Archives for posts with tag: Salt Lot

Alex Lola, a prospective Eagle Scout, is collaborating with the Conservancy to construct a greenhouse in the Salt Lot. The project aims to expand the Conservancy’s nursery and provide a home for plants during the upcoming winter months. The planning process developed throughout Spring 2013. The construction phase began in September, and the first building day was on October 19. The build will continue through the upcoming weeks.

The proposal for the greenhouse initially included four different ideas for the frame, or shape, the structure would take. The decision on the right frame to use were based on conditions such as material cost, interior space, structural stability, and weight load for the greenhouse’s covering. Alex settled on a wooden ‘A-Frame’ structure, a sturdy build designed to bear lightweight to medium-heavy coverings such as the corrugated plastic that will be used to enclose Alex’s greenhouse on all sides.

The design’s blueprint states that the final structure will be 12 feet in both width and height, and 30 feet in length. It will be composed of five, triangular arches nailed to two 10 foot boards raised 24 inches off the ground. Each triangular arch is supported by cross pieces that give the ‘A-Frame’ its name. These arches are supported by criss-crossing boards. The following pictures should help to illustrate both the structure and the community effort being put into this project:

Making a few measurements for the 10 foot base boards.

Hauling one of the triangle frames that gives the ‘A-frame’ its name.

Putting it all together…

…and keeping it all together!

Propping up the ‘criss-crossing’ boards that support the arches.


This community project is shaping up to be a fantastic addition to the Salt Lot!

This project is sponsored by:



As part of the Conservancy’s Urban Ecology Lecture Series, we invited Gabriel Willow to lead guests on a bat walk. Willow, who is a naturalist and urban environmental educator, has led tours and taught classes at NYC Audubon, Wave Hill, and was even the Senior Naturalist at the Prospect Park Audubon Center. Having a speaker as experienced and knowledgeable as him was a treat; what better way to learn about bats than from an expert?

To start the lecture, guests gathered at Gowanus Studio Space where they were given a brief presentation on bats. We learned that there are actually 47 different kinds of bats in the United States and that there are actually a few species that are common here in New York City! He also gave us some information on widely believed bat myths, like the fact that vampire bats DO exist (they don’t suck blood however, they actually lap in it).

Most people consider bats to be rodents and overlook their value as a species. But, did you know that bats actually help manage mosquito populations, which greatly improves our quality of life? Their ability to do this however is greatly hindered by numerous threats to their survival, like white nose syndrome. White nose syndrome has no cure nor are there any means of preventing it. Discovering facts like these definitely changed our perspectives on bats and created a newfound appreciation for these nocturnal animals!

After the lecture, we went to the Salt Lot and began our outdoor sunset walk. He taught us how to use an echo locator device which helps people find and identify bats. Because Willow is primarily an ornithologist, he also pointed out the species of many birds around the Salt Lot. We hope he can visit again and share his knowledge on birds with our community!

Our walk ended at the Gowanus Dredgers‘ launching site and we celebrated the event with a nightcap. The night was a huge success with 41 people coming to learn about bats and their local presence. For more photos of the walk, please visit our Flickr.

A big thanks to our captivating and engaging guest lecturer; we hope you will come back! If you were unable to make it to this lecture, Gabriel Willow also leads bat tours in Central Park and you can learn more about that here. Stay tuned for the next event in our Urban Ecology Lecture Series; we hope to see you then!

50 Volunteers came out to the Salt Lot this Sunday to help the Conservancy create our monthly windrow. Along with creating our compost windrow, volunteers did some much needed garden stewardship in our 2nd Avenue Garden. It was also the first prototyping day for our Floating Gardens Designers. The Conservancy gives a big thanks to everyone who came and spent their morning with us!

Volunteers from the Kabbalah Centre helped us incorporate over 8,000 pounds of food scraps from GrowNYC Greenmarket collections. They were fantastic volunteers and we loved how fully they embraced the idea of promoting life in the watershed through the repurposing of food-scraps. It was a pleasure to host them and we thank them for working hard and staying enthusiastic through the midday drizzle of rain. We hope you can come back and volunteer with us again!

Volunteer Coordinator Christine explaining the science of compost:Untitled Browns, like sawdust and wood chips, are important to add between the layers of food scraps.20130728_113746 Volunteers working hard to even out the food scraps as it gets larger!20130728_130138 While the windrow was being built, we also had other volunteers sifting our finished compost. Sifted compost can be used for other projects like our tree and garden stewardship and for sealing our freshly-built windrow.

20130728_111019 After two weeks, the compost pile will host much beneficial bacteria that will generate heat and  break down the food-scraps. The windrow will then be turned weekly, for 5 weeks, then left to cure (or cool down) until it is ready to be sifted! We are constantly in need of compost windrow turners–you’ll use pitchforks and “turn” the pile systematically, to promote an aerobic environment and food-scrap decomposition. For more information on turning, contact For more information on composting workshops, other project sites, composting at home, and/or how to be a Master Composter, visit the NYC Compost Project’s website. For opportunities to build a compost windrow with the Conservancy, visit our website!

Tree Mapping
Tree mappers Judy and Talia completed some loose ends in our Tree Mapping Project. Stay tuned for more updates!

Garden Stewardship
We collected about 120 pounds of weeds from our 2nd Avenue Garden. Regular maintenance removes unwanted species and improves the garden’s ability to prevent erosion, absorb water, and preserves native plants.

Floating Garden Prototyping
This year, we have 6 designers for Floating Gardens. Designs range from a bamboo structure that will serve as a seaweed habitat to a concrete “rock garden”. It was a largely experimental day, with all the designers testing different materials and methods for creating their prototypes. They all discovered new ways to refine their floating garden constructions and by the end of the day, we even launched a prototype!

Designers at work:20130728_124615
FG Designer Sarah learning about another prototype20130728_125804
Our Landscape Architect Summer Intern Jin weaving bamboo: 20130728_114946
Here are some photos of the first prototype launch! This design serves as both a plant and “stick garden”.

Designers Christine and Sarah getting ready to take it to the waterfront:UntitledUntitled And now, it’s in the Canal!Untitled
And after a few hours, everyone was able to enjoy some great grilled food, thanks to Whole Foods!

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For more images from the day, check out our Flickr!

Thanks to the Kabbalah Centre and everyone else who came to ¡Composting Gowanus! We hope to see you soon!

Yesterday, the Conservancy welcomed about 80 volunteers to the Salt Lot for our monthly Clean & Green event, our most yet! Volunteers participated in compost windrow building, tree mapping, tree stewardship, and a green wall workshop. We also had a group of volunteers do some stewardship work with the Gowanus Alliance at Ennis Park. There were many activities going on so thank you to our volunteers from NYCares, Whole Foods and the community for all your help!

With about 7500 lbs of food scraps, we created our June Compost Windrow! Here’s some pictures of our volunteers working hard adding layers and sculpting our new pile.

We also sifted around a cubic yard of compost with a compost sifter from DB Co-op, an organization of engineers, designers, architects, and more who create human powered machines. When someone pedals the bike, the attached mesh drum turns and sifts the compost. Who doesn’t love the idea of working out while composting? Here’s one of our enthusiastic volunteers pedaling away:
Tree Stewardship
While we did some stewardship and mapping around the Salt Lot, we also sent volunteers over to Ennis Park to help the Gowanus Alliance with their work. We pruned some bushes and picked up nearby trash.

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Then, we enjoyed some delicious food and even received shirts courtesy of the Gowanus Alliance. Thanks to them for organizing such a fun activity for us!


Green Wall Workshop
Members of our volunteer committee came up with the great idea to create green wall prototypes for the Salt Lot, furthering the Conservancy’s efforts to green more urban space. The green wall was made of readily available materials and shows that a project like this is not difficult to pull off. Volunteers helped construct, plant, and install these prototypes along the fence of the Salt Lot. A big thanks to Build It Green for providing some of our materials.

Here are some pictures of the process of creating one of these prototypes: 20130623_13291920130623_132120
Here’s two of our garden interns, Pamela and Jeanette, working on it:
And the finished project!Untitled
These prototypes are a beautiful new addition to the Salt Lot and we’re excited to see their progress!

And after a long hot day in the sun, we ended the day with a barbecue feast courtesy of Whole Foods.
Thanks again to everyone who came yesterday and we hope to see you soon! For more pictures, check out our Flickr!

The Clean & Green on Sunday, October 21st combined tree giveaways, rain garden work, and composting. The event garnered roughly 80 volunteers of all ages and the Salt Lot was full of activity throughout the afternoon; weeding near the Salt Lot fence, seeding in our Native Seed Restoration plots, creating a path in the Salt Lot rain garden, composting, and many more activities kept the volunteers busy.

In conjunction with MillionTreesNYC, the New York Restoration Project, and BuilditGreen!NYC, trees were given away till mid afternoon. They will all be planted within the five boroughs, further greening our city!

Happy volunteers!

A beautiful composting windrow under way:

Volunteers worked all day to weed, pave, and maintain the overrun rain garden. The results were astounding:

The tree giveaway resulted in many happy new tree owners!

We will be having another tree giveaway consecutively at our November 18th Compost Windrow build, at the Salt Lot from 11 am to 3 pm. Email Natasia at to get more details.

With all the hard work, a break was truly deserved; here, our resident education and composting expert Christine Petro gets creative.

For more pictures, visit our Facebook!

UPDATE: Although the flooding during Hurricane Sandy did contaminate much of the work that was done this day, the compost was deemed salvageable–however, we will be using it only our Salt Lot site. The rain garden that was built mostly remains intact, highlighting the native species’ adaptability to a saltwater/freshwater inundating environment.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Salt Lot experienced a beating; based on the water line observed on buildings and cement blocks, roughly 3 feet of water inundated the Lot, contaminating nearly all of our supplies. All of our tools needed a thorough disinfecting. There was additionally much debris deposited in various parts of the Lot–some even drifted from the Whole Foods construction site. Our rain garden and trees made it through the storm intact; however, the Native Seed Restoration Plots were woefully destroyed.

Additionally, the compost was deemed salvageable, but will only be used in the Salt Lot. We will be creating a new compost windrow on November 18, from 11 am to 3 pm as a Clean & Green event. All are welcome to join us at the Salt Lot on 2 Second Ave, Brooklyn.

The flood deposited most of the materials in the back of the Salt Lot.

One of our toolboxes swimming in Gowanus Canal water:

Our Volunteer Committee worked throughout the morning and afternoon on Wednesday disinfecting all of our tools, picking up trash, and moving the contaminated compost with a rented Bobcat. We took precautions against the toxic sediment and standing water by wearing Tyvek suits and rubber gloves. For more information on dealing with supplies coming in contact with canal water, please visit the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene statement regarding exposure to waters containing sewage, found here, and a more comprehensive listing of precautions by the CDC found here.

Andy, Chairman/Bobcat operator.

All in all, the Salt Lot will continue chugging along through the rest of the year’s Clean & Green events, and in years to come!

Since most of the plants growing around the Gowanus Canal are invasive exotics, one of our Conservancy projects for environmental health is repopulating the canal area with native species.  We’ve started gathering our own collection of native seeds to plant, so we decided to take a field trip to Staten Island and learn more about it from the pros!

Heather Liljengren and Judith Van Bers led our seed collecting tour–they manage the seed collection at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center in Staten Island.  Heather will also be speaking at our upcoming Urban Ecology lecture on October 17.

We started our tour at the beautiful Conference House Park at the southern tip of Staten Island.

We learned about identifying different species of plants native to the New York metro area, including gorgeous giant sunflowers and purple lovegrass.

Once we collected seeds, we headed back to the lab at the Greenbelt Center.  Collected seeds, like seeds in the wild, need to go through several processing stages before they can grow into new plants.  First, the seeds need to be dried out.  Some species cure well laid out on newspaper or a tarp.

Other species, like milkweed, are slower to dry… so a screened box with air flow on all sides is a useful contraption to have on hand.

Once the seeds are cured, we need to separate the seeds from the “chaff” (seed casings).

If you’re doing a whole lot of seed collection, one of these heavy-duty seed cleaning machines might come in handy!

After being cured and cleaned, seeds go into the cold stratification chamber–this chamber is the seed lab’s version of a cold winter, when a seed usually lies dormant.  Seeds need this period to prepare for spring growth.

Once the seeds leave the cold chamber, they’re packed up and stored until it’s time for planting!

Our seed collection field trip was a great learning experience, and we’re excited to try out some techniques on a small scale right here in Gowanus! If you’re interested in learning more about seed planting, join us at the Salt Lot (2 Second Ave) this Sunday, October 14, where we’ll be cultivating native seeds.  And don’t forget, Heather Liljengren will be speaking more about native plants at the BuildItGreen! Gowanus Warehouse on October 17 as part of our Urban Ecology Lecture series.

This Sunday, GrowNYC dropped off 8,000 lbs of food scraps at our compost site (on the Salt Lot at 2 Second Ave.).  Volunteers were ready and willing to meet them, and we got right down to business!

It was a beautiful day to be outside, so it’s only natural we’d spend it working on one of our favorite projects.  Thanks to everyone who came out on Sunday!

We had a great time last Sunday, August 26th, building a new compost windrow at the Salt Lot!  The weather was great–it was a beautiful day on the shores of the Gowanus Canal!

Signs artistically rendered by composter extraordinaire, Christine Petro

A special thanks goes out to our friends at GrowNYC… they delivered over 7,000 pounds of food scraps for the new windrow build!

Food scraps delivery from GrowNYC

We started the morning with a lesson in composting… Master Composter Erik Martig explained our patented “Compost Lasagna” recipe to a ready and willing team of volunteers.

Learning the basics of “compost lasagna”

To build a compost windrow, we alternate layers of food scraps and “browns” (wood chips and leaves).  It’s the perfect recipe to create an environment ripe for decomposing!

There are few things more satisfying than taking all those old food scraps and turning them into something new!

Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who gave us their time last Sunday!

Last Sunday, August 19th, we welcomed volunteers from all over New York City to our monthly Clean & Green event.  We were lucky enough to have friends from New York Cares join us this month too!  We had a great turnout.  There was plenty of mucking around by the Gowanus Canal, and we topped it off with delicious barbecue and beverages!

The main feature of this month’s Clean & Green was the launch of several “Floating Garden” experiments.  The Floating Gardens project is a small scale attempt to provide habitat for marine life, as well as remediate the waters of the Gowanus Canal through the creation of inventive floating gardens made of recyclable materials (such as plastic bottles).  We had three “garden” experiments…
1. Han’s Heron Platform

Volunteers built floating wooden platforms that herons can land on while passing over the Gowanus Canal.  The platforms have a nest of sticks underneath to harbor young fish, and the slatted platform allows the herons to snack on a few if they’re hungry.  Long ropes hang in the water under the platform, a perfect invitation for mussels to latch on… it’s communal living space in true Brooklyn style!

Constructing wooden bases

Styrofoam for flotation

Branches for fish to hide in

Open for visitors!

2. John’s Floating Tessellated Bottle Garden

John’s team constructed small floating planters using recycled plastic bottles, plastic netting, and zip ties.  Each “basket” cradles a small native plant (one we’ve found thriving on the banks of the canal).  The bottle planters are held together with rope and tubing, creating a floating garden anchored in the canal!

John instructs his team on the details of construction

Finished bottle planters–complete with plant!

Prepping for the final launch into the canal

It took a dedicated team, a canoe, and plenty of mud… but the garden was launched!

3. Alex & Arthur’s “Spills” Bucket Garden

Alex & Arthur came up with a garden designed for plastic buckets.  The upper part of each bucket had a plant in soil, and they used styrofoam partitions to created a pocket of air in the lower half of each bucket to keep it floating.  They bolted all the buckets together to keep them upright and stable in the canal.

Alex & Arthur discussing bucket strategies

Bucket garden is now afloat!

We were delighted to have Lila from Brooklyn Urban Garden School… she volunteered for the day, but she also gave a wonderful demonstration on testing the pH balance of the soil along the Gowanus Canal.  The results were surprisingly positive!

Lila explains the importance of soil pH measurements

Not only were volunteers working on the floating gardens, but we also had plenty of help in our ongoing compost project!

Sifting compost

Chipping wood and leaves for compost “lasagna”

Of course, what we always enjoy most about the Clean & Green days are the smiling faces of our many volunteers… we couldn’t do any of this without you, and we can’t thank you enough!!