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Announcing a New Partnership with New York State Parks at New York City’s First Public Greenhouse

Announcing a New Partnership with New York State Parks at New York City’s First Public Greenhouse


The Horticultural Society of New York to lead a full slate of programs at New York City’s first public greenhouse at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park

On Thursday, September 28th, New York State Parks announced the opening of New York City’s first public greenhouse, which will become a center of urban gardening and nutritional educational programs at Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park in Harlem. New York State Parks is partnering with The Horticultural Society of New York (“The Hort”) to offer community education programming and expanded access to fresh produce at the greenhouse.

State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “The Greenhouse will not only help community members of all ages learn how to use fresh produce to cook healthy regional and traditional meals, they will be empowered to grow fresh produce themselves. State Parks is grateful to Governor Cuomo and our partners for helping provide innovative park programs and facilities that help to enrich the lives of New York City families.”

The 2,160-square-foot facility includes a classroom/demonstration kitchen connected to a greenhouse, where plants can be cultivated year-round. With assistance from a full-time educator from The Hort, the nutrition education center will:

  • Present year-round education classes and public events on growing fresh vegetables and herbs and using fresh produce to improve family health and nutrition.
  • Offer programming for the park’s summer camp children ages 6-13.
  • Invite local garden and nutrition education providers to offer programs at the greenhouse, especially during the colder months when their outdoor facilities may be limited.
  • Enable community members to come together to select vegetable varieties to grow into seedlings in the greenhouse – which will be distributed to all participants.
  • Help Harlem residents access fresh foods at Riverbank through a youth-run farmers’ market and connections to Community-Supported-Agriculture programs.
  • Link up with Harlem public schools to provide classes for students and professional development for teachers to help them integrate activities involving fresh produce, cooking, and nutrition into their curriculum.

The $775,000 project was funded through Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 program as well as grants totaling $300,000 from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and New York City Councilman Mark Levine.

Sara Hobel, Executive Director of The Horticultural Society of New York (The Hort) said, “The Hort is excited to be able to offer programs at this beautiful new education center, the first of its kind in a public park in New York City. Our horticulture and education staff will offer a variety of free and affordable gardening courses, special events, hands-on workshops, and informative conferences to connect all New Yorkers to plant-based wellness and nutrition.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer said, “I’ve made it a priority to support projects that put gardening and urban farming within reach of more New Yorkers, because they improve access to fresh food while providing opportunities for education, healthy outdoor activity, and community-building. The programs this greenhouse will make possible will touch the entire community, enabling everything from year-round youth education programs to farmers’ markets. I thank Governor Cuomo and Councilmember Levine for supporting this transformative project.”

New York City Councilmember Mark Levine said, “”For countless members of our Northern Manhattan community, Riverbank State Park has been an invaluable resource for decades. Building this greenhouse gives our community an incredibly unique outlet to creatively engage in gardening and horticulture right here in our neighborhood. I am so proud to have cofounded this project with my colleague, Borough President Gale Brewer. And I am deeply grateful to the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation and the NYC Horticultural Society for their commitment to operating this new facility in the years to come.”

State Senator Marisol Alcántara said, “The opening of this greenhouse in Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park is a testament to the years of unceasing work Assemblyman Farrell has put it for his community. Our parks are one of the most important treasures in New York City, and having spaces like this greenhouse to keep plants year-round will not only provide green space in the winter, but also safeguard our park’s biological diversity. I am very proud to participate in cutting the ribbon for this project.”

All programs will be posted on the park’s website, in the park’s seasonal programming guide and on The Hort’s website.

Founded in 1902, The Hort is a New York City-based nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating the vital connection between plants and people. Its mission is to sustain the vital connection between people and plants. Social service and public programs educate and inspire, growing a broad community that values horticulture for the many benefits it brings to our environment, our neighborhoods, and our lives.

The project is part of Governor Cuomo’s effort to improve and revitalize the New York State Park system. The Governor’s NY Parks 2020 program is leveraging $900 million in private and public funding for State Parks from 2011 to 2020.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which are visited by 69 million people annually. A recent study found that New York State Parks generates $1.9 billion in economic activity annually and supports 20,000 jobs. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit, connect on Facebook, or follow on Instagram and Twitter.

See more photos from the ribbon cutting


Summer Days in Greenpoint

Summer Days in Greenpoint

This summer, the Hort’s education team developed and led the Young Naturalists Program at McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The program was free and open to the public throughout July and August. Students, mostly two to twelve years old, joined our educators for nature-themed classes. Additionally, as an ongoing project, students beautified a park corner – opposite PS 110 – where they and their parents cleared leaf litter, pulled weeds, fertilized the soil, added compost, and planted native perennials to attract pollinators to the park.

Each session encouraged the Naturalists to explore their park with curiosity and a keen eye. Tuesday’s Critter Club brought up-close inspections of ladybugs, worms, crickets, and ants. Wednesday’s Art in the Park displayed students’ inner Van Gogh through print making, water colors, collages, and rubbings. On Thursday’s, everyone grabbed binoculars for a special Park Exploration. Botany and Story Time on Friday’s were a huge hit as students explored the inner workings of plants. The Saturday Family Fun gave young naturalists the opportunity to plant and grow something at home!

By the end of the summer, the Naturalists located and identified red-wing blackbirds, monarch butterflies, sycamore tussock moth caterpillars, and countless other critters and animals who call McGolrick Park home. Plus, as a special treat, on the last day of the program students had the special opportunity to meet Crooks the Chicken!

The Young Naturalists Program is part of The Hort’s McGolrick Park restoration which includes improvements to the dog run, reseeding the lawn, and restoring garden beds. This project is in collaboration with the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn and the McGolrick Park Neighborhood Alliance, and funded by the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF). The GCEF is a joint program of the Office of the New York State Attorney General and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

What’s growing at Rikers Island GreenHouse

What’s growing at Rikers Island GreenHouse

Students at the GreenHouse on Rikers Island research, collaborate, and select which plants to grow in the garden. They choose delicious vegetables, useful herbs, and beautiful flowers. The harvest is different every year, but the lessons stay they same – cultivating healthier futures. Find out what’s growing this year:

Students at the juvenile facility – Sixteen & Seventeen 

Growing garlic is a true test of character.

Last November, when the garden at the juvenile facility was barely over four months old, the 16 and 17-year-old horticulture students planted cloves in deep, black grow bags. The large soil delivery had not arrived to the newly created program, so plant options were limited. The decision to plant this small crop required the utmost trust in seed garlic’s potential to produce in non-traditional circumstances.

As with all things in the garden, patience is critical. As you may know, gardeners plant seed garlic 6 to 8 weeks before the first winter frost. With such a long time between planting and harvesting, about 8 months, many students knew they would not be with the program long enough to taste their work. Despite this, they embraced their task and chose to leave something beautiful behind for those that come after – to step outside themselves as individuals, consider what it means to build community, and to think with longevity.

The students carefully made holes with their fingers in cold soil, buried them snugly, watered them in, and let them be. Throughout the winter, they covered it with a blanket of straw, cared for it, and watched it peek out of the soil. Then a new group came. These new students were thrilled to see strong green shoots in the spring and a harvest of full, hardy paper bulbs.

Cloves have now been used to make cold remedies, given to other facilities’ horticulture students to enjoy, and mixed into delicious herb cream cheese. All because of the trust, patience and investment of students eight months prior.

The main GreenHouse garden – Nineteen and Older 

Horticultural Therapists love using garden metaphors to emphasize lessons. It helps students relate to their lives, see things slightly differently, and engage with their work in the garden more meaningfully. This summer, because of the metaphor-love, students planted the “three sisters” corn, beans and squash for the first time at the GreenHouse.

‘Three Sisters’ Planting

Although all gardeners worked to wheelbarrow nearly 50 barrows of compost to build up and level the ground, two students took on the patch as their responsibility. They measured out fifteen 10X10 areas squares, planted four corn seeds in a cross, beans next to the corn, and three squash seeds in the center. Timing is important for the success of a “three sisters” planting.  The corn takes the longest time to harvest, yet if planted too early it can shade out the growth of beans and squash.

The “three sisters” is a traditional planting by the Native Americans in North America.  Each of the crops planted provides support for each other and a balanced diet for the gardener.  The corn is a natural trellis (supporting) for the beans to climb; the squash shades out weed growth (protecting); and the beans fix nitrogen (giving) in the soil for the benefit of all three sisters. During the season, the planting provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of recognizing and accepting each role we play in our family, work, or community.

Now, everyone looks forward to a bountiful harvest and a delicious meal together – one that connects us to the native peoples of this land.

The Herb Garden – Nineteen and Older 

The Herb Garden is one of the most popular places at GreenHouse. It features a variety of culinary, medicinal, and ornamental plants. Each plant is chosen as a group – building camaraderie and teamwork. Together, students learn the cultural importance of each plant, sow from seed, and put the harvest to good use.


Often, students do not have the opportunity to share with others. Even though a gift or a kind gesture goes a long way in a prison that can harbor tension and stress. The Herb Garden provides that opportunity: everything grown in the 28 raised beds is for the students to share.


Gifts made by students

Culinary herbs, such as rosemary, tarragon, and thyme become seasoning for meals shared to celebrate student send offs. Hot peppers transform into hot sauce or dried for seasonings. Chamomile, valerian, and wormwood, grown for their calming properties, turn into delicious tea, while lavender and mint combine for a sweet smelling sachet. Each outcome delivered to another – growing community and building trust.


Juveniles at the detention center – Sixteen & Seventeen

At a new program site for GreenHouse, adolescent students toiled to sculpt two new courtyards and a breezeway for their future garden. The site will come to include landscaped areas with annual and perennial ornamentals, as well as a full raised bed system for dwarf fruit trees, herbs and edibles. Unfortunately, the late arrival of growing soil meant they’d missed the mark for many annual vegetable crops. Not wanting to miss out, students diligently transplanted into dozens of felt grow-bags the most spirited, pungent and piquant members of the Nightshade family; the humble chili peppers.

In a carceral environment, the chili pepper is an obvious choice, especially among young people who love to challenge their peers.  Beyond that, the blandness and redundancy in daily diet is almost the exactly opposite of the varied sensory and stimulating effects delivered by a mouthful of capsaicin.

For many young students, the geography of the chili and immense pride taken in regional cultivars are a hallmark of cultural and familial identity. From Mexico to Mozambique, Jamaica to Jakarta, regional varieties are prized and praised: something to remember grandma by or to transform the lethargy of a hot, lazy summer afternoon. Hailing from culinary traditions the world over, the students have grown all the standards, from Jalapenos, Habaneros and Serranos to Bells and Sweets. Often, they will venture into the exotic with Thai Hots, Jamaican Scotch Bonnets, and the Indian Ghost Pepper (Bhut jolokia).




Green Family Circle Spring Newsletter

Green Family Circle Spring Newsletter


GFC Fall 2016 Newsletter


Mr. Green Bean’s Spring Adventure

Mr. Green Bean’s Spring Adventure

Make Your Own Herb Garden

Ages 3-8


  • Biodegradable pots
  • Soil
  • Seeds (we recommend Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, and Chives)
  • Craft sticks
  • Shovels or something to scoop soil
  • Spray bottle filled with water


    1. Pick a location – an ideal location is close to the kitchen, but also somewhere that gets about six hours of sun a day.
      Scoop the soil and fill the container almost to the top
    2. Inspect and plant the seeds. Seeds are interesting and come in different sizes and shapes, take a few minutes to examine them! Place a few seeds in the soil and gently push some soil on top of the seeds.
    3. Label the container. With the craft sticks, write out which herb you just planted and place in the corresponding pot.
    4. Mist the soil right away and twice a day after that. Young seedlings love to be watered!

Watch them grow. In a few weeks, you should be able to harvest your first tasty herbs.

Tree Identification

Ages 10+

Street trees play an essential role in the New York City environment. Our city is home to over 590,000 street trees from 52 different species. Four of the most common street trees in NYC are Linden, Ash, Maple, and Hemlock. While you are on your next neighborhood walk, take a few minutes to examine your local trees and try to identify them!

  1. Look at the leaf! Are they simple or compound? Simple: one leaf per stem; Compound: many leaves per stem.
  2. Are they broadleaf or coniferous? Broadleaf trees have flat leaves; coniferous trees have needles and cones, like a pine tree!
  3. Find the seeds. You know those ‘helicopter seeds’ (Samaras)? They are often found on Maples. Just as acorns are indicative of Oaks!
  4. Feel the bark. When you get more experience, look at the bark to see if it is scaly, furrowed, papery, or smooth.

Fun Tip: Find out a tree’s age by measuring its trunk. For every inch around, that is roughly how old it is!

Seasonal Recipe

Vegetable Frittata



  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 4 ounces feta


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF with rack in center position. In a large bowl, beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper.
  2. Warm oil in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add red pepper and onion and sauté until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in spinach and sauté until wilted, about 2 minutes. Distribute vegetables evenly in skillet and pour in egg mixture. Crumble feta on top. Cook without stirring until eggs are just beginning to set around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Place skillet in oven. Bake frittata until almost set in center, about 15 minutes. Turn broiler on high; broil frittata until top is golden brown, about 2 minutes, watching carefully to prevent over-browning. Remove from oven. Let frittata rest for 5 minutes before serving.


GreenTeam Tips for Starting Seeds

GreenTeam Tips for Starting Seeds

The Hort’s GreenTeam actively promotes the economic, social, environmental, and quality of life benefits of neighborhood plazas and green spaces. Through strategic partnerships, The GreenTeam provides vocational training in horticulture, transitional work, job search skills, and job placement, and aftercare services.

As February rolls around, the sun shines more, and a few 60-degree days pop in here and there, the GreenTeam ramps up its spring planning. In the 2017 season, our workforce will plant, clean, and maintain fifteen public plazas – three more than last year! Serving more public-plazas means planting more plants – and it just so happens that we love plants!

Luckily, to facilitate this large uptick in plantings, The Hort has great friends and partners at Van Houten Farms. Earlier this month, the GreenTeam met with the Van Houten Farms horticulturists to plot out a signature plant palette for the year. The goal is to have New Yorkers recognize the Hort’s public plazas just by looking at the plants!

The GreenTeam does not let Van Houten Farms do all of the growing – they do some too! When a box from Burpee arrived with a huge assortment of flower and vegetable seeds, it was as if Christmas came early (or late?) for our horticulturists. Many of these seeds will be used in supportive housing buildings, where the GreenTeam will teach residents how to grow vegetables and flowers.

However, with the last frost coming soon (about May 1st), it is just about time for all gardeners to start seeds indoors. Whether you are using small pots or seed starting flats, the GreenTeam would like to offer a few tips for seedlings. Follow their advice and watch your seeds grow!

  1. Make sure you clearly label the seeds you plant with the seed variety and planting date – it is easy to forget what you planted.
  2. Use a spray bottle to keep the soil moist at all times, seeds and young seedlings will not grow if the soil dries out.
  3. Keep your pots or trays next to a sunny window or under a grow light. If seedlings are not getting enough sun, they will start searching for light and become leggy.
  4. Make sure your seeds stay warm to encourage germination – most require temps around 72 degrees to germinate.
  5. Always follow the directions on the seed packets! Did you know that some seeds might not need to be covered with soil?

Does all this ‘green-thumbing’ make you a bit nervous? Worried about your limited space to grow or lack of sunlight? Don’t worry, you do not have to ‘seed start’ everything.  There are plenty of leafy greens and spring vegetables that can be planted directly in the ground after the last frost – think arugula, turnips, radishes, kale, and chard. Local farmer’s markets or nurseries are great resources and often have large selections of annuals that can be put right into the ground! But remember to always choose vigorous looking plants and make sure you are not buying anything you did not pay for, such as yellow leaves or aphids.

With enough hard work, care, and patience, you will have a lush and successful growing season! Who knows, you might even out-grow The GreenTeam.


Green Family Circle Seasonal Fall Recipe

Green Family Circle Seasonal Fall Recipe

Sunflowerseed Brittle
Sunflower Seed Brittle


Nut allergies are a common occurrence among children. Bring the crunch of nut-brittle candy without the reaction by using sunflower seeds instead! Full of vitamin E, sunflower seed brittle will make an excellent after-school snack.






1 1/4 cups sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins or cherries, roughly chopped
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 cup brown rice syrup


1. Preheat the oven to 325˚. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine the sunflower seeds, coconut, sesame seeds, dried fruit, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl and stir well.
3. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil over low heat. Add the syrup and whisk until uniform. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and fold quickly to incorporate it before the mixture becomes too sticky. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and smooth out the top with the back of an oil-greased spatula.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Let cool completely on the baking sheet.
5. Crack the brittle into pieces and store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Mr.Green Bean’s Back-To-School Activities

Mr.Green Bean’s Back-To-School Activities

Leaf Wreath Activity

Leaf Wreath
Ages 3-8

Bring some fall colors into the home! Nature, education, and creativity combine to make a lovely autumn decoration. Experiment with shapes and colors and try to identify the type of tree by leaf-shape.




• Fresh leaves
• A heavy book
• Modpodge (optional)
• Glitter glue
• Metallic permanent markers
• Embroidery hoop
• Hot glue gun

1. Collect leaves from outside. Try to get as many shapes and sizes as you can. Identify what you are collecting.
2. Press the leaves inside a heavy book. Let dry (this may take a few days).
3. Remove the dried leaves and coat them with modpodge to prevent future crumbling.
4. Decorate the leaves with glitter glue and markers.
5. Hot glue finished leaves to the embroidery hoop. Hang.



Handmade Soap

Handmade Soap
Ages 10+

Create a unique gift for just about anyone (including yourself) by making organic handmade soap. Experiment with scents and textures until your tween has the perfect combination.


• 1 or more pounds glycerin soap base
• Double boiler (or create one from two pots)
• Grater
• Water or milk
• 1/4–1/2 teaspoon assorted additives per pound of soap.
• Sugar, salt, and oatmeal all work well as exfoliants. Honey, cinnamon, and extracts (vanilla, peppermint, almond, orange, lavender – the list goes on!) all provide scents
• Soap molds or muffin tin

1. Use a food processor or cheese grater to finely shred soap base
2. Put about half of the shredded base in a pot, using a double boiler works best.
3. Add just enough water or milk to cover the soap. Milk burns easier, but will make a smoother soap.
4. Put the boiler on low heat and as the soap melts add more of the shredded base. Stir well and watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn.
5. Add more milk or water as needed.
6. When the soap is melted, add any scents or additives.
7. Pour the liquid soap into molds. Tap molds on a solid surface to remove air bubbles.
8. Cover the mold with a towel overnight.
9. Put the mold in the freezer for a few hours the next day, then remove the soap from the mold and enjoy.