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The Gateway Greenhouse Education Center

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Friends of Gateway

The Gateway Greenhouse Education Center

The Gateway Greenhouse Education Center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York is a volunteer program to prepare trees, shrubs, and plants for life in city public spaces by growing them to a size that they are more likely to survive in difficult urban conditions.

Friends of Gateway's Gateway Greenhouse Education Center will partially solve two perennial NYC problems with one public/private effort. We will both provide an educational experience in plant husbandry to thousands of NYC school children and adults and provide trees and shrubs for use in NYC public spaces. The effort to develop this facility began last year and geared up this past spring.

Friends of Gateway brought in more than 2000 tree seedlings for potting in Spring 2003. The seedlings come from a number of sources in the metropolitan area. Most are native species from native seed. Those that are not are chosen for other attributes, such as being green all year, toughness in the urban environment, ability to clean the air or be used in xeriscaping. These plants are being added to the existing inventory of about 3000 plants at the greenhouse, which began as a formal Friends of Gateway program last year. Additional plants will be acquired from additional sources as time goes on.

Mike Steffens has been supervising day-to-day operations at the greenhouse. He has been organizing work for the regular groups of young people who find the greenhouse work rewarding. (In an 8-week period in spring 2003, 1016 volunteer hours were spent working at the facility). He has also worked with Denise Brown of the Gateway Environmental Education Center and Gateway Rangers on the very successful National Arbor Day event, which resulted in the potting of approximately 250 trees and a ceremonial tree planting at the Education Center. About 75 young people from public schools took part in the event.

We have been asked to provide plants for the reforestation of the Pennsylvania and Fountain Avenue landfills by NYC Department of Environmental Protection. These landfills are to be capped and re-greened -- to be added to the Jamaica Bay Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area.

Some plants have left the greenhouse for planting in the urban environment. Friends of Gateway has provided trees and shrubs to the NYC Council on the Environment for a Williamsburg, Brooklyn schoolyard, the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation and the Friends of Harold Ickes Park among others. We have discussed Gateway needs with Gateway Botanist, Mike Byer and are prepared to provide some plants this year, but need another year to grow most plants to large enough to have a reasonable rate of survival in the ground. We will also provide plants to the Jamaica Bay Watershed Alliance for projects around the Bay and to park and community garden groups around the city.

We are proud to be doing this work, I cannot think of anything that we could be doing that is more important to the future of Gateway and our region than providing plant materials for the greening or our city. We are off to a good start and look forward to the continued organic growth of this project.

Friends of Gateway, in concert with partner organizations developed the following goals for the Gateway Greenhouse Education Center:

  • to generate native plants for use at Gateway and elsewhere
  • to serve the restoration and greening of the Jamaica Bay area
  • to educate people about native plants and gardening with native plants.
  • to promote xeriscaping and gray water gardening (water-wise gardening).
  • to encourage the understanding of butterfly and pollinator gardening.
  • to facilitate a composting program and development of a composting education exhibit.
  • to serve as an educational destination within Floyd Bennett Field
  • to develop a research facility to serve the urban environment.
  • to provide a professional and volunteer base for these endeavors.
  • to reach out to people with special needs that can find personally rewarding experiences in greenhouse work.
  • to serve the community gardens of this city with greenhouse grown vegetable and perennial seedlings.

A volunteer day at the Gateway Greenhouse Education Center can consist of some of the following activities:

  • Seed, stem and root collection.
  • Planting or transplanting seeds, seedlings or tree or shrub saplings
  • Creating new plants by root division, stem cuttings, or air layering.
  • Identifying, inventorying and labeling plants by species
  • Grounds keeping including weeding and watering.
  • Light construction projects including shade shelters, planter boxes, water piping etc.
  • Invasive species control (weed whacking).
  • General cleanup around the park.

For more information about organizing a volunteer day for your group call Lenore at 212-228-3126 or write to Mike at ecocreek@aol.com


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