Rebecca McMackin, Director of Horticulture at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City talked about “Growing Biodiversity in the Concrete Jungle” at a recent JC Raulston Arboretum seminar celebrating their 40th anniversary.
The Brooklyn Bridge Park, about 75% completed, is a Michael van Valkenburg Associates design. Purposely, it aims to be a mecca for wildlife and people. The site is on the East Atlantic flyway for migrating birds. While New York City is considered a leader in green space, it’s concentrated only in certain areas, like Staten Island or Central Park Rebecca said. If Brooklyn was its own city, it would have less green space of any US city except Las Vegas, she added. “We aim to be a green haven for birds and other wildlife.”
The park is organized into seven ecosystems, including even an ornamental ecosystem. The park entrance is a traditional static ornamental landscape, as are the plants around playgrounds. “Traditional horticulture is static,” Rebecca said, “you expect it to be there in 20 years.”
Other areas are more natural, like the woodland edge ecosystem that features dense hedgerows snaking throughout the park. Plants are densely spaced and it changes. “We manage the succession that allows them to be functioning organisms rather than ornamentals. They move around.” Plants provide pollinator and bird food and habitat. “Birds look for structure first,” she said. Thickets are perfect for them.
Leaves that are raked are composted. But in many beds leaves are left in place to preserve overwintering beetles, butterflies and bees. Cues to care, like a clean edge make the approach acceptable to the public, she explained.
Other ecosystems include wetlands, meadows and a ½-acre flower field (essentially a green roof on 18” of soil). Ground nesting birds especially like the flower field. There’s even a large, 11-acre lawn that’s organically managed. While Rebecca wasn’t excited about grass at first she’s warmed up. “Lawns are the ecosystem that brings people. They want a lawn to sit on.”
NewTerrain October 17, 2016.