Press Release- Tree Plantings Ceremony for FVCP Founders

Tree Plantings Ceremony for Friends of Van Cortlandt Park’s Founders
Monday April 16th at 1pm
Van Cortlandt House Museum

FVCP Founder Felicity Nitz speaking at our 25th Anniversary Gala pictured with Congressman Eliot Engel, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Founder Frances Beinecke.

FVCP Founder Felicity Nitz speaking at our 25th Anniversary Gala pictured with Congressman Eliot Engel, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Founder Frances Beinecke.

The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park (FVCP) celebrated our 25th Anniversary in 2017. Founded in 1992, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park is an independent community based organization that actively promotes the conservation and improvement of Van Cortlandt Park, the third largest park in NYC, through environmental education and restoration and enhancement of Van Cortlandt Park, its forests and trails.  FVCP celebrated their 25th Anniversary with a gala on Sunday October 15th, 2017 where we honored our 6 Founders: Felicity Nitz, Frances Beinecke, Susan Morgenthau, Elizabeth Scheuer, Jane Sokolow and Sybil Wailand and promised to plant trees in their honors.

At 1pm on Monday April 16th, 2018, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park along with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation will plant 6 “Green Mountain” Sugar Maple Trees in honor of FVCP’s 6 Founders along the southern fence of the Van Cortlandt House Museum.

FVCP provides a wide variety of educational, stewardship and community benefit programs with the focus of Bringing Youth, Community and Nature Together!.  Over the next several years, in addition to our usual programming, FVCP will be dedicated to the implementation of projects in the 2034 Van Cortlandt Park Master Plan, which will guide the City’s restoration of Van Cortlandt Park’s natural beauty and provide solutions for the needs of all neighboring communities.  In the Master Plan are two signature initiatives for FVCP, (1) the completion of our 2009 Trails Plan, which was drafted by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference; and (2) the continued implementation of our newest initiative: “Wetland Stewardship for a Healthier Bronx,” which will improve the health of the existing wetlands and highlight the need to daylight Tibbetts Brook both inside and south of the Park.

“The 25th anniversary of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park in 2017 has been the perfect moment to honor our founding members and reflect on how much their initial investment in the park has produced for generations of park users, “said FVCP Board Chair Christopher Rizzo. “ FVCP has raised millions of private dollars and directly advocated for tens of millions of public dollars for park improvements, programs and environmental advocacy.  The result is a better park for all New Yorkers.   As we chart our path for the next 25 years we face an even bigger goal– implementation of the 2034 Van Cortlandt Park Master Plan.   I’m confident this special partnership between FVCP and New York City will make the next 25 years an even bigger success.”

Special thank you to NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy and the Van Cortlandt House Museum for their help with the Founders Tree Plantings and for all of their support over the years.

For more information:
Christina Taylor, Executive Director of Friends of Van Cortlandt Park
Email: christina@vancortlandt.org
Phone: 718-601-1460.
Website: www.vancortlandt.org
History and Accomplishments of the Friends: www.vancortlandt.org/timeline
Blogpost Announcing 25th Anniversary: www.vancortlandt.org/25thanniversary

Testimony for FY19 Parks Budget Hearing

The pedestrian side of the bridge along the John Kieran trail which is currently closed due to safety reasons.

Friends of Van Cortlandt Park’s Executive Director gave the following testimony at the NYC City Council Parks Committee Preliminary FY19 Budget Hearing on Tuesday March 27th, 2018.

Good afternoon.  Thank you for allowing me to testify. My name is Christina Taylor and I am the Executive Director of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.  First of all, I want to thank our Councilman Andrew Cohen for his vital support of parks.

We all know that NYC Parks is underfunded.  They have been for many many years and this needs to change.  The Friends would happily join you to urge Mayor de Blasio to increase funding for NYC Parks.

A few years ago, NYC Parks approved a comprehensive Master Plan for the first time in the park’s history, however that Master Plan will never be accomplished in 20 years with the current rate in which project are funded and implemented. Read more »

Natural Selections: It takes about half a day to get there, if you travel by Dragonfly.

Editor’s note: In honor of World Water Day (March 22nd annually) today’s Natural Selections post is focused on Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) who call Tibbetts Brook and Van Cortlandt Lake home.  Alex Byrne will introduce you to these fascinating creatures and share with you why you spend some time watching them in the Park.

It takes about half a day to get there, if you travel by Dragonfly.

By: Alex Byrne

The larvae (nymphs or naiads) of the Aeshnidae family of dragonflies.  Photo by Alex Byrne.

Predators have always been a part of human culture and experience.  Our intimacy with this act, read in tooth and claw, is a product of being predator and prey, hunter and the hunted. In some way the elevated status we have granted the predator in our species is a reflection of our own inherent and learned sensitivity to danger. The walls of caves have been manipulated through the use of saliva and plant fruits to display cave bears, dire wolfs and hunting human (Siva 2007). The Egyptians created gods out of birds of prey and the predatory perfecta, the felines (Pettigrew 2003). We have managed to take the big bad wolf and create 339 different dog breeds.  In 1902 the US Army Medical Corps adopted the caduceus as an emblem which displays two snakes entwined around a staff, a behavior consistent with the mating behavior of serpents. The evidence for a predator centric society is abound, however a common theme in these predatory idols is the lack of entomological (insect) admiration. Most people do not spend their weekends in wetlands watching dragonfly’s hunt, but they should. Read more »

Natural Selections of VCP: Meet the Carpenter Ant

Editor’s note: We would like to introduce you to our newest blogpost series- Natural Selections of Van Cortlandt Park.  This series will focus on the creatures that call Van Cortlandt Park home.  With well over half of its 1,146 acres being comprised of natural habitats- forests, wetlands, a lake and meadows- many plants and animals live in or rely on Van Cortlandt Park.  Each post in Natural Selections will highlight and introduce you to one or a family of those creatures.  During this first post, Alex Byrne will introduce you all to some of the Carpenter Ants in our beloved park.

Meet the Carpenter Ant
by Alex Byrne

Odds are if you are walking down the sidewalk next to Van Cortlandt Park, or along a forest trail in the Park and see a caravan of large black ants, you have just been acquainted with one of the most functionally important groups of insects within the park; carpenter ants. Carpenter ants within the genus Camponotus consist of 1,489 species world wide, with the most Camponotus rich continents being South America and Australia (Bolton 2012). In New York City and across the world, carpenter ants form large colonies inside dying and dead standing trees, hollowed out branches, soil and even human dwellings and utilities where they can induce millions of dollars of damage in some situations (Ellison et al 2012). In urban forest ecosystems such as Van Cortlandt Park, carpenter ants are key players in the production and turnover of soil. Read more »

Mapping Ant Diversity Across Van Cortlandt Park

The Buggy Down Bronx:
Mapping Ant Diversity Across Van Cortlandt Park
by: Alex Byrne

Early experimental design for examining nutrient use in ant communities. This picture shows a preference for sugar which seems to be habitat dependent (cotton ball pictured on left is soaked in sugar, cotton ball on the right  is soaked in oil).

As the Jurassic faded into the Cretaceous, planet earth began to experience a revolution in sociality with the radiation of one of the most ecologically dominant groups of animals to date, the ants. By living communally in colonies that can number in the thousands of individuals in some species, it is thought that ants turnover more soil than earth worms, provide habitat for a number of organisms, cycle the majority of the forest floor organic material and are typically the first animals to arrive to newly arisen resources on the forest floor (Holldobler & Wilson 1999). For example it was recently shown that in the rain forests of Borneo ants were responsible for consuming 51 % of baits placed within the forest when considering both foraging insects and mammals (Griffiths et al 2017). In addition, the majority of ant mediated flow of nutrients is performed by only a hand full of dominant species (Houadria et al 2015). In forest ecosystems around the world this suggests that ants are keystone players that mediate a large part of the functionality of ecosystems and constitute often the majority of the animal biomass (Holldobler & Wilson 1999). Read more »

Meet the Friends’ New Intern!

Jasmin Jimenez, a senior at NYU, is interning with the Friends this semester.We are proud to introduce our intern for this school year, Jasmin Jimenez. Ms. Jimenez started working with the Friends in October assisting with educational programs, trail work and Tibbetts Brook water monitoring. Jasmin is a senior at New York University studying Environmental Studies and Animal Studies. Her areas of interest include urban ecology, industrial ecology, and marine ecology.
This upcoming semester, Jasmin will be working on a research project in Van Cortlandt Park. She received a Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fund grant through NYU to conduct a habitat analysis for the reintroduction of amphibian species in Van Cortlandt Park. If you see her out in the park, say hello and ask her about the habitat necessities of Spring Peeper’s and Wood Frogs.