Sustainability Guidelines for NYC Parks

Panorama, Frozen Lullwater at Prospect Park at Sunset
Panorama, Frozen Lullwater at Sunset, Prospect Park

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) recently released new sustainability guidelines for the design and maintenance of NYC’s green spaces, High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC:

High Performance Landscape Guidelines is the first document of its kind in the nation: a comprehensive, municipal design primer for sustainable parks and open space. The product of a unique partnership between the Parks Department and the Design Trust, a nonprofit organization that helped create sustainable guidelines for NYC buildings, High Performance Landscape Guidelines covers every aspect of creating sustainable parks, from design to construction to maintenance, and feature many best practices for managing soil, water, and vegetation resources.
Press Release, January 6, 2011

The Guidelines, running over 270 pages, cover site assessment; design, construction and maintenance; and soils, water and vegetation. the final section of the manual includes several case studies, including two of Brooklyn’s Parks: Calvert Vaux and Canarsie Parks.

Climate change is identified as a major factor, if not the single most important consideration, for the guidelines:

Climate change threatens the stability and longevity of New York City’s infrastructure, buildings, and parks; it also compromises the health and safety of the city’s population. Unless the growth of greenhouse gas emissions is curbed and reversed, experts predict that climate change will result in significant sea level rise, increased storm intensity and frequency, and increased temperatures.

Two factors will exacerbate the impacts of climate change in New York City: the urban heat island effect and the city’s overburdened stormwater infrastructure.

– Climate Change and 21st Century Parks, Part 1, Guidelines


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Sustainable Gardening


High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC, available as PDF (273 pages)
Parks Press Release: A New Year Launches A New Era In Great Park Design, 2011-01-06

Mulchfest 2011: Recycle Those Trees!

The giant tree shredder in action at last year’s Mulchfest at Park Circle in Prospect Park.
Park Circle Mulchfest 2010

It’s tree recycling season in New York City. Residents can have their trees recycled into mulch for the City’s parks and gardens. Note that, although recycling pickup is still suspended after the post-Christmas blizzard, you can leave trees curbside for recycling pickup.

  • Remove all lights, ornaments, tinsel and tree-stands from your tree.
  • Leave your tree unwrapped. Don’t put it in a plastic bag.
  • Leave trees curbside starting Monday, January 3 for recycling pickup, OR
  • Bring your tree 10am-2pm Saturday, January 8th or Sunday, January 9th to one of 70 locations citywide.

Residents can also pick up free mulch at designated chipping locations.

Brooklyn Locations

This year’s Mulchfest locations for Brooklyn are almost the same as last year’s. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are on-site chipping locations.


Location Address
The Amazing Garden* Columbia Street at Carroll Street Chipping
Cobble Hill Park* Verandah Place & Clinton Street Chipping
Coffey Park Dwight Street & Verona Street Drop-off only
Fort Greene Park* Washington Pk. & Willoughby Avenue Chipping
Green-Wood Cemetery 25th Street & 4th Avenue Drop-off only
Hattie Carthan Garden* Across from Von King Park: Lafayette Avenue & Clifton Place Chipping
Lincoln Terrace Park Buffalo Avenue between East New York Avenue & Eastern Parkway Drop-off only
Maria Hernandez Park Knickerbocker Avenue & Suydam Street Drop-off only
Marine Park* Avenue U & East 33rd Street Chipping
McCarren Park* Driggs Avenue & Lorimer Street Chipping
McGolrick Park Monitor Street & Driggs Avenue Drop-off only
Owl’s Head Park* Colonial Road & 68th Street Chipping
Prospect Heights Community Garden 252-256 St. Marks Avenue Drop-off only
Prospect Park* Third Street at Prospect Park West Chipping
Prospect Park Circle* Parkside Avenue & Prospect Park Southwest Chipping
Sunset Park 44th Street & 6th Avenue Drop-off only


View Brooklyn MulchFest 2011 in a larger map


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Mulchfest posts:


Mulchfest, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation
Partnerships for Parks
Prospect Park Alliance

City Announces Revised Rules for Community Gardens

Updated 2010-09-14: Added links to news reports.

Note: The full press release claims that “there are more than 600 gardens across New York City.” This in incorrect. The latest census lists only 482 gardens, 20% fewer than claimed in Parks’ press release.

Parks Press Release

Monday, September 13, 2010

Parks Commissioner Announces Final Community Garden Rules Strengthening Protections For Gardens

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe today announced the Parks Department has finalized its Community Garden Rules, which incorporate significant changes based on public comments made on the draft rules. The Notice of Adoption, including the full rules, will be published in the City Record on Monday, September 13, 2010 and take effect 30 days later.

Key changes to the proposed rules, led by Commissioner Benepe in concert with elected officials, community boards, and community garden organizations, were made in response to testimony from the community at a public hearing on August 10th, 2010 which was hosted by the Parks Department. They include:

  • Active gardens under the Parks Department’s jurisdiction are preserved as gardens as long as they are registered and licensed by the Department.
  • Licenses will be renewed as long as the garden satisfies the registration criteria.
  • Parks must attempt to identify successor gardening groups for failing gardens and has nine months from time of default to return the garden to active status.
  • New gardens may be created and will have the same protections as existing gardens.
  • A party licensed by the City to perform work that results in damage to a garden will be required to return the garden to its preexisting condition.
  • The Department will attempt to provide notices required under the Current Rules to gardeners in other languages.
  • The Statement of Basis and Purpose states that gardens will be preserved and explains that the transfer and development provisions apply to abandoned and persistently non-compliant gardens under the Department’s jurisdiction.

Related Content

Community Gardens


Parks Press Release, 2010-09-13

Time’s Up! Statement on New Garden Rules, Time’s Up, 2010-09-14

Community Gardens Get More Protection, Brooklyn Eagle, 2010-09-13
Community-Garden Rules Receive a Mixed Reaction, Javier C. Hernandez, NY Times, 2010-09-13
City Adopts New Rules For Community Gardens, Erica Ferrari, NY1 News (Video)
NYC Adopts New Rules For Community Gardens, Monica Morales, WPIX (Video)

More Green Roofs for Parks Recreation Centers

Ten Parks recreation centers, including three in Brooklyn, will be getting green roofs. The planting will be based on two regional plant communities:

Each system will include 12 experimental plots, 85 square feet each, with soil depths ranging from 4 to 6 inches.

Each plot will be planted with a species mix from two native plant communities, the Hempstead Plains (Long Island) and Rocky Summit Grasslands (e.g. Bear Mountain) of the New York City region. These models were chosen because they are meadows, have plants that can tolerate the desiccated soils and high winds typical of roof conditions, and provide prime foraging for native insects and birds.

A Green Roof Is Coming To A Recreation Center Near You!, Daily Plant, 2010-05-06

Here are the species they’ve specified from each community:

Hempstead Plains:

  • Schizachyrium scoparium, Little bluestem (Grass)
  • Panicum virgatum, Switchgrass
  • Sorghastrum nutans, Indian grass
  • Baptisia tinctoria, Yellow wild indigo
  • Solidago nemoralis, Gray goldenrod
  • Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly-weed
  • Eupatorium hyssopifolium, Hyssop-leaved boneset
  • Rubus flagellaris, North Dewberry

Rocky Summit Grasslands:

  • Carex pensylvanica, Pennsylavania sedge
  • Danthonia spicata, Poverty-oat grass
  • Deschampsia flexuosa, Common Hairgras
  • Lespedeza capitata, Bush-clover
  • Lysimachia quadrifolia, Whorled loosestrife
  • Cunila origanoides, Stone-mint, Dittany
  • Solidago odora, Licorice-goldenrod
  • Vaccinium angustifolium, Low-bush blueberry

Cunila origanoides is one of the three native plant species that were given away at the kickoff for NYC Wildflower Week last Saturday in Union Square. It’s in the Lamiaceae, the Mint Family. Its leaves smell like oregano. (The other two species were Thalictrum pubescens and Hystrix patula.)
I would expect that these plants have been propagated at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center. I’m trying to confirm that.

Related Content

Greenbelt Native Plant Center, Staten Island, 2010-05-03
NYC Wildflower Week, 5/1-5/9, 2010-04-29


A Green Roof Is Coming To A Recreation Center Near You!, Daily Plant, 2010-05-06

Mulchfest 2010: NYC Recycles Trees

Updated 2009-01-05: Added a map of Brooklyn Mulchfest locations.

Park Circle Mulchfest 2009
Park Circle Mulchfest 2009

It’s tree recycling season in New York City. Residents can have their trees recycled into mulch for the City’s parks and gardens:

  • Remove all lights, ornaments, tinsel and tree-stands from your tree.
  • Leave your tree unwrapped. Don’t put it in a plastic bag.
  • Leave trees curbside from Monday, January 4, through Friday, January 15, for recycling pickup, OR
  • Bring your tree 10am-2pm Saturday, January 9th or Sunday, January 10th to one of over 80 locations citywide.

Residents can also pick up free mulch at designated chipping locations. Volunteers from Sustainable Flatbush, including your host, will be helping out at the Park Circle location of Prospect Park.


View Brooklyn MulchFest 2010 in a larger map

In addition, Brooklyn residents are invited to drop off their Christmas trees at Green-Wood Cemetery for mulching, daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Jan. 9, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Master composters from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden will be on hand to discuss the benefits of using wood-chip mulch. Free wood chips will be available in exchange for those who bring their trees. Sponsored by the Green-Wood Cemetery and Brooklyn Botanic Garden; Green-Wood Cemetery, Fifth Avenue, at 25th Street, Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn, (718) 768-7300; free.


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Mulchfest posts


Parks: MulchFest

Parks Press Release, 2010-01-11t

Bring me the head of the Juniper Valley Tree-Killer

Over the weekend, 12 newly planted trees were destroyed at Juniper Valley Park in Queens. This incident marks the fourth case of tree damage this year at the park and a $2,500 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in this arborcide. It is believed that the trees were cut with an electric saw, either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. They were just planted in the park this past spring. Ten were cherry trees and two were oaks.
Parks Asks the Community’s Assistance in Nabbing Juniper Valley Park Tree Killer, Press Release, 2009-09-16

View Larger Map

Juniper Valley Park has been victim of tree arborcide and vandalism four times this year, with more than 20 trees victimized. In April, low branches were torn off a number of trees overnight. In June, two trees were found damaged in the park and in July, seven trees were damaged, leaving four uprooted, two completely destroyed and one with trunk damage.

If you have any information on this crime, please call the NYPD Crime stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.


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Urban Trees and Social Marketing, 2008-04-21
Factoid: Street Trees and Property Values, 2007-12-02
Barbara Corcoran Hates the Earth, 2007-11-18
New York Magazine: How Much Is a Street Tree Really Worth?, 2007-04-09
News: $1,100 to plant a tree in NYC, 2007-03-28

All Urban Forestry posts


Parks Asks the Community’s Assistance in Nabbing Juniper Valley Park Tree Killer, NYC Parks, Press Release, 2009-09-16
Vandals Attack Trees Again in Juniper Park, Juniper Park Civic Association, 2009-09-13

Wildflower Week in NYC, 5/1 through 5/9

Mertensia virginica, Virginia Bluebells blooming yesterday afternoon in the Native Flora Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Mertensia virginica, Virginia Bluebells

This Friday, May 1, through next Saturday, May 9, is the Second Annual New York City Wildflower Week (WFW):

The 2nd annual NYC Wildflower Week celebrates all things green and wild in the Big Apple—the hundreds of native flowers, trees, shrubs and grasses that are found in the five boroughs. It gives New Yorkers numerous ways to connect with and be inspired by their local environment. Free activities throughout the city include: botanical walks, garden tours, ecology lectures, children’s events, planting opportunities, cooking classes, and food tastings at top restaurants. It is the largest celebration of National Wildflower Week, an initiative begun by Lady Bird Johnson.

Events are two numerous to list here. Please see the WFW calendar for a complete listing of and details on all events. They cover all five boroughs. See below for events in Brooklyn, which are also listed in the Flatbush Gardener calendar in the sidebar.

Aquilegia canadensis, Eastern Columbine blooming in the Union Square Native Plant Garden in May 2008.
Aquilegia canadensis, Eastern Columbine, Native Plant Garden, Union Square

Sunday, May 3, 11am: Native Plants of the Marsh of Marine Park

Guide: Ranger Allison McCarthy (
Location: Meet outside Salt Marsh Nature Center, 3302 Avenue U
For more information, call 311 and ask for the Brooklyn Urban Park Rangers.
Description: Join the Urban Park Rangers for a hike through the salt marsh and learn about New York City’s beautiful native flora that flourish in the wetlands of Brooklyn. Dress for the weather, bring comfortable walking shoes and water, hat. You may also like to have a camera, hand lens, field guides, water, bug spray.

Sunday, May 3, 3:00pm: Prospect Park

Guide: Anne Wong, Director of Landscape Management (
Location: Meet at Prospect Park Audubon Center
Description: Tour recent restorations in the woodlands and along the waterways in Prospect Park. The walk will focus on native plantings as well as invasive plant problems.

Dodecathon meadia, Eastern Shooting-Star, yesterday afternoon, Native Flora Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Dodecathon meadia, Eastern Shooting-Star

Wednesday, May 6, 11am: Brooklyn Botanic Garden Native Flora Garden,

Location: Meet at the front entrance of the Native Flora Garden (by the wooden gates, across from the Lilac Collection)
Guide: Ulrich Lorimer, Curator of BBG’s Native Flora Garden
Description: Highlights will include many spring ephemerals such as trillium species (Trillium spp.), mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) and violets (Viola spp.). Native azaleas will also be in bloom including the flame, pinxterbloom and sweet azaleas (Rhododendron spp.). A multitude of fern species will be emerging as well as aquatics such as golden club (Orontium aquaticum) and blue flag iris (Iris versicolor).

Lilium canadense, Canada Lily, July 2006, Native Flora Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Lilium canadense, Canada Lily

Thursday, May 7, 3:30-5:00pm: Brooklyn Bridge Park

Location: Meet at corner of Main Street and Plymouth Street in DUMBO
Description: This program is presented by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy with guest speaker and native plant specialist Sara Stopek. It features a guided tour of native plants and wildflowers in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The tour is followed by a native wildflower planting project by students from Science Skills High School.
To sign up please contact: Kara Gilmour, Education and Stewardship Coordinator, email:, or call 718-802-0603 x18

Berries of Phytolacca americana, Pokeweed, in my backyard native plant garden in Flatbush, Brooklyn, in October 2007.
Berries, Phytolacca americana, Pokeweed


Related Content

My photos of BBG’s Native Flora Garden (Flickr Collection)


New York City Wildflower Week (WFW)
Native Flora Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy

Parks Turf Lead Results

Synthetic Turf on Field 11, Parade Grounds, Caton Avenue, Flatbush
Field 11, Parade Grounds, Caton Avenue

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) has released a report detailing the results of testing for lead levels in synthetic turf from playgrounds and sports fields across the city:

The Health Department found an elevated lead level in the crumb rubber infill material at Thomas Jefferson Park in Manhattan in 2008. … Using protocols developed by the Health Department, an accredited lab working for the Parks Department has since tested the remaining synthetic turf installations throughout New York City for lead and has not found a lead hazard at any other fields.

Aside from Thomas Jefferson Park, the test results for the remaining 102 fields and play areas were below the acceptable EPA lead level for soil (400 parts per million [ppm]), the best standard available, and no potential lead hazards were found. Lead levels for the 102 fields ranged from ‘not detected’ to 240 ppm and 96% of the results were less than 100 ppm.
Synthetic Turf Lead Results, Parks

The highest level of the new study, 240 ppm, was found in J.J. Walker Park in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. The second highest, 154 ppm, was found at Parade Ground Field 9, just south of Prospect Park in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Via New Yorkers for Parks on Twitter

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Hearing on Parks’ use of artificial turf, 2007-12-06


Synthetic Turf Lead Results, Parks

Reminder: Mulchfest 2009 is underway

MorBark in action at Park Circle, Prospect Park during Mulchfest 2008
MorBark Action Shot

This is a reminder that Mulchfest, NYC’s recycling program for holiday trees, has begun. Your tree will be chipped and used as mulch in parks and gardens across the city. All trees must be free of lights, stands, ornaments, tinsel, and so on.

View Larger Map

Starting last Thursday, New Year’s Day, you can drop trees off at Greenwood Cemetery.

Starting tonight, you can leave trees out for curbside pickup. Blog Widow and I dismantled out tree earlier this evening and set it out.

And on Mulchfest weekend, January 10 and 11, you can drop off trees at sites throughout the city. You can also pick up free mulch at chipping sites.

Related Content

Brooklyn Mulchfest 2009



Important update to Brooklyn Mulchfest 2009

I just found out – by accident, not by any NYC announcement – that two important components of the annual Mulchfest that I thought were lost this year due to budget cuts are back in:

You can drop-off trees at Greenwood Cemetery at the 5th Avenue & 25th Street Entrance from 8 am to 4:30 pm daily from January 1 thru 9, and until 2 pm on January 10. Also on January 10, from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday, a tree chipper will be on site and Master Composters from the Brooklyn Compost Project will be available to answer all your composting questions.

The Department of Sanitation will collect trees left at the curb for composting starting Monday, January 5 through Friday, January 16. As always, you must remove all lights, ornaments, and stands from your tree before setting it out at the curb for collection.

I’ve updated the original post, which has all the details, including a map of chipping and drop-off locations.

Related Posts

Brooklyn Mulchfest 2009