Archives for category: Tree Stewardship
Native and Not Panel pic

Left to right – Katerli Bounds, Uli Lorimer, Kristy King, Leila Mougoui Bakhtiari


On April 28 6:30-8PM, we had our third panel discussion on Native and Not: NYC’s Dynamic Flora as part of our spring theme Living Things in an Urban Environment, where panelists from NYC Parks and Brooklyn Botanic Garden discussed the state of native flora, invasive species management and what we as a community can do to increase floral biodiversity.

Uli Lorimer, Curator of Native Flora from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, brought us beautiful photos alongside sobering news about the declining trend of urban flora in our region.


Native Flora – Arethusa bulbosa


NY Metropolitan Flora Project Native Flora Survey Results


Kristy King, Director of Forest Restoration of NYC Parks, revealed the surprising number of urban forests, salt marshes and other natural landscapes in NYC while revealing NYC Parks goals for forest restoration.

NYC Parks Goals for Forest Restoration

NYC Parks Goals for Forest Restoration

NYC's Surprising Amount of  Natural Areas

NYC’s Surprising Amount of Natural Areas


And Katerli Bounds, Director of Stewardship of NYC Parks, presented us with fantastic ways the NYC community can get involved in stewardship activities through both NYC Parks and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy.  A great upcoming project being TreesCount! 2015 where NYC Parks enlists the help of the NYC community to map and catalogue every tree in NYC.


Trees Count! 2015


Stewardship Opportunities in Forestry, Salt Marshes, Fresh Water Wetland and Bioswales


Then Leila Mougoui Bakhtiari, our very own volunteer coordinator of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s Urban Forestry program moderated the discussion, bringing up fascinating questions such as:

At what point is a plant species considered to be invasive?

Can invasive species be used to our benefit?

And what are everyones thoughts on the controversial book Wild Urban Plants by Peter Del Tredici?

To listen to the entire panel discussion click here for our audio player.

The evening ended with the quote “if you build it, they will come”, a great segue into our next panel where we delve into urban pollinators. Join us on May 19 6:30-8PM at Threes Brewing for Beyond the Honeybee: Exploring Critical Pollinators where we expand our idea of pollinators, why they are particularly important in an urban setting and action steps the NYC community can take to support their survival.  We will be joined by Sam Droege, head of the bee inventory and monitoring program at the US Geological Survey (click here to see his beautiful bee species photographs), Howard Ginsberg, entomologist for USGS who studies the impact of invertebrates on natural systems and Tina Harrison, Ph.D. candidate for ecology at Rutgers University who is studying the impact on bee genetic diversity in disturbed sites compared to undisturbed sites. Click here to RSVP.

Follow us on Twitter at @GowanusGreen and on Instagram @gowanuscanalconservancy for GCC news, volunteer events and trivia.


New York City’s 2014 began with a great snowstorm. The Conservancy’s 2014, however, began under a warm winter sun that welcomed volunteers, members and staff back to the Salt Lot for the first time since December 22’s Composting Gowanus event. The warmth presided over what became a productive day of service centered around the collection and mulching of discarded Christmas trees around the watershed – Mulchfest!

With the assistance of our sponsors Arborpolitan and Urban Arborists, volunteers collected 460 trees and turned it into mulch. Meanwhile, our younger volunteers worked to sift .5 cubic yards of compost, while our tree stewards pruned 4 street trees and returned 100 lbs of pruned material back to the Salt Lot.

After the majority of our 26 volunteers assisted in turning our November and December windrows, the newly harvested mulch was spread around the compost area and on top of our windrows. Volunteers left the Salt Lot not with the all-too familiar smell of compost, but with the fresh piney smell of Christmas morning in their noses.

On this sunny day, hundreds of discarded trees helped breathe back life into the Salt Lot after the snowstorm that delayed Mulchfest for one week. January 12 was the perfect day  to beautify the Salt Lot just before the chilling polar vortex and its snowstorms descended upon Gowanus for the rest of the month.

Arborpolitan unloads the trees they collected.

Volunteer Committee Compost Co-Chair John Craver and Director of Education Programs Christine Petro biked around the neighborhood collecting trees!

John diligently binding the trees together so they don’t roll off the wagons.

Volunteers loaded up collected trees onto Urban Arborists’ truck…

…where they were ferried to the far end of the Salt Lot to be turned into mulch.

The fresh mulch was brought back to the main work area, where it was spread over the deep, muddy puddles formed after the snowstorm that kicked off the year.

Busy at work!

Volunteer Markley Boyer walks across the freshly placed green mulch.

Interested in volunteering at the Salt Lot before Clean & Green kicks off in March? E-mail and ask for opportunities such as weekly windrow turns!

Over 60 volunteers joined the Conservancy during our Clean & Green on November 16. Among the volunteers that joined us on this unexpectedly bright and sunny day were groups from Con-Edison, St. John’s University, and a group of Georgia Tech alumni from the New York/New Jersey area. During this year’s final Clean & Green, volunteers assisted in garden stewardship, street tree stewardship, and windrow turning.

Garden Stewardship

The bulk of our volunteers participated in assisting with the stewardship of our gardens on 2nd Ave., Huntington Street, 3rd Ave., and Degraw East.  A total of over 300 seeds were propagated into 1-gallon containers for the Salt Lot nursery, and 20 perennials and shrubs were installed in the 2nd Ave. Gardens. A total of nearly 4,000 square feet of green space was stewarded by our volunteers!



Street Tree Stewardship

Bob Lesko led a small team of volunteers to cut and prune 35 trees on 9th Street as part of our Street Tree Stewardship program.

It is notable that under the guidance of Bob, over 100 street trees were managed over the course of the month of November! Thank you, Bob!

Windrow Turning

Finally, a portion of the volunteers helped to turn the September windrow into a curing pile, where it will rest in the back of the lot for two weeks. Moving the September windrow cleared space for the November windrow to be built the next day.

In terms of composting, 350 lbs of organic materials were collected, 700 lbs of compost was distributed, and 250 lbs of trash were collected.



At the end of the day, all volunteers were treated to some great grilled burgers and hot dogs, courtesy of our friends at Whole Foods. November’s Clean & Green ended up being an extremely productive way to end the year! From the bottom of our hearts, we would like thank our volunteers for their extraordinary service this day. To those seeking further volunteer opportunities this year, there’s one more Composting event on December 22nd – e-mail us for more details and availability. But for those that won’t be able to make it, whether you’ve become interested through this post or just wish to come back – we hope to see you in March at our first Clean & Green in 2014!

Happy Holidays!

Back in February we posted about a project that aimed to map all tree pits within 2 blocks of the canal with the aid of TreeKIT, one of our partners. After reviewing the planning phase detailed in the previous blog post, we were all set to go through with the project.

Through TreesNY’s Citizen Pruner Program, 15 volunteers were trained for the purposes of this project. The Citizen Pruner Program, as described in its website, taught volunteers about “tree biology, street tree identification, common tree problems, tree stewardship, and how to prune dead and damaged limbs.”

The ultimate goal of the tree mapping project was to conduct an inventory of all existing street trees and empty tree pits within approximately 2 blocks of the Gowanus Canal, and with the help of TreeKIT, format and manage the street tree mapping data for public use as well as the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR). This information will help identify potential tree planting sites in addition to preparing a Tree Management Plan; the Conservancy hopes to engage more volunteers in the Gowanus community to steward local trees. The Management Plan would include a mobile platform where volunteers can log their stewardship activity.

In order to collect the data, the 15 volunteers who underwent the Citizen Pruning Program were designated as ‘Mapping Stewards’ and led volunteers around the proposed mapping site to collect the data.

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 3.33.14 PM

The zones seen here served as guidelines for which areas the Mapping Stewards and their fellow mappers covered.

The Tree Mapping event was a great success – see the finished map on TreeKIT’s website! You can zoom in to individual trees to view details such as species, DBH (diameter at breast height), and its health.

Among the data collected are the following:

  • Out of the 294 block segments mapped, 113 had no trees, or 38.4% of block segments
  • Total amount of living trees: 1009
  • Total standing dead trees: 12
  • Total stumps: 22
  • Total number of tree beds: 1093
  • Total empty tree beds: 50
  • Median tree diameter DBH: 6.0″
  • Biggest tree DBH: 38.2″
  • Living trees with genus and species unknown: 11

Finally, check out some of these pictures of the data collection process in action!

Discussing the data gathered.

Tree mappers on the move!

Measuring the DBH.

We would like to thank our partners at TreeKIT and TreesNY for collaborating with us on this project. We also want to thank all of our Mapping Stewards and volunteers for assisting us! None of this could have been possible without all of you.

Over 60 volunteers joined us this weekend for our monthly volunteer day; we had guests from all over the city, tri-state area, and even from Massachusetts! This Clean & Green was especially exciting for the Conservancy as we hosted a special event: a community mural installation! In addition to the mural, volunteers also helped the Conservancy do some tree stewardship and tree mapping.

A big thanks goes out to Tonci Antunovic for his amazing photos (on our Flickr and on this blog post)! Though the day was packed with a lot of activities, it was a huge success due to the time and effort given by volunteer groups from NYCares, Whole Foods, and everyone else who spent their Saturday with us!

Tree Stewardship and Mapping
With our volunteers, we were able to clean and weed 15 trees, mulch 8 tree beds, and pull about 260 pounds of weeds and unwanted species. This goes a long way in helping keep our trees healthy!

Our Mapping Stewards finished up the southwest and southeast portions of the Forestry Study Area. We are currently 95% finished mapping, thanks to the hard work of all of our tree mappers! Look out for more details regarding when the TreeKIT map will be online for public viewing.

IMG_4604IMG_4613 (1)6_23_13_CandGpictures-47
Mural Installation
The Conservancy installed a mural depicting fruits and vegetables along Huntington Street.  It was designed by a volunteer artist, Ruth Hofheimer, and is meant to be a humorous contrast to its location within such an industrial neighborhood and alongside the Canal. A big thanks goes out to Build It Green!NYC for donating 20 gallons of exterior primer, Home Depot for contributing brushes, rollers, trays and 10 gallons of exterior paint, and to all those who made financial contributions to the project.  Here are some photos taken throughout the day:IMG_4630IMG_4828IMG_4821 (1)IMG_4735IMG_4723 (1)IMG_4739
And a shot of the finished product! 20130727_155149
There are plenty of pictures, so please check them out on our Flickr!
Also, don’t forget to take a look at these awesome articles about the mural from NY1 and The Brooklyn Paper!

After a long summer day, there’s nothing better than a good grill sesh, with food graciously given to us by Whole Foods. Thanks again to everyone who came on Saturday and we hope to see you at our next Clean & Green in August!

Happy Earth Day from the Conservancy!

50 volunteers joined us on Sunday to celebrate the Earth Day weekend by stewarding street trees, maintaining gardens, and composting. The day ended with a barbecue feast, courtesy of Whole Foods. Our wonderful volunteer bunch consisted of ConEdison, Whole Foods, NYCares, GATHER, St. Francis Xavier Action Youth Center, and many community individuals. Thanks so much to everyone for spending their Sunday afternoon with us!

Altogether, we:

  • Stewarded 22 street trees
  • Stewarded gardens on 3rd Ave and Union St, Degraw St West and East, and 2nd St West, totaling 4,350 sq ft
  • Collected 110 lbs of organic waste
  • Removed 20 lbs of trash from the gardens
  • Composted 9100 lbs of food-scraps
  • Turned March’s compost windrow (8,300 lbs of compost)
  • Weighed 237 lbs of received sawdust
  • Sifted 0.5 cubic yards of finished compost

Compost lasagna in formation:

Volunteers braving the sweet smell of compost turning!

Sifting in action:

Finally, enjoying the end of the day’s delicious eats.

We had an excellent time amongst compost, trees, gardens and friends. Cheers to Earth Day, and make sure to spend some time outside today soaking up the leftover Spring sun!

This summer, we’re excited to start a new project geared towards tree enthusiasts: the NY Department of Environmental Conservation awarded the Conservancy a grant to map all tree pits within 2 blocks of the canal. With this information, we hope to expand green space around the canal, one of the most sparsely forested areas in Brooklyn. We also plan to present the information gathered to the public in August.

Gowanus Forestry Study Area:

To gather data, TreeKIT has developed simple site-surveying methods for geolocating street trees. They aim to map all the tree pits in NYC, which will include the data that we gather. Data such as tree pit size, diameter at breast height (DBH), tree identification, and relative health of the tree will help us better understand the scope of the Gowanus urban forest.

, they rock.

To kickstart this project, we hosted a meeting for many of our Mapping Stewards this past Thursday–the Conservancy is lucky to host such an enthusiastic group of folks to lead this venture. We came out of the meeting ready to tackle tree pits with a clipboard and a measuring wheel (as shown below):

Mapping Stewards will get trained as Citizen Pruners, as well as TreeKIT data collection; they’ll then lead volunteers on four Mapping Days.

Keep your eyes peeled for tree mapping action this summer!

If you are interested in volunteering, email Additionally, more information on getting licensed as a Citizen Pruner can be found on the TreesNY website.

The trees surrounding the block of 3rd Ave to 4th Ave, and 1st St to 3rd St were in need of some major stewardship. Naturally, GCC volunteers were more than willing to do service on a Saturday morning!

Although there is a need for volunteers to plant trees, there is a more pressing need for tree care. Many trees would not survive without proper pruning, soil tilling, and watering. Million Trees NYC has a tree adoption website, where you can learn more about how to care for a street tree in your neighborhood. Similarly, TreesNY offers classes on how to be a certified Citizen Pruner.

Forty individuals gathered on 3rd St and 3rd Avenue last Saturday; armed with pole saws, sledgehammers, and pruning shears (and led by our all-star experienced volunteer coordinators), volunteers set off to pry cement blocks out of tree pits, prune dead and damaged branches, and apply compost at the base of trees.

We hope that nurturing the trees and the soil will mitigate the amount of rainfall that contributes to the combined sewer overflow (CSO) that is a major pollutant of the canal.

Andrea heading off to prune trees, post-pruning trees. Pure dedication.

It was a combined effort, but we managed to steward all 34 street trees around the block–thank you to all our volunteers and volunteer coordinators who once again make our events AWESOME!

On Saturday, May 26th, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy will be partnering with the Gowanus Alliance for a Clean & Green at Ennis Park. The day will begin at 11 am and focus on litter removal, tree maintenance and pruning, planting, among other activities. After 1 pm, we will barbeque and offer fun, games, and crafts for kids. This also represents an opportunity for community members to come and meet each other and discuss neighborhood issues. We will end the day at around 5 pm.

Thank you to Pathmark and Whole Foods for supplying food for the barbeque!

After we installed the 20 street trees with the help of New York Restoration Project and Americorps, we are required to maintain them and ensure their survival. The most important consideration is making sure that the trees receive enough water, which requires a weekly visit from one of our dedicated volunteers. In order to coordinate this process and make it as easy to perform as possible, we have created 2 watering zones, mapped out below. We always need more dedicated street tree stewardship volunteers.

If you are interested in helping to care for street trees within the Gowanus Canal watershed, please contact Hans:

Street Tree - Watering Zone 1

Street Tree - Watering Zone 2