The Battery, NYC’s downtown park, sets ‘standard for urban parks’

The Battery in lower Manhattan is visited by millions of people waiting to board a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island every year, but as they’re passing through the 25-acre park, many may not realize some of its unique qualities.

amNewYork spoke with Warrie Price, the president and founder of The Battery Conservancy, to learn more about the thriving green space.

Here are five things you may not have known:

It has the largest free perennial gardens in North America

The Battery currently has 195,000 square feet of perennial gardens, making it the largest in North America that is free and open to the public. Perennial plants, as opposed to annual or biennial plants, live for more than one season.

The conservancy is aiming for even more garden space: “Our goal is 230,000 square feet of gardens,” Price said. With the proposed revamping of the park’s playground, dubbed the Playscape, the conservancy hopes to meet that goal, she said.

The park is completely toxin-free

The park and gardens are maintained without using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, Price said.

Some of the toxin-free practices include hand weeding all the gardens and using plant-safe calcium chloride for winter ice removal, rather than rock salt.

The conservancy is one of the few organizations in the city that’s been recognized by the Perfect Earth Project, which promotes toxin-free green spaces.

“We’ve set an incredible standard for urban parks,” Price said. “We want this to be the new standard.”

The Battery is a Monarch Waystation

The gardens serve as a habitat for Monarch butterflies and became a certified Monarch Waystation in 2008. The butterflies can be seen in the fall, Price said, adding that September is the best month to spot them.

And butterflies aren’t the only creatures the Battery supports. “We call it the three B’s: bees, birds and butterflies,” Price said.

Throughout the year, the New York City Audubon leads bird-watching walks through the Battery to highlight the variety of species.

The park is designed to be resilient to flooding

After the park was flooded with 14 feet of water during superstorm Sandy, its plants grew back because they are salt-tolerant, Price said.

All the structures in the park, including the SeaGlass Carousel, are built according to flood levels, and the Playscape, when completed, will include sand dunes designed to help manage rain and flooding.

“We know we’ll flood,” Price said, adding that they can’t stop the water, but they can be prepared.

5,000 students come to The Battery’s urban farm each year

The 1-acre urban farm includes a vegetable farm, a forest farm and an oyster restoration station. The students help plant and harvest 135 different varieties of herbs and produce in the vegetable farm each season, according to the conservancy.

It is visited by 5,000 students from more than 100 schools across the five boroughs. The participating schools get to take the produce and plants grown in their plots. Some produce is also donated to local shelters, the conservancy says.