A city may not be the first place you think of when you think “green,” but New York City is one of the greenest places in the US.

Sure, there’s Central Park and its impressive outer-borough cousins, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and Staten Island’s Narrows Botanical Gardens, but there are plenty of less familiar green sites that will get you off the beaten path and show you a New York you probably didn’t know existed. Welcome to the big green apple!

Practical Information:

If you’re flying into LaGuardia, JFK, or Newark, take the AirTrain from your terminal to the nearest subway/train station. Faster and cheaper than a taxi, the AirTrain is the newest piece of NYC’s well-developed mass transit system. If you plan to move around the city by subway, buy an unlimited Metrocard, which is sold by the day, week, or month and is far less expensive than the $2 per ride fare. While you’re in the subway station, pick up a free map at any fare booth.

Get Outdoors:

It may be called the concrete jungle, but New York City has some amazing green spaces too, including:

The Science Barge: Run by the New York Sun Works Center for Sustainable Engineering, The Science Barge is part school-on-a-ship, part urban farm. Anchored on the city’s West Side Hudson River, the barge is powered by solar, wind, and biofuels, producing foods that generate no carbon emissions, no net water consumption, and no waste stream. During warmer months, you can visit the barge for free!

Hudson River Park: New Yorkers’ waterside playground, the Hudson River Park runs almost the entire length of Manhattan’s West Side, offering recreational opportunities for enthusiasts of rollerblading, biking, kayaking, climbing, skateboarding, fishing, and more… even trapeze! During the summer, free kayaking is a major attraction for beginners to experts, with the former offered lessons and the latter offered kayak polo games and trips north on the Hudson.

Union Square Greenmarket
: Rub shoulders with famous chefs without having to beg for a reservation. The Union Square Greenmarket, one of the city’s many outdoor markets, is the best of the best.

Walking Tours: Get off the double-decker bus and get your feet on the pavement! NYC has some of the world’s very best walking tours, with a tour for every interest. There’s the food tour, the ghost tour, and tours for nearly every immigrant group that passed through Ellis Island’s portals. Some of the best tours are offered by the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Of course, if you don’t want to hire a guide, give yourself a tour—check out Bruce Kayton’s book, Radical Walking Tours of New York City.


Go Inside:

Open House New York: Green isn’t just about the physical environment, it’s about being conscious of the environments we build and in which we live, work, and play. OHNY’s best event is its annual weekend city-wide “Open House,” but it also has programs throughout the year that give people access to places that are normally beyond the public’s access and view.

Go Eat:

The Green Table: Nestled in Chelsea Market, The Green Table is a tiny organic restaurant whose menu changes daily, built around seasonal organic ingredients and organic wine and beer.

The New Leaf Café
: The food is great, the setting is amazing (nestled in Fort Tryon Park, at the northernmost tip of Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River to the west, a great place to wander after visiting the Met’s Cloisters, also located in the park), and the best thing of all is that net proceeds from the café go right back to the park’s restoration and maintenance.

GOBO: food for the five senses: Organic, vegetarian, small plates, good for sampling and sharing.

Just Go:

You know all about the subway, but consider these other mass transit options, too: water taxi (which also offers an Audubon tour), Roosevelt Island Tramway, pedicabs, or your own bike.

Accommodations:

NYC is still getting green with its lodging, but the city’s first LEED certified hotels are under construction, slated to open in 2008 and 2009. For those who can’t wait or whose budget is unlikely to accommodate such eco-luxe lodging, try home-swapping or inexpensive rentals on craigslist. A best bet is the Sugar Hill Harlem Inn.


One of Matador’s regular contributors, Julie Schwietert Collazo is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator who lives in New York, Mexico City, and San Juan. She has a BA in English and Women’s Studies, a Masters of Social Work, and is working on a PhD in Literature at the Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe.


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