Does NYU even have a landscape? The answer is YES!
A landscape is any outdoor space, planted or not. NYU has a great variety of urban landscapes that link academic and housing facilities here in Greenwich Village. NYU Landscaping is responsible for the design, installation, and maintenance of outdoor spaces enjoyed by NYU and the surrounding community.
Did you know you don’t have to leave NYU’s campus to see a Tulip tree, a Sweetgum, American hornbeam, or European Beech tree? You can even see, right here at NYU, a rare plant like Dutchman’s Breeches, which was identified by the Weilikia Project as being present on Manhattan Island before European settlement back in 1609!
Part of the vitality of today’s cities has come from a new view of ecology—urban ecology, which recognizes that cities are natural systems with the potential for making urban life more livable through new efforts to enhance nature in the urban realm. New York City, a world leader in this field since the construction of Central Park in the 19th Century, remains at the cutting edge of landscape design with sites like the Highline, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Gantry Plaza, Hudson River Park, and Battery Park City Parks.
Staying true to its founder’s vision of a university “in and of the city,” NYU—which has no walls and no gates—remains inextricable from the fabric of New York City.
In accordance with the University's motto, "a private university in the public service," NYU Landscaping serves both the University community and the historic neighborhood of Greenwich Village by designing, installing, and maintaining the urban landscapes that welcome people to the Washington Square campus. Our objective is to unify our eclectic campus with green spaces that combine the aims of urban restoration ecology with high aesthetic standards in design. We seek a deserving place for NYU within the time-honored horticultural tradition of Greenwich Village while keeping pace with the exciting new trends that make New York City a world model for high performance urban landscapes. NYU Landscaping aims to reflect the values of a global research university engaged in public service.
NYU's graceful green spaces do more than beautify our campus—they also provide countless passersby a brief respite from the grueling pace of city life. On this contemplative tour of the small plots tucked between NYU buildings, Supervisor of Landscaping George Reis explains how plants bring quiet dignity to an urban existence.
Sustainable Landscaping Practices
The NYU Landscaping is committed to adding an ecological dimension to Washington Square campus garden areas. To achieve this, the NYU Landscaping has implementing the following sustainable gardening practices:
- Adherence to NOFA Standards of Organic Landcare
- Eliminating the use of neonicotinoids
- Using native plants in formal garden designs
- Composting garden waste
- Employing native plants to support local pollinators
Introduction of Native Plant Species
- Biodiversity promotes resilience to pest problems in the landscape.
- Trees, shrubs, and perennials that evolved in our local area require fewer inputs over time than exotic species.
- Choosing the right plants for the conditions of the site results in healthy plants that won't need chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
- Native plants offer food and cover for local pollinators like bumble bees and endangered species like the Monarch butterfly.
Eliminating chemical fertilizers
- Petrochemical based, high nitrogen fertilizers can be damaging to the environment and cause rapid plant growth that attracts pests and disease.
- A combination of good soil management, plant selection, using organic fertilizer and integrated pest management techniques will allow us to eliminate the use of all synthetic chemical fertilizers.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
- Biological, mechanical, and cultural controls that take into account a pest's life cycle and minimizes the need for pesticides. We can virtually eliminate chemical pesticide use by combining IPM with other sustainable gardening practices.
- Low volume, micro irrigation reduces water usage by delivering moisture directly to an individual plant’s root system. Flow rates are measured in gallons per hour and not gallons per minute as in conventional sprinkler systems. This results in significant savings in water consumption.
Reduction of lawn areas
- Lawns should be used to promote healthy activities like exercise and relaxation, but overuse of lawn as a purely aesthetic landscape element has been shown to be expensive in a variety of ways. Current thinking in landscape sustainability aims to reduce unnecessary lawn area to diminish heavy inputs of water, fertilizer, herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, and gas-powered mowing.
- “Low Mow” or “No Mow” native grass species like Carex pennsylvanica can replace conventional lawns, reducing environmental and maintenance costs.
Sustainable soil management with double digging, composting, and mulching
- Microbial action in the soil is essential for healthy plant nutrient, oxygen, and water intake as well as disease suppression.
- Soil management that maintains correct organic matter content feeds soil microbes and keeps plants healthy, thereby eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Eliminating Gasoline Powered Maintenance Tools
- Using hand tools such as rakes, hedge shears, and cultivators whenever feasible eliminates the air and noise pollution of gasoline-powered leaf blowers and other garden maintenance equipment.
Benefits of Sustainable Landscaping at NYU
NYU sustainable landscaping offers positive environmental and health benefits to the University community as well as the surrounding Greenwich Village neighborhood. Through the efficient use of local resources and sustainable gardening practices, the NYU Landscaping has contributed to the reduction of air, noise, and water pollution in the Washington Square area.
- Biodiversity in plant habitats fosters a more balanced, disease-resistant ecosystem.
- Local fauna populations can rebound when supported by plant communities they share an evolutionary history with.
- Gardens reduce noise, air pollution, and storm water runoff.
- Organic fertilizers are made from renewable sources and are non-toxic.
- Studies show that seeing a garden every day reduces stress.
- Chemical-free gardens reduce people’s exposure to toxins.
- Research opportunities for NYU’s programs in Environmental Studies and Food Systems.
- Sustainable gardening at NYU can become an example to home gardeners seeking methods to reduce their water use and eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
- Native plants evoke the natural history of our area.