Annual Report | February 26, 2021

Annual Report 2020: Cultivating Environmental Leaders

On March 4, 2020, we hosted acclaimed landscape architect and MacArthur Genius Walter Hood in conversation with WNYC reporter and host Arun Venugopal for our annual Gothamitis lecture series. The two toured a selection of NYRP gardens and spoke about the future of urban environmental justice. Here, Walter (left) convenes with NYRP founder Bette Midler (center) and Executive Director Lynn Kelly (right). Credit: Clay Williams

The following blog post is an excerpt from our 2020 annual report that you can read here.

COVID-19 fundamentally reshaped many of NYRP’s core programs in 2020: in-garden events, tree giveaways, and nature education moved online immediately for the health and safety of all involved. Although we continue to miss our in-person gatherings, growing new platforms and developing digital communication skills has allowed us to not only stay connected to our community, but reach a whole new audience as well.

Social media was an actionable outlet early on. While we had to cancel all tree giveaways, we had a mail-friendly alternative: seed-to-tree kits. Our Engagement and Programming team had already been working with some gardeners to grow native pawpaw trees from seed, and with a captive Instagram audience, we gave away over 140 tree seeds, showed recipients how to use them, and eventually even received a mention in The New York Times.

These and other online tutorials have been a logical format for our environmental curriculum. Our educators honed their video recording and editing abilities and adopted new tools like Padlet to share their expert guidance on everything from building bug hotels for pollinator habitat to starting indoor windowsill gardens from food scraps. They’ve swapped resources with like minded organizations and translated our popular field trips into virtual experiences via videos, readings, and at-home activities for a wider reach than is usually possible in a single class visit. “The over 30 videos and virtual field trips the educators made allowed us all to still be outdoors, and while differently, still maximizing the power of open space,” describes Senior Director of Engagement and Programming Annel Cabrera-Marus.

We were also able to broaden the influence of our thought leadership events by converting them to webinars. Beginning with the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we kicked off a Building Urban Resilience series with four timely topics central to our work: Understanding Climate Change and Wetlands, Lead’s Legacy in New York City Soils, Why We Need Green Infrastructure, and The Promise of Blue Carbon. These sessions convened experts in each of their fields and as well as targeted and engaged audiences. With over 100 attendees for each event, we reached significantly more interested individuals than we might have been able to host in person.

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