May 21, 2015

On the High Line, old and new infrastructure and art designed to decay

Last month we walked the third (and newest) section of the High Line. We each had our favorites.

One of us really liked the playground (Pershing Square Beams) and could have crawled, clambered, and popped up into the single "gopher hole" for longer than we had time to spend at the park. Two other fun elements of the new section are the revealed rail tracks that you can walk on (Rail Track Walk) and the remnant rail equipment -- the rail "frog" and switches which you can play manipulate.

I enjoyed the rise and fall of the 11th Avenue Bridge and the Interim Walkway.

I never saw the High Line before it was developed into a park so I missed the seeing the complex of spontaneous vegetation that once covered the tracks. These hardy herbaceous perennials have been preserved -- for now at least I assume given that the walkway itself is billed as an interim space -- alongside the walkway. The vegetated trackbeds are the site of Adrian Villar Rojas' The Evolution of God, a land art installation commissioned by the High Line.

We found the cubes, constructed of cement and clay, endlessly fascinating. Each was filled with different types and configurations of natural and human-made objects. Each cube was in a different stage of decay. The juxtaposition of decaying art in the foreground and rising luxury in the background was riveting. A full description of the sculptures and Villar Rojas' biography are available on the High Line website.

May 19, 2015

SPY Eco Photo Hunt

As you may have guessed, I am very involved with Washington Square Park (WSP) Eco Projects, an initiative that celebrates the diversity of nature found in the park via a map and events. On May 2, we co-hosted with New York Spark Your Creativity (SPY) a smartphone photo hunt of local greenspaces. The map and plant knowledge were offered by WSP Eco Projects and SPY provided the technical expertise and the "what to look for" guide. If you'd like a copy of the guide, please email SPY at amusepro(at)me(dot)com.

Image: The fountain in Washington Square Park; photo taken prior to the start of the photo hunt.

The meetup spot was the Starbucks on West 4th and over snacks we reviewed and practiced with the features of Camera+. We also discussed a route for the day. We spent most of our time exploring areas south of the park. From the "what to look for" guide I selected leaf and flower close ups, showing shapes, and nature and architecture contrasts. I also kept an eye for out for shadows and reflections, personal favorites.

At the end of the hunt, we stopped for refreshments at Noho Juice Bar on Mercer Street. There, we reviewed our photographs, discussed editing options, and created collages. It took several attempts of different images and image arrangements but I made a collage I am happy to share below.

I encourage you to use the SPY Eco Photo Hunt Map to experience the diverse types of greenspaces in the Village. Make a collage of your own and share it with us - either via a link in the comments or on Facebook/Instagram/or Twitter using #spyecophotohunt. If you'd like access to the original Google map, email me at wspecoprojects(at)gmail(dot)com.

Explore, Learn, and Log your observations of the trees in Washington Square Park using the WSP Eco Map. And look out for more learning activities in (and around) the park.

May 15, 2015

Nature scavenger hunts

The children (and their parents) who participated in the WSP Eco Projects nature scavenger hunt last fall had a good time. I've been asked many times when there will be another nature scavenger hunt in the park. Unfortunately there isn't one planned for the spring but you could certainly use the guide we developed for the inaugural nature hunt though it's biased towards the fall season.

You could do a pop-up nature scavenger hunt as we often do and did yesterday. It's more of a finding quest as we look about the park for interesting items without consulting a list. Today we found an elm samara, a catalpa pod, a white oak leaf, and a Y-shaped stick.

Image: Scavenger Hunt - Washington Square Park by Carina Zimmerman courtesy of Carina Zimmerman
If you prefer a formal guide, and want to scavenger hunt in Washington Square Park, check out Carina Zimmerman's Scavenger Hunt in Washington Square Park. The park is Carina's favorite in NYC. If you don't live near Washington Square Park, check out Carina's other scavenger hunt; it's a nature hunt for 20 items you could find in most park settings.

P.S. I discovered Carina's blog via Washington Square Park Blog.

May 12, 2015

Wild About: Cecropia Moths

Wild About is a celebration of the flora and fauna commonly found in our cities. Instead of fact sheets, this space will showcase books, art, music, societies, and whimsical objects about urban-adaptable plants and animals. If you would like to see your favorite urban-oriented plant or animal featured, please email us at info(at)localecology(dot)org.

I was not expecting to see a cecropia moth on the Spring Nature Walk in Washington Square Park last week Friday. In fact, I did not know about the existence of the cecropia moth. The cecropia moth, Hyalophora cecropia, is, according to Wikipedia, "North America's largest native moth." And I saw one in Washington Square Park. On a sunny Friday morning. Adult cecropia moths are nocturnal. This individual seemed adult sized, but it also seemed undisturbed by the din caused but its presence. It was at rest at the base of a fence post across from the big playground in the park. The section of fence was near to a crabapple tree. Maple, birch, and apple are among the trees cecropia moth larvae feed on. In addition to the adult humans on the nature walk, there was an excited group of schoolchildren. Initially, a couple of the boys were attempting to harass the moth with a stick but once we exclaimed about the awesomeness of this creature, they turned towards closely observing and photographing the moth. The children were not participating in the same walk as I was; they had traveled from Harlem to participate in a Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation "Greenwich Village: History and Historic Preservation" education program tour.

Watch videos of the cecropia moth here.

Images of the moth can be seen here.

The cecropia caterpillar's coloration is equally interesting.

Have you seen a cecropia moth?

Check out other Wild About posts: BeesHorsesSnowy owlsSquirrelsEating insectsChipmunksPigeonsGinkgo.

May 11, 2015

The SoHo Historical Society -- You Can Make It Happen!

What comes to mind when you think of SoHo? Upscale shopping and luxury real estate? You will certainly find these but historically there was farmland, then industry, then artist work-live spaces and a "tight-knit community where people actually knew and liked their neighbors," and much more.

You can play an instrumental role in bringing this neighborhood's history into the public realm. Make a donation to the mobile SoHo Historical Society project on Kickstarter. The project is the brainchild of lifelong SoHo resident, Yukie Ohta. Yukie is also a writer, archivist, and founder of The Soho Memory Project blog.
I am designing and building a portable historical society that can navigate the bustling urban environment of today’s SoHo while showing a glimpse of its past. Using unconventional media such as Viewmaster viewers and a smell station, I will chronicle the evolution of SoHo from rural farmland to high-end retail hub, charting its cycles of development and thus placing current day SoHo in the context of New York City’s history.

Watch Yukie describing the project and donate here!

All photos and media courtesy of Yukie Ohta at The SoHo Memory Project.

May 4, 2015

Hortus Gifts for Mother's Day 2015

Celebrate the mothers in your life with gifts from these three four women-owned businesses!

Gamine Co. makes workwear for women. All products are made in the US and designed to be functional, durable, and feminine. Taylor Johnston, horticulturist and greenhouse supervisor at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston, is the head designer and company founder. Get your dungarees and other Gamine workwear here. (I hear that a curvy version of the dungarees in the works.)

I follow The Sill on Instagram and Pinterest. I haven't been to their Lower East Side shop but it's on my Field Trip list. I especially like the Olmsted (in Pink) and the Calvert (in Sonora) succulents which are pictured above. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed many great city parks throughout the US. The Sill was founded by Eliza Blank and the plants sold by the company are grown in the US. The tools used by a Sill indoor gardener were a Tools of the Trade feature.

I have heard great things about Shoots & Roots Bitters and briefly overlapped with one of the founders, Ashley DuVal, in the East Bay, California! The other two partners are Rachel Meyer, PhD and Selena Ahmed, PhD. Each bitter is influenced by the academic skill set of each of the partners -- ethnobotany, plant evolutionary biology, and food systems and agro-forestry. Each ingredient is genetically tested to ensure its authenticity. I am a big tea drinker so of course the Chai Jolokia made this list. Check out all 9 bitters.

We visited Nalata Nalata a couple of months ago in hopes of finding a birthday gift for a family member. The "birthday girl" creates beautiful invitations, so while there were beautiful objects in the shop, I decided on a set of pretty washi paper envelopes. For this Hortus list, the various plant shears seemed just right. Pictured above are the Tajika flower and herb shears.

My thanks to Gamine Co, The Sill, Shoots and Roots Bitters, and Nalata Nalata for providing the images. This post was edited on May 5, 2105 to include photos from Nalata Nalata.

P.S. I like the various Tajika shears at Nalata Nalata.

P.S. Edible Manhattan has an outstanding profile of Shoots & Roots Bitters in its May-June 2015 issue.

Apr 29, 2015

Tree species of Washington Square Park

Have you used the mobile WSP Eco Map of the trees and historic Minetta Creek of Washington Square Park? There's nothing to download. Simply go to to use the map. The map includes almost all of the trees growing in the park. To come: locations of the nesting boxes and trees with ID tags and memorial plaques. Here's a list of the trees you can expect to find in the park.

P.S. The Eco Map was written about at WSP BlogCurbed NY, and 6sqft.