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One side effect of the pandemic for New Yorkers is a deep, intense craving for nature and a greater appreciation for the city’s own parks—one of the few types of places you can actually go these days.
In fact, if you visit a park, it looks pretty normal—and that’s a relief: There are runners, cyclists, dog walkers, and children playing on the grass (because playgrounds are closed)—a stark contrast to shuttered storefronts and empty streets elsewhere in NYC. But of course, many park goers are wearing masks or bandanas tied around their faces, adding a surreal note.
If you talk to park goers these days, they are likely to express gratitude for these public oases.
“We took it for granted,” 80-year-old Paul Wassarman tells The New York Times about Central Park. “We don’t take it for granted anymore.”
You probably don’t need a study to tell you that being in nature can boost your mental health. But getting outside now during the pandemic can be tricky or even impossible if you are sick, need to isolate, or are just concerned that fellow park-goers aren’t practicing social distancing. If that’s your situation, you may be looking for ways to bring nature to you in your NYC apartment.
Fortunately, there’s lots available online from NYC's parks department, botanic gardens, and wildlife conservation sites to bring NYC’s nature to you and help you stay connected to these places while you wait to return to them in person.
Editor's note: Click here for more of Brick Underground's coronavirus coverage.
Live programming from the parks
NYC Parks has a new internet and social media content series to promote mental and physical health for New Yorkers staying home, Parks@Home. On Tuesdays, urban park rangers broadcast live from the park, and on Wednesdays, you can go on live walks in a park to see what’s in bloom and check out wildlife in the parks. Every Friday, there’s meditation footage from the park. You can also make Central Park’s magnolia trees your Zoom background.
“Right now, we’re all dealing with a new reality of limited interactions with the world outside of our apartments,” says Mitchell J. Silver, NYC Parks commissioner. “But while our worlds have become smaller, we are committed to bringing our 30,000 acres of green space and our countless free programs to you in your homes.”
Some of those programs may be right in front of your building: The parks department has mapped almost 700,000 street trees. You can find out about trees on your block with this map and you can adopt a street tree too.
Staying connected to the botanic gardens
The city’s botanic gardens are closed right now but are also offering virtual programming and educational content.
The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx has an extensive new content page, NYBG at Home, where you can go on virtual walks around the grounds, talk to the plant doctor, take online classes, and do projects at home. Upcoming events include Facebook Watch Party video tours and presentations; teacher resources; plant-based, kid-friendly recipes; and ways to get involved in virtual research projects.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has home gardening projects, activities for children, and guides to what’s in bloom now. There’s more: You can learn how to grow greens at home, learn about the birds of Brooklyn, and take video stroll through the Japanese Garden.
QBG@Home is a new content series from the Queens Botanical Garden. You can find educational programming for children, crafts, storytime, gardening tutorials and footage from the garden.
Prefer animals to plants?
The city’s zoos and aquarium also have new online programming for the pandemic. The Wildlife School Online features live education programs for students in pre-k through eighth grade led by a conservation educator. The fee is $50. There are also free guided videos and activities for children and you check out the Bronx Zoo’s live cam to see penguins, sea lions, and lemurs and see past videos from the virtual zoo here.
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