Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New York Passes Complete Streets Law

An unidentified individual on bike to work day.
Congratulations to the New York Legislature for passing the Complete Streets law.  This article from Long Island Business News has information about the legislation.  But in summary, it requires all state and local governments to consider design principles on streets that would make them safer for bikers, walkers, and drivers.  This is a move in the right direction to protect everyone who uses New York's transportation systems. This is an especially important move during a time when many people are more interested in biking and walking to destinations.

I have seen road projects in Florida take advantage of this type of planning.  For those of you reading in Tampa, a great example is the Nebraska Avenue street improvements south of Hillsborough Avenue.  This region was completely transformed in positive ways through a variety of techniques including improved crosswalks, bus pullouts, bike lanes, and reduction from 4 to 2 lanes.  Nebraska Avenue is more pleasant, safer, and bike friendly.    There is no doubt that the New York legislation will greatly improve the safety of roads throughout the state.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Forest Grows in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

Entrance to the Brooklyn Botanic
Gardens. Photo by Robert Brinkmann,
June 11, 2011.

Today, I attended Brooklyn Botanic Garden Homegrown Festival, which featured local food, musicians, and plants.  Many organizations around the world are catering to locavores, people who try to eat locally grown food and a botanical garden is a great place to feature locally created products.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is lovely.  The roses were in full bloom and there were many plants and gardens to admire.  However, the attraction today focused on the local.  There were several demonstrations by local chefs.  I attended a class on how to make jams and syrups from flowers taught by local food expert, Kelly Geary of Sweet Deliverance.  I think the most interesting thing I took from the class is that to make a floral syrup, all one does is make a concentrated tea with the flower (or herb) of choice and mix it with a sweetener like sugar or honey.  That syrup can be mixed with club soda to make a refreshing and unusual soda that can be served alone or mixed into a cocktail.  I tasted a soda made with lavender and honey and it was truly unique and special.   

Roses in the Garden.  Photo by
Robert Brinkmann, June 11, 2011.
While there were many wonderful local chefs serving up their individual flavors, the highlight for me was the tour of the garden’s Native Flora Garden given by its curator, Uli Lorimer.  There is something special about getting a tour from the person responsible for a garden.  He has collected seeds and plants from the New York area that now grow on the site.  He informed those of us on the tour that all of the plants come from within a 100 mile radius of the garden.  As we strolled around, he taught us how to identify plants and their uses, and how they fit within broader ecosystems of New York.  I found it fascinating that there are some niche ecosystems that evolved to live within the difficult serpentinite soils found scattered in some areas of New York.

Native Flora Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Photo by Robert Brinkmann, June 11, 2011.
Unfortunately, many local ecosystems have been lost to urbanization in the New York area. Lorimer informed us that the area that is now JFK Airport was once a vast cedar swamp.  The efforts of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden make an important contribution by educating about the significance of local ecosystems.  It is interesting to note that the oldest tree in the entire property is a black cherry that predates the planting of the garden. 

While it was a bit of a rainy day and attendance wasn’t what they would have wished, kudos to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for featuring the local in their Homegrown Festival.  Great job!!