Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Meyer Berger on New York's Trees and Greenspaces


I was introduced to Meyer (Mike) Berger and his book New York by Eric Anderson. Eric is the illustrator of the fantastic pictorial of the natural inhabitants of Washington Square Park that was published in the NYU Alumni Magazine. New York is a collection of Mike Berger's columns for the Times. He wrote a couple of columns in which he referred to the Minetta Waters and the Minetta Brook. (Everything I've read about this body of water that flowed above ground in Washington Square Park refers to it as a brook but since the landscape was not particularly rugged, it might be more correct to call the waterbody a creek.) Mike also wrote about trees growing in the city. Here are some excerpts from the book. I am sure I've missed some; please let me know in the comments.

July 21, 1954
The men who nurse the city's 2,820,000 trees are in a sweat over the second year of drought in New York. Trees are dying in greater numbers than they have ever known, and there is not too much they can do about it....In Queens alone, for example, the Park [sic] Department looks after 940,000 in its parks, another 28,000 in the streets. Manhattan has 12,000 street trees, 170,000 in its parks. Brooklyn has 130,000 in parks, 105,000 on its streets, though people somehow have been misled by the book title "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" into thinking it only has a few. The Bronx has 330,000 park trees...,and 45,000 on its streets....Trees that do best in New York's sidewalks are the pin, red and scarlet oaks; American and European elm, linden, Norway maple, honey locust, oriental plane, tulip and the ginkgo....Curiously, the city has more street and park trees today than it had, say, twenty-five or thirty years ago.


August 5, 1955
The two Glastonbury thorn trees in the [St Luke's Chapel] churchyard were brought from Britain by early communicants. The legend is that they were seedlings grown from thorn trees that branched from the staff thrust into graveyard soil at Benedictine Abbey in Old Glastonbury by St. Joseph of Arimathea.

February 5, 1958
Marginalia: A purist in town holds that the place name "Greenwich Village" is tautological. "Wich," he stubbornly maintains is borrowed from the Saxon "wic," which meant village.The Saxons stole "wic" from the Latin "vicus," which means pretty much the same. Green Village, the fussbudget argues, would be proper, but Greenwich Village really comes to Greenwich Village Village.

August 25, 1958
[Writing about the mid 1800s.] The lower Village still had the semi-bucolic look--sandy hills, marshes and glittering streams. Only a few years before, men had fished Minetta Brook for trout and had shot wild fowl in what is now Washington Square. Fourteenth Street was the city's northern boundary.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Seed orders for our Fenway Victory Gardens plot

Image: The Cook's Garden seed order, Feb. 2004.

Last week I shared a hand-drawn map of our plot in the Fenway Victory Gardens. Along with the map, I found two seed orders, one from The Cook's Garden in Pennsylvania and the other from the Vermont Bean Seed Company in Wisconsin. From The Cook's Garden catalogue I ordered a selection of vegetables and habitat perennial mixes, but I can't find either mix on The Cook's Garden website or in the current year's catalogue. From Vermont Bean Seed Company I chose only vegetables.

Image: Vermont Bean Seed Company seed order, Feb. 2004

I think I am going to pretend that we have a sunny garden plot and create a fictional seed (and tools) order this year. The catalogues I have on hand are The Cook's Garden and Botanical Interests. What flowers and vegetables are you considering for your garden spaces?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Our plot in the Fenway Victory Gardens


For two years in the early 2000s we had a plot in the Fenway Victory Gardens. We inherited a back border of lilacs, several blueberry bushes, and a sprouting pear stump. We do not have an outdoor garden in New York. Our only plant space is the window sill in the living room. 

What does your growing space look like? Share a link to a photo in the comments, or with us @localecologist on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wild About: Natural Inhabitants of Washington Square Park

Image: Map of the Natural Inhabitants & Visitors of Washington Square Park by Eric Chase Anderson (source)

If you've seen Wes Anderson's films then you've seen the artwork of his illustrator brother, Eric Chase Anderson. Eric Anderson developed a Map of the Natural Inhabitants & Visitors of Washington Square Park for the NYU Alumni Magazine. The map is an insert in Issue #23. You can view the map online (scroll to the last page then flip inward two pages). Issue #23 is also embedded at the end of this post.

Humans - and their dogs - made the list! The 14 animal inhabitants and visitors featured on the map are the

1. American tree sparrow
2. Cedar waxwing
3. Dark-eyed junco
4. Domestic dog
5. Downy woodpecker
6. Eastern gray squirrel
7. House mouse
8. House sparrow
9. Human
10. Little brown bat
11. Northern cardinal
12. Norway rat
13. Red-tailed hawk
14. Rock dove [aka rock pigeon or pigeon]

One of my favorite features of the map is the proper collective noun or grouping name for most of the animals on the list. Here's an example: An earful or museum of dark-eyed juncos.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

CONTEST Winner - Name the #WashingtonSquarePark Ecology Map


There were 32 entries to the Name the Washington Square Park Ecology Map Contest.

Before announcing the winning name, a thank you to our judges - Casey Brown, Jennifer Casriel, Katherine Keltner, and Cathryn Swan - for considering the names, and to the creative individuals who submitted entries to the contest.

The grand prize for the winning name is a copy each of Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City by Leslie Day and New York City Trees by Edward Sibley Bernard. The books were provided courtesy of The John Hopkins University Press and Columbia University Press, respectively.

On to the winning name!



WSP Eco Map. Makes sense, right?! The name is short but it conveys what the map is about. Congratulations to Lorna of Seattle!

The complete name of the map is WSP Eco Map: The Wild Things of Washington Square Park in your Pocket (or your desktop). "Park in Your Pocket" was submitted by Duncan Brine. The contest was not conceived with a runner-up prize but wanting to acknowledge the use of his entry, Duncan was offered a choice of either book. He chose New York City Trees.

The map will be launched in 2015. For details, watch this space or bit.ly/WSPEcology.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

[New Deadline] CONTEST - Name the #WashingtonSquarePark Ecology Map

Image: Daylilies in Washington Square Park, photo courtesy Hubert J. Steed (source)

Washington Square Park Ecology (WSP Ecology) is an environmental initiative to celebrate the wild things in the park. WSP Ecology’s first project is a mobile map of the trees, the historic flow and contemporary route of the channelized Minetta Brook/Creek, and the other environmental assets in the park such as nesting boxes. Local Ecology partnered with Washington Square Park Blog to raise money to hire a map developer. Thirty five donors gave $3,050 to the campaign which was hosted on ioby.org.

The mobile map needs a name! Leave your name suggestion in the comments by Friday, December 14 Monday, December 15 at 11:59 pm EST. The names will be reviewed by Local Ecology, Casey Brown, two donors, and Washington Square Park Blog. The winning name will be announced on Friday, December 21, 2014 - Winter Solstice.

You can also tweet your suggestion to @localecologist (include #WSPEcology). We are also on Facebook at http://fb.com/localecologist.


The winner will receive two books! One copy each of Field Guide to the Street Trees of New York City by Leslie Day c/o The John Hopkins University Press and New York City Trees by Edward Sibley Bernard c/o Columbia University Press.

Thank you for participating in our version of #GivingTuesday.

P.S. The mobile map was created by GIS and web designer Casey Brown. The tree data is derived from historic and contemporary tree surveys of Washington Square Park commissioned by the NYC Parks and Recreation Department. Creek data was generously provided by Steve Duncan of Undercity.org.

P.P.S. WSP Ecology has expanded to offer educational events in the park. This year, Local Ecology collaborated with local photographer Hubert Steed on a plant photography workshop; with Julie Cramer, a NYU Conservation Education graduate student, on a family nature scavenger hunt; and with Leslie Day, PhD on a fall foliage tree walk.