Though NYC is called the ‘concrete jungle,’ there remains ample natural areas worth saving
New York City — Yesterday afternoon, I got word of Dr. Seaborg's appreciation for having received my work in biology. Ah, but Dr. Seaborg’s most pressing concern was far bigger than my mere scribblings. After all, he noted the urgent need for helping to save dying rainforests.
According to worldrainforest.org, “Every year, rainforest equal in area to half the state of California is permanently lost, causing the extinction of thousands of species.”
The more I thought about natural areas, the more it dawned on me: even here in the Big Apple, heck, we take for granted the city’s beautiful parks overflowed with wilderness.
In life, for every loss — there’s a hidden gain. And so, what many of us lost in quarantine due to the pandemic, we gained in appreciation for the near and dear. For many a New Yorker, the city’s parks became occasional shelter from the pandemic storm.
“I’m tired of being stuck in the house,” became a common gripe during COVID lockdown. Perhaps out of sheer necessity and convenience, New Yorkers finally had a chance to slow down and appreciate the city's beautiful wildernesses.
“All parks nurture us, but our urban natural areas offer us the greatest sense of escape,” Charlop-Powers writes. "They’re true engines of parks equity, giving people who don’t have a car the ability to immerse themselves in nature by walking down the block, hopping on a bike or taking public transit.”
Indeed, unlike the rest of “America—the Beautiful,” most New Yorkers don’t own cars. The concrete jungle doesn’t offer enough space. Yet with every such loss, New Yorkers gain chances to work off calories — from bike riding to walking.
New Yorkers, ironically, have more chances to visit nature than residents of other big cities. The reason being, in Los Angeles or Houston, residents usually hop in vehicles and travel door-to-door.
According to Scientific American, NYC's natural areas are about the same size as a dozen or so Central Parks. But:
Despite decades of work and dedication by NYC Parks staff, our natural areas are underfunded and understaffed. It’s not for lack of use or popular interest; every year, more people visit Jamaica Bay—the sprawling wetlands near JFK Airport—than visit Yellowstone National Park. —Scientific American
Unfortunately here in the Big Apple, like most urban natural areas, conserving wilderness life has never been the top priority.
Quite simply, New Yorkers take the natural life offered in parks and across the city for granted. And due to sea-level rise and lack of management, among other things, similar to rainforests — the last wild corners of NYC are slowly but surely vanishing.
“We lose six acres of wetlands every year in New York City — an area the size of Madison Square Park, in Manhattan,” according to the report.
In short, whether it's fresh air offered by towering trees in Riverside Park or the welcomed chance to paddleboat thru Brooklyn’s Marine Park, perhaps with enough support and awareness, parks can "hire the staff needed to bring thousands of acres under active management” and protect wildlife.
Perhaps an old New Yorker put it best:
I love New York 'cause you can quickly go from a chaotic city to a peaceful jungle just by stepping into Central Park!