Green Infrastructure – February 16, 2005

February 16, 2005

Thanks to Matt Arnn and Dr. Paul S. Mankiewicz for their discussion of the importance of green infrastructure in an urban landscape.
We’d also like to thank our hosts at Pratt Institute, Manhattan campus.
You can view pictures of the forum here.


FORUM SUMMARY


Green Infrastructure refers to a strategic approach to linking and integrating the natural environment with the human environment to provide the maximum social, economic and environmental benefits. In urban environments, green infrastructure includes green roofs, urban trees, botanical gardens, parks, and forested areas strategically placed and managed to assist cooling, improve air quality, and provide additional recreation opportunities.

Green Infrastructure plays a vital role in our economy, ecology, and society. Indeed, the presence of green spaces and elements of natural landscape in cities can beautify neighborhoods, attract new business, retain homeowners or lure new ones, reduce crime, save energy and reduce heat islands, and mitigate storm water runoff. In times of distress, green spaces can be a key element in the healing process, or emerge as a cathartic response from people to the aftermath of war, terrorism, and chaos.

By learning more about the green infrastructure in our city, we can become increasingly aware of the benefits of living in a built environment that interacts positively with our natural surroundings.

The New York City Open Accessible Space Information System Cooperative (OASIS) is an online resource tool created through the efforts of more than 30 federal, state, and local agencies, private companies, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations. OASIS provides accurate information on the location of open spaces, statistical data on neighborhoods, aerial photos, mapping analyses allowing users to compare neighborhoods, calculate the amount of open spaces, and become more familiarized with the green infrastructure. Before concluding with his presentation, Mr. Arnn showcased slides of OASIS’s user friendly interface and discussed the importance of this invaluable tool.

Please, visit www.oasisnyc.net for more information.


Dr. Paul Mankiewicz’s presentation included a number of case studies where urban soil is reengineered to minimize environmental harm through the mitigation of runoff from buildings and land. Dr. Mankiewicz discussed both built and unbuilt projects and highlighted the most important features in restoring soil conditions to optimal levels, increasing infiltration and minimizing discharge, such as increasing the amount of or incorporating altogether native plant species, building curbs designed to capture storm water, water collecting green roofs using light weight soil & compost.

Some of the case studies discussed include:

  • Green Corridor Project, Lafayette Avenue, Hunts Point, NY
  • Landfill Restoration Project, Jamaica Bay, East NY, NY
  • Storm Water Capture and Lead Mitigation Project, El Jardin Del Paraiso, Manhattan, NY

For more information on Dr. Mankiewicz’s work, please visit www.gaia-inst.org.


SPEAKER BIOS


Matt Arnn is the Regional Landscape Architect for the USDA Forest Service’s Northeastern Area. He works with large metropolitan communities in 22 states on projects that improve urban quality of life. He has collaborated as a designer and planner with Lee Weintraub Landscape Architecture, the Project for Public Spaces, Andina Design, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, the Municipal Arts Society, Imagine NY and the Empire State Development Corporation. Project experience ranges from small award-winning urban parks in New York City to large-scale master plans in developing countries. Matt holds a Master’s in Urban Design from the University of Virginia, School of Architecture, a Bachelor’s in Landscape Architecture from the City College of NY and a Bachelor’s in Urban Geography from the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Paul S. Mankiewicz received his doctoral degree from the City University of New York/New York Botanical Garden Joint Program in Plant Sciences. He is the founding Executive Director of the Gaia Institute and has served in this role since 1987. Under his direction, the Gaia Institute has taken on many challenging problems in applied and theoretical biogeochemistry and biophysics, from urban watershed restoration to landfill and mine remediation. The solutions to these problems have, in all cases, been laid out in the context of ecological engineering, turning elements of the waste stream into functional, ecological resources.

Dr. Mankiewicz’s research interests have focused on the interaction of plants, water, nutrients, metals and pollutant uptake in microcosms and mesocosms. Dr. Mankiewicz has had substantial experience with enhancing, restoring and constructing wetland and terrestrial ecosystems. The goal of these efforts has been to utilize the functional capacities of plants, fungi, bacteria and burrowing organisms in soils and sediments to ecologically engineer natural systems to increase biodiversity, ecological productivity, and environmental quality.

Wastes into resources technology development has been a primary focus of Dr. Mankiewicz’s career. He represented the Gaia Institute in Scotland as one of three finalists in the international St. Andrews Prize competition in 2000 for work demonstrating how urban soil systems can be restored using composted organics diverted from the waste stream and native plant communities to create stormwater catchment parks. This example of sustainable development demonstrated how natural systems can capture and biogeochemically filter large inputs of stormwater runoff from adjacent urban infrastructure. The ecological development program initiated by the Gaia Institute for restoration in the Bronx River and Jamaica Bay watersheds has been supported by contracts with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Urban Community Forestry Advisory Council, and the Urban Resources Partnership (a collaborative of NRCS/US Department of Agriculture, US EPA, National Forestry Service, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation).

Dr. Mankiewicz has also initiated the development of numerous full-scale restoration programs. The Gaia Institute and CityGreen, Inc. have constructed a stormwater capture park in East New York in the Jamaica Bay watershed. This project was carried out in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, NYC Department of Sanitation, and in cooperation with the NYC Department of Transportation, together with community groups and active Community Board participation. This facility was designed and the construction directed by Dr. Mankiewicz. A similar ecological restoration and stormwater capture plan was developed for Chapel Farm, an undeveloped, forested sixteen-acre site on the highest point in the Bronx. This integrated hydrological and ecological plan was produced in collaboration with the Riverdale Nature Preservancy and the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality.

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