For the Love of Swans?

Note from the ED: Sara Kempton, Director of the Programs for the Friends, is the biggest fan of swans on the Friends’ staff while the others are really not because of the ecological impact of these non-native birds.  Therefore, we decided that she should be the one to write a blogpost about the impact of swans to see if she would change her opinion.  Here’s what she found….

Written by: Sara Kempton

I have many fond memories of walks beside the lake with my family as a child. Of spending the day outside in Van Cortlandt Park enjoying nature and the wildlife we grew accustomed to. A highlight was always the ducks and swans in the lake. As far as I can remember Van Cortlandt Lake has had a pair of swans in it and each year we would wait for a glimpse of babies and watch as they grew up and flew away.  Never did I question if these magnificent white birds belonged here, never did I question how they affected the rest of the lake or the animals and plants in it.

Fast forward some years.

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) are a non-native invasive water bird introduced to North America during the late 1800’s from their native ranges in Europe. Meant to grace private ponds and delight humans they were released from breeding locations into the wild and, finding suitable habitat in NYS, did what non-native species do and established themselves. Read more »

Press Release: VCHM Landscape Plan

For Immediate Release
December 12th, 2018
Van Cortlandt House Museum Landscape Plan

The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park (FVCP) and the Van Cortlandt House Museum (VCHM) are pleased to share with you the recently finalized “Van Cortlandt House Museum Landscape Plan”.  The Plan’s designs and presentation were created by Uziel Crescenzi, Friends of Van Cortlandt Park Intern and City College of New York Master of Landscape Architecture Student.  The Project Coordinators were Christina Taylor, Executive Director of Friends of Van Cortlandt Park and Laura Carpenter Myers, Director of Van Cortlandt House Museum of The National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York.  We are thankful to the numerous people who served on the Advisory Committee of this plan (see page 26) and included representatives from The National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of New York, the Historic House Trust and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.  Read more »

Press Release: “White Supremacist” Flyers Found in VCP

For Immediate Release

November 9th, 2018

“White Supremacist” Flyers Found in Van Cortlandt Park

The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park (FVCP) condemns the “white supremacist” flyers found in the Woodlawn section of Van Cortlandt Park on Thursday November 8, 2018.  More than any other Park in New York City, Van Cortlandt Park serves as the most important open space for numerous racially and economically diverse neighborhoods in the Bronx and Westchester County.  FVCP stands with our elected officials, neighbors and fellow community organizations against bigotry of any kind—especially when it involves our Park. 

If FVCP staff finds any signs promoting hatred in the Park, they will remove them immediately and inform NYPD and NYC Parks PEP officers of the location the signs were found. Hatred will have no place here.

Update: A GoFundMe page has been started to print posters, buttons and shirts to be distributd throughout the Woodlawn community to show that hate will not be tolerated.

The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, an independent community based organization, actively promotes the conservation and improvement of Van Cortlandt Park, the third largest park in NYC, through environmental education and restoration and enhancement of the Park, its forests and trails.   

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

Most Wanted Invasive Plant Species in Our Natural Areas

A massive bittersweet vine climbing up a big Tuliptree in Van Cortlandt Park. Our staff got to this vine before it took down the tree.

A massive Oriental Bittersweet vine climbing up a big Tuliptree in Van Cortlandt Park. Our staff got to this vine before it took down the tree.

Below are the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park ‘s 10 Most Wanted Invasive Plant Species in Van Cortlandt Park (in alphabetical order).  Learn more about the invasives species trying to take over our forests by clicking on each name to see their Wanted Poster.  Please note: there are plenty more invasives in the Park but these are the 10 we are currently most worried about.

Why Are We Concerned? Read more »

Completion of a New Entrance to VCP

For Immediate Release
October 9th, 2018

Completion of a New Entrance at West 261st Street
and the VCP Master Plan 2034

The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park (FVCP) is pleased to announce the completion of a new entrance into Van Cortlandt Park at West 261st Street and Broadway.  FVCP is indebted to Councilman Andrew Cohen for assisting with funding and many staff at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks), particularly Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa, who oversaw the planning and implementation.

The new entrance shows that transformative improvements to the park do not need to be elaborate or expensive.  There is an exceptional new Greeter Garden with seating; a path from the street; and (at the back of the lawn) a new trail leading into the park’s extensive system of hiking and jogging trails.  FVCP is helping to maintain the area through mulching, weeding, watering, lawn care (through a private landscape company) and trail maintenance. Volunteers are welcome! NYC Park’s Natural Resources Group is also about to undertake an exceptional restoration of the forest flanking the lawn with invasive plant removal and native plantings.  FVCP will remain committed to helping to maintain the area with private fundraising, staff time and volunteer hours.  The work at West 261st Street complements other improvement projects FVCP is undertaking with private donations—the restoration and maintenance of the “Grand Central Stones” on the Putnam Trail and the creation of a historic landscape plan for the Van Cortlandt House Museum with improvements already taking place on the grounds. Read more »

Restoring Canopy Gaps in Van Cortlandt Park

Canopy Gap in the Northwest Woods near the Yonkers border in Van Cortlandt Park that the Friends are working on this year.

Canopy Gap in the Northwest Woods near the Yonkers border in Van Cortlandt Park that the Friends are working on this year.

One of the intriguing questions of modern ecology is what set of principles dictate the structure of plant communities and what factors contribute to the heterogeneity of forest biodiversity. One mechanism in NYC forests are canopy gaps. A canopy is represented by the photosynthetic parts, the leaves, of the largest trees in a forest. A canopy gap forms because of large trees, falling to the ground as a result of poor soil conditions, the development of strong wind vortices, old age, disease or likely a combination of these. The alteration in light intensity and microclimate, triggers an opportunistic response from the plant community, which as a function of varying physiological adaptations, causes a dramatic change in plant species composition relative to the forest interior. Canopy gaps generate a mosaic like landscape structure that likely increases species richness at the scale of whole parks, however non-native plants tend to dominate the communities within canopy gaps, ultimately leading for a need for better ecological understanding and management. Read more »