Washington Square Park Eco Projects & Co-founder Georgia Silvera Seamans

Georgia Silvera Seamans (center) with the interactive Washington Square Park Eco Projects Mobile Exhibit. Photo Courtesy Street Lab

Georgia Silvera Seamans is the co-founding director of Washington Square Park Eco Projects in New York City. She is an urban forester, independent researcher, and writer. Georgia has bylines with UrbanOmnibus.netAudubon.org, and Audubon Magazine, and her research has been published in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening and the former Journal of Arboriculture. Georgia blogs about urban nature at localecologist.org. She holds degrees from Wesleyan University, the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and UC Berkeley.  

Could you share about your NYC roots and your connection to Washington Square Park in particular?

Georgia Silvera Seamans: When my family emigrated to the U.S., the first place we landed was Washington Heights. I attended junior high and high school in NYC. I used to visit the Village as a teenager; the vintage shops on West 8th Street were fun to explore! I recall one visit to Washington Square Park during that time. The Park struck me as a dynamic and diverse place. As an adult I moved back to the City in 2009. I live a few blocks from the Park, within a 10-minute walk.

A view from within WSP to the iconic Washington Arch. The nearby crabapple trees feed many bird species in the fall, including catbirds and hermit thrushes. Photo by the author.

How did you come to urban forestry, and what have been some of your peak experiences along the way? Could you talk about your urban forestry research and writing? 

GSS: I became an urban forester because of my job as a paid community forestry intern with the Urban Resources Initiative in New Haven, Connecticut. This practical experience more than any academic training set me on the urban forestry path. I was an intern in the organization’s Community Greenspace program where I provided technical resources to seven community groups in the Newhallville neighborhoods.

The projects undertaken by the groups I worked with ranged from planting street trees on a block to converting an abandoned house lot into a bird sanctuary. I can honestly say that but for this rigorous and fun experience I would not have applied to and been offered the job as urban forester for the City of Boston.

I returned to graduate school after working for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department for a few years. At UC Berkeley, my dissertation research was focused on how and why municipal agencies and nonprofits were reframing trees as ecological agents versus the conventional aesthetic narrative. I am proud of my first authored paper based on my dissertation which was published in 2013 in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

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Research: Which NYC Urban Green Spaces Support More Bird Species and Why?

Excerpted from a July 21, 2020 eBird article by Kathi Borgmann, “Larger urban green spaces support more bird species in New York City”

In a study out this week in Landscape and Urban Planning, Frank La Sorte, a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and colleagues wanted to find out what aspects of green spaces support the greatest number of bird species throughout the year.

To their surprise the shape of the green space didn’t change how many bird species were present during the year nor did the distance between green spaces. What mattered most was the size of the green space. Larger green spaces supported a greater number of species year-round. Green spaces with more tree cover also supported more songbird species that migrate at night in the spring.

So what does this mean for urban planners in NYC? “If you want to support birds in urban green spaces,” says La Sorte, “you should make them larger and plant more trees.” 

In Difficult Times, Turn to Nature: Natural Areas Conservancy Wisdom

From NYC’s Natural Areas Conservancy comes this note from Director Sarah Charlop-Powers and her team. We thought it would be of interest to all those who are looking for comfort in natural areas and parks across New York State. 

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” -John Muir

From all of us at the Natural Areas Conservancy –

We are reaching out to our community of friends and supporters — knowing that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our daily lives in ways we could not have imagined.

The resilience of this city is truly incredible, and we are especially thankful for our friends and colleagues in public service who are working hard to provide citywide services during this difficult time. This includes the staff of NYC Parks who are keeping our parks open for all New Yorkers.

As we all continue to adjust to this new normal, we want to share a few updates on how our staff at the Natural Areas Conservancy are responding.

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USDA Declares NYC Free of the Asian Longhorned Beetle

On October 10, 2019, NYC Parks replanted a katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) in McCarren Park in Brooklyn as part of the commemoration of the eradication of ALB in Brooklyn and Queens. Photo by NYC Parks Tree Preservation Senior Program Manager Danielle Gift

On October 10, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in coordination with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and New York City Department of Parks and Recreation announced that they have eliminated the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) from the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

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Sprout Lands: Book Review

 

Pollarded willows, Pixabay

Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees
Review by Michelle Sutton, NYSUFC Editor

“Coppice and pollard … we should know these words again, for by means of them, people built their world out of wood for ten thousand years.” —William Bryant Logan

Every spring, I coppice my trio of purple smokebushes (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) because I value the deep purple foliage more than the ethereal flowers. I coppiced lots of different kinds of shrubs for clients over the years, always with ornamental aims in mind. However, I’ve never pollarded a tree and it had struck me as a strange horticultural folly or quirk, but that was my own ignorance showing—ignorance of the fact that pollarding and coppicing have been used since the last ice age to generate woody sprouts for a stunning array of human uses.

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Introducing NYC Nature Map!

Together with NYC Parks, the Natural Areas Conservancy recently launched a NEW interactive web map featuring New York City’s 20,000+ acres of natural areas. 

Take me to the map! >

Named NYC Nature Map, this map identifies the locations of these forests and wetlands and provides detailed information about their size, current health, and improvement projects. Users can sort information by borough, council district, or park. This new resource provides an in-depth look into New York City nature and the actions that NYC Parks, the Natural Areas Conservancy, and other partners are taking to conserve and restore it.

Check out NYC Nature Map’s recent feature in Curbed!

“We’ve been sitting on this huge treasure trove of information but we have not to date had a way share that information,” says Sarah Charlop-Powers, Natural Areas Conservancy executive director. “We are really interested in having this as a resource for people who are nature enthusiasts and also for people who can utilize this information for planning and budgeting, and thinking about nature as part of our city’s infrastructure and how to make our city more livable.” Keep reading…

David Moore’s Advice to Budding Urban Foresters

David guest speaking for an urban forestry class at SUNY-ESF (College of Environmental Science & Forestry).

Seven Considerations for Budding Urban Foresters  

By David Moore, Senior Tree Supervisor, City of Oakland, California
Photos Courtesy David Moore

NYSUFC Past President (2015-2017) David Moore, 34, is the recipient of the 2019 Arbor Day Foundation Trailblazer Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in arboriculture and/or urban forestry by professionals under 35. After working for ten years in New York City for New York Restoration Project and then for NYC Parks, David is now the Senior Tree Supervisor for Oakland, CA in their Public Works Department. Within his first year there, David secured a million-dollar grant for a citywide tree inventory and 50-year urban forestry master plan for Oakland. Receiving the Trailblazer Award sparked in David a period of reflection about his career and mentors thus far. Here, he offers seven pieces of counsel for young or new city forester colleagues.     

Find or develop your niche by putting yourself at the intersection of two different specialties. 

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Central Park Celebration: David Moore’s 2019 ADF Trailblazer Award

About 40 invited guests attended the Arbor Day Foundation (ADF) reception on June 6th in the Arsenal at Central Park to honor David Moore’s recognition as ADF 2019 Trailblazer. The Trailblazer Award recognizes outstanding achievement in arboriculture and/or urban forestry by professionals under 35. At the reception, a video (above) about David’s work was unveiled, David gave an extemporaneous, from-the-heart speech, and attendees enjoyed a reception on the Arsenal roof, overlooking the southeast corner of Central Park.

Revelers on the Arsenal rooftop, from left: former NYSDEC Urban Forestry Program Coordinator Mary Beck, current NYSUFC President Karen Emmerich, David Moore, and Past NYSUFC President Andy Hillman.

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Prospect Park’s EPF Grant Yields Superb Tree Management Plan

Image by Elizabeth Jeegin Colley for the Prospect Park Alliance

Round 15 of the Environmental Protection Fund grants for urban forestry related activities will open later in 2019. Here on the blog, we continue to showcase work that emerged from successful grants and give advice to future applicants from the folks behind those successful grants.

Prospect Park contains Brooklyn’s largest indigenous forest and sustains more than 10 million visits a year. Its 536 acres include woodland, lawn, wetlands, lake, meadow, zoo, ice rink, athletic fields, and more. It’s managed by the Prospect Park Alliance in collaboration with NYC Parks. Prospect Park Alliance Director of Landscape Management John Jordan had several key roles to play in the preparation of the Alliance’s grant application for Environmental Protect Fund monies, grants that are managed and allocated by NYSDEC.

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Report on Forested Natural Areas in American Cities

In March 2019, the Natural Areas Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, and Yale School for Forestry and Environmental Studies released “Untapped Common Ground: The Care of Forested Natural Areas in American Cities.” This report is based on a survey of 125 organizations in 110 cities and how they manage their forests.

There’s a lot more nature in cities than people think! Urban natural areas represent 1.7 million acres but often don’t receive the investment, recognition, or care they deserve.

Read the full report.

Urban forested natural areas can be a tool to achieve cities’ resiliency, climate change, and public health goals. More Americans are moving into cities, and for many, these places represent their best access to nature. The time to invest in urban nature is now.

What’s Next?

The Natural Areas Conservancy and its partners will convene representatives from a select number of cities from across the country for workshops in fall 2019. Next year, they’ll publish case studies on how cities manage their forest natural areas. Check this page for updates on the project.

What are Urban Forested Natural Areas?

The term “urban forest” refers to all trees within a city including street trees, landscaped trees, private property, and forested natural areas. Forested natural areas are distinct from street and park trees in their size, biodiversity, and how they’re managed. They are important native habitats, and are the “woods” in cities.