This year in New York, February was the coldest month on record since 1934. Great chunks of ice flowed with the tides of the East River, and the Park - like most of the city - was blanketed in a thick layer of snow. It was a difficult winter for Park staff who were tasked with clearing snow, de-icing walkways, and ensuring the weather did not damage Park elements.
With Spring finally arriving, we asked Angela Stangenberg, who joined Four Freedoms Park Conservancy as a Park Manager in September 2014, how Park staff maintains the Park throughout the year and prepares for warmer weather. Her answers - and some colorful photos of the Park - are below.
Q: Tell us a bit about your background.
Angela: My educational background is in Environmental Studies and Anthropology, I continue to study Landscape Management at NY Botanical Garden in the Bronx. Fittingly, I’ve been drawn towards work in parks and public gardens, where nature melds with human culture. I have experience working with NY City Parks and Recreation, Sunnyside Gardens Park in Queens, and Queens Botanical Garden.
Q: How does Park staff maintain the Park in the Winter vs. warmer months?
Angela: Maintaining the park takes on different dimensions depending on the season. This winter we experienced many storms that left the park covered in multiple coatings of ice and snow and thus our team was tasked with removing the snow to create safe walkways for intrepid winter visitors.
One of the daily challenges is dealing with the evidence that the local bird population leaves after hours at the park. A variety of Gulls, primarily Ring-billed Gulls, and Canada Geese are the worst offenders.
In warmer months the lawn must be swept and raked on a semi-daily basis and Park Rangers use dish soap and brushes to clean the absorptive granite surfaces.
In the fall the swirling yellow leaves of our Little Leaf Lindens must be raked, blown, and bagged to clear the pathways and lawn.
In the early Spring there is the greatest push to get the park looking its best, pruning and replacement of trees, revitalizing the turf, and power-washing tough stains throughout the park will be some of the maintenance taking place.
Q: How do you de-ice the Park in the winter?
Angela: We do not use any salt at Four Freedoms Park, because it is too corrosive of a material. The melting power of the sun is often not enough and ice removal is done manually by breaking ice. This creates clefts and exposes more surface area, then, using shovels, ice is cleared. We also broadcast a fine grit to give more traction to treacherous patches. Some helpful machinery we use are snow blowers and a snow brush.
Q: How Do you take care for park trees and plants?
Angela: The horticultural elements of the park consist of 120 Little Leaf ‘Greenspire’ Lindens (Tilia Cordata) and 5 Copper Beech trees (Fagus Sylvatica) with pachysandra beneath as ground cover. The sloped lawn is mixture of Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass. Using moisture meters we keep a database of the rate at which the tree’s and lawn retain moisture to determine watering schedules. Opportunistic weeds like mugwart are routinely pulled from the landscape. Organic compost tea treatments are applied to both the trees and lawn to encourage living soil that encourages root growth. Rangers will take on the new task of cutting the lawn this season.
Q: WHEN WILL THE LINDEN TREES BLOSSOM?
Angela: The leaves are cordate, meaning heart-shaped, and will begin to leaf out in mid to late April with pale yellow flowers blooming around June. Lindens are known for producing a fragrant flower, pleasing to honey bees and humans alike. Little Leaf Lindens are a popular choice for their attractive oval crown shape and resilience to tough urban environments.
Q: What types of wildlife do you see at the Park in the winter? In the spring?
Angela: Given our location on the East River there is a multitude of waterfowl that you are likely to spot. Canada Geese, Double-crested Cormorants, Gulls, and Mallard Ducks are very common. One of my favorites to observe are a Red–breasted Merganser pair who’ve been frequenting the queenside of Four Freedoms Park. This Winter I’ve spotted a Peregrine Falcon with prey in its talons, buffleheads and Brant Geese to name a few. With Spring migration on the bound, I expect to see an increased variety in birdlife around Four Freedoms.
Q: Are there any specific tasks visitors may be surprised to learn that you do in preparation for Spring?
Angela: Public spaces are frequently unpredictable, one winter a visitor arrived at the entrance of the park on cross country skis! It is very common in the warmer months for fashionistas and artists alike to make an entrance with wild hair and makeup posing for the camera. (Learn more about photo shoots here.)