Screenshot 2019-07-29 at 12.56.34 PM.png
Posts in Nature & Environment
Seeing Trees: A History of Street Trees in New York City and Berlin

Seeing Trees: A History of Street Trees in New York City and Berlin

Reviewed by Leslie Day

Sonja Dumpelmann’s important history of street trees in two major cities, New York and Berlin, helps us understand their role in not just obvious areas like health and beauty, but also civil rights and women’s rights. It is a unique look at the connections between humanity and trees in dense urban settings.

Read More
Dutch Baymen, Blue Points, and Oyster Crazed New Yorkers

Dutch Baymen, Blue Points, and Oyster Crazed New Yorkers

By Erin Becker

Beginning as early as 8,000 years ago, the land which would eventually become New York City was intrinsically connected to the oyster. The Lenape targeted shellfish as a food resource and left behind heaping shell middens. Upon arrival to the New World, the Dutch and English colonists found a familiar food source — the oysters of New York Harbor. For a time, it seemed oysters were an inexhaustible resource. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, oysters fed the rich and poor of New York City. Like the ubiquitous hot dog carts of today, oyster carts and cellars lined the streets of New York City, peddling affordable food to the masses. ​

Read More
Dredging Newtown Creek: An Interview with Mitch Waxman

Dredging Newtown Creek: An Interview with Mitch Waxman

Interviewed by Joseph Alexiou

Writer and photographer Mitch Waxman is the leading authority on the history of Newtown Creek, a toxically polluted industrial waterway on the border between Brooklyn and Queens. In addition to his reporting and documentation, Waxman leads regular tours on land and by boat while spreading the unique stories of New York’s most centrally located contaminated coastline to the community.

Read More
Hudson Rising

Hudson Rising

Reviewed by Kara Murphy Schlichting

What metaphor captures the relationship between the Hudson River, the cities that line its shores, and the people who plie its waters? Is the river a touchstone by which thinkers trace American ideas about nature? Is it an allegory, teaching those humbled in the face of ecological change to repent humanity's role? Is it the exemplar of the declension narrative present in American environmental storytelling? Or is the river more like a battle cry, rallying those committed to environmental activism and resiliency? Hudson Rising, the new exhibit at the New York Historical Society, contends it is all of these things. This deeply researched, thoughtfully presented, and satisfyingly interdisciplinary exhibit introduces the visitor to myriad people who have used and shaped the river, confronted ecological ruin, and turned towards preservation to mitigate degradation.

Read More
Urban Ornithology: 150 Years of Birds in New York City

Urban Ornithology: 150 Years of Birds in New York City

Reviewed by Leslie Day

I lived on a boat on the Hudson River in Manhattan from 1975 to 2011 and it was then that I became an avid birder. Living on the Hudson I watched canvasback ducks with their beautiful red heads arrive each winter in huge numbers in the 1980’s. And I observed them as their numbers diminished greatly after the 1990’s. When I first moved to the river there were many laughing gulls that migrated to the city each April. My father’s birthday was April 12th, around the time they’d show up. The happy sound of their calls would bring me running outside to my deck to look at them and hear the joyous cries — my harbinger of the beautiful warm months to come. By the time I moved away in 2011, there were just a few arriving each spring.

Read More
New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore

New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore

By Kara Murphy Schlichting

In 1865 New York City park commissioner Andrew Haswell Green came to the conclusion that the city had outgrown Manhattan Island. In a report for the Board of Commissioners of Central Park, Green argued that the city’s future should include its mainland environs of Westchester County north of the Harlem River. He articulated a river-spanning future for New York. Green reasoned that lower Westchester was “so intimately connected with and dependent upon the City of New York, that unity of plan for improvements on both sides” of the Harlem was “essential.”

Reprinted with permission from New York Recentered: Building the Metropolis from the Shore, by Kara Murphy Schlichting, published by the University of Chicago Press. © 2019 by the University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.

Read More
Happenings: Art, Play, and Urban Revitalization in 1960s Central Park

Happenings: Art, Play, and Urban Revitalization in 1960s Central Park

By Marie Warsh

On November 16, 1966, an unprecedented event took place on the Sheep Meadow in Central Park. Beginning at midnight, thousands of New Yorkers convened on the park’s largest lawn to watch the Leonid meteor showers, which were expected to be particularly brilliant. Although the crowd was let down — dense cloud cover prevented visibility — the gathering nonetheless offered a convivial atmosphere. Spectators brought chairs, blankets, and hot beverages, and the event became an after-dark picnic, with some marveling at the novel scene. One woman observed, “All these people in the park after midnight, and no one is getting mugged.”

Read More
Lindsay K. Campbell's City of Forests, City of Farms: Sustainability Planning for New York City’s Nature

Lindsay K. Campbell's City of Forests, City of Farms: Sustainability Planning for New York City’s Nature

Reviewed by Kubi Ackerman

In November of 2015, a tree planted in the Bronx was commemorated as the one millionth tree of the city’s MillionTreesNYC initiative. The accompanying ceremony celebrated the culmination of this ambitious urban forestry project spearheaded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. A little more than two years later, the City Council passed what was described as the city’s first ever bill focused specifically on urban agriculture, characterized modestly as “a first step” aimed merely at collecting information on urban agriculture organizations and businesses. Given the mainstreaming of environmental issues in New York City, which are inclusive of both urban forestry and urban agriculture, why was the former enthusiastically embraced at the top levels of municipal governance while the latter is still now only very slowly receiving the attention of policymakers? This is the central question of Lindsay Campbell’s book, City of Forests, City of Farms: Sustainability Planning for New York’s Nature, which juxtaposes and contrasts these two distinct but interrelated conceptions of nature in the city that rose to prominence in the Bloomberg Era. In so doing, Campbell provides insight on the complex interplay between politics and biological and social ecologies, and raises critical questions as to who ultimately benefits from sustainability initiatives.

Read More
Parable of the Bees: Leslie Day's Honeybee Hotel

Parable of the Bees: Leslie Day's Honeybee Hotel

Reviewed by ​Rebecca Dalzell

In 2012, the Waldorf-Astoria built six beehives in a rooftop garden. Twenty stories above Park Avenue, 300,000 bees pollinated flowering apple and cherry trees, and produced jugs of honey. Its flavor depended on the season: in the spring, it was light and minty; come fall, it darkened as bees foraged on aster and goldenrod. This miel de Manhattan made its way into cocktails, bread, and gelato served in the hotel restaurants.

Read More