Along the East River, a herd of goats took up a temporary residence in Stuyvesant Cove Park last week. In the shadow of Alphabet City, the goats were released to mow down an overgrowth of flora—mostly invasive—which now threatens this recognized wildlife habitat and the “delicious indigenous plants” which inhabit the park, according to SolarOne, the green energy center that manages the park. Stuyvesant Cove Park is known for its abundance of native plants, including persimmons, beach plums, bayberry, and saltbush.
The COVID-19 pandemic, though, put this floral refuge in peril. Creating a natural equilibrium of vegetative growth in an urban food forest such as this is nearly impossible, so the park relies largely upon its staff and volunteers to clear out nonnative overgrowth. The pandemic, though, has limited volunteer opportunities and labor supply. Short staffing and budget cuts are secondary and tertiary plagues on the park. Enter the goats.
This was not the first foray of the Green Goats of Rhinebeck upon the weeds of Manhattan. Among their previous Manhattan missions, they took on the groundcover of Prospect Park after Superstorm Sandy and the brush of Riverside Park in 2019. Armed with ferocious appetite, the goats lent a rural air to this east side waterfront park.
Candace Thomson, the park manager, tells Untapped New York, “These goats, in a matter of three days, are going to take all of this plant matter, eat it, and poop it out as fertilizer that’ll make this garden perfect for growing a bunch of native, edible plants next spring.” And this confidence is well-founded, as these goats boast an impressive resume, having eaten invasive species to death in hundreds of city, state, national parks in the Northeast over the past thirteen years.
Even the Green Goats Team is astounded by the demand of the goats. Annilita Cihanek, co-owner of Green Goats of Rhinebeck says, “When Larry and I first started our goatscaping company, my family back home in Guayana all teased me Now we work full time on contracts for city, state and national parks, we travel constantly, and get lots of press. Let me tell you, my family isn’t laughing any more!”
Our team went to photograph the adorable goats last Thursday and got to meet some of these voracious creatures! Thomson told us today that the goats have moved onto their next job: “Total flash mob of goats. They did a phenomenal job, do you remember what this looked like before? I had to sleep with them overnight, part of what I promised my supervisor.” (She slept in a van!)
Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of the Stuyvesant Cove Park, a former industrial site turned into natural habitat.