NYU’s sustainable landscaping efforts on view for all

Updated Apr 19, 2016
This 3,700 square foot green roof was added in 2011. Photo: George ReisThis 3,700 square foot green roof was added in 2011.
Photo: George Reis

When people think of college campuses, impressive academic buildings, athletic facilities and sprawling quads come to mind, but New York University is quite different from the norm.

Despite the departure from the traditional campus, NYU still has landscaping and its gardens can be enjoyed by students and New Yorkers alike.

The university has 40 green spaces that are scattered throughout the city. Supervisor of Sustainable Landscaping George Reis, groundskeeper Michael Begasse and a crew of NYU students tend to all of these locations.

NYU practices a number of sustainable landscaping techniques, including the use of native plants, water conservation and the elimination of chemical fertilizers and gas-powered maintenance tools.

By practicing all these methods, the university hopes to foster better biodiversity, reduce noise and air pollution, and provide an example for home gardeners to follow.

“Our objective is to unify our eclectic campus with green spaces that combine the aims of urban restoration ecology with high aesthetic standards in design,” NYU’s website says. “We seek a deserving place for NYU within the time-honored horticultural tradition of Greenwich Village while keeping pace with the exciting new trends that make New York City a world model for high performance urban landscapes.”

Even small unobtrusive planters like these are part of NYU’s green spaces. Photo: George ReisEven small unobtrusive planters like these are part of NYU’s green spaces.
Photo: George Reis

Some particular green spaces to note are Silver Towers Oak Grove, which features 22 species of oak trees that were planted in the 1960s on the half-acre parcel; Coles Sport Center Garden, which has 4,000 tulips in bloom every spring; and the 13,000 square feet of mixed garden beds on Bleecker Street.

In 2011, Reis challenged the typical rooftop garden design by mixing native plants like primrose and wild columbine in with the typical sedums used.

“One advantage of using native perennials is that they have a different look in all seasons – sedum roofs tend to be more static,” Reis told NYU.

He and his team maintain the 3,700-square-foot garden at 238 Thompson without the use of any pesticides.

Another notable project is the NYU Native Woodland Garden created by Darrel Morrison FASLA, which was designed to appear as Manhattan did when Henry Hudson first arrived in 1609, featuring native trees, shrubs and perennials.

Below is a video of Reis talking about his work for the university.

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