock salt for winter ice removal, we use plant-safe calcium chloride. Avoiding the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides, gardeners practice integrated pest management and weed the gardens by hand.

Other Nutrients are introduced into the park’s soil from compost cured at Battery Urban Farm, wood chip mulch from local arborists and plant cuttings, which we allow to break down naturally within garden beds.

The Big U

 

Rebuild by Design, an initiative of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and HUD, addressed structural and environmental vulnerabilities that Hurricane Sandy exposed in communities throughout the region and developing fundable solutions to protect residents from future climate events. BIG Team’s Big U is a vision for a protective system around Manhattan from West 54th street south to The Battery and up to East 40th street: 10 continuous miles of low-lying geography that comprise an incredibly dense, vibrant, and vulnerable urban area.


Biodiversity

The choices we make in designing and managing The Battery have created a biodiverse habitat, attracting bees, birds and butterflies.

Mason, leafcutter, bumble and honey bees are critical to our conservation efforts in The Battery. Over the past few decades, bee populations, particularly honeybees, have sharply declined. We partner with local beekeepers to host The Battery Bee Village, an apiary nestled among native grasses in the southeast corner of the park. The gentle honeybees are not interested in stinging their human neighbors. Instead, they spend their days sipping on – and pollinating – the flowers and crops growing throughout The Battery. Once home, they work tirelessly to transform the nectar and pollen into honey.

The Battery is a destination for hundreds of migrating bird species that find food and habitat in The Battery’s toxin-free gardens and lawns. We work with New York City Audubon to highlight the diversity of the park’s bird population, with seasonal bird walks led by expert guides. Participants have spotted rare birds including the Blue Grosbeak.

Since 2008, The Battery has served as a certified Monarch Waystation – a habitat that supports migration and reproduction of Monarch butterflies. Each fall, Monarchs flock to The Battery’s abundant gardens to feast on their favorite nectar plants, which include purple coneflower, joe-pye weed and New England aster. While feeding on nectar, the butterflies pollinate the vast bouquet of flowers growing in the park. In the spring, they return to The Battery to lay their eggs on the leaves of our milkweed, the only plant that Monarch caterpillars can eat.


Educational Programs

Battery Urban Farm empowers young people to become environmental stewards by teaching sustainable food cultivation. We use NO agricultural chemicals, choosing instead to employ practices such as integrated pest management. Students plant each seed on our farm, tend and harvest the crops, and return nutrients to the soil by enriching it with homemade compost. Students of all ages are taught how and what to compost, and how recycling organic material benefits the local ecosystem and global climate.

With our students, we grow 135 different varieties of herbs and produce in the vegetable farm over the course of the season. The plant diversity in our farm demonstrates alternatives to grocery-store produce. We teach students about the correlation between our food choices and the carbon footprint.

In the forest farm, students learn about native plants, pollinators, animals, insects and medicinal herbs. Ferns, ramps, berry bushes, mushrooms, fruit trees and other edible shade-loving plants were planted with the intention of creating a multilayered food forest. Each of the plants in this space is native to the Northeast, illustrating for students what a foraged diet may have looked like on this island hundreds of years ago.

Our students study New York Harbor as an ecosystem and monitor the impact of erosion and runoff during flooding. New York City’s waterfront ecosystems were once pristine, but over the years they were severely degraded by pollution and overfishing. In 2014, we began growing oysters, in partnership with Billion Oyster Project, to repopulate New York Harbor with water-filtering mollusks. A single adult oyster in one of our restoration stations can clean up to 50 gallons of water a day! Students participating in an oyster-oriented lesson get hands-on experience inventorying our oysters and observing and recording the minute indicators of the health of New York Harbor and its inhabitants.

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