Ecology + Design

Jay Archer Testifies on Behalf of Int.1524 Banning Pesticides in NYC Parks

Yesterday was a historic day for New York City! The city council held a public hearing for Int.1524-2019, a bill to ban Glyphosate on New York City parks or any land owned or leased by the city, sponsored by council members Ben Kallos and Carlina Rivera.

It was introduced on April 18, 2019, not long after two separate juries attributed the plaintiffs’ exposure to Roundup as a “substantial factor” to each of their terminal cancer illnesses.  Bayer, parent company of Roundup manufacturer Monsanto, payed out  $80 million in settlements. Read the press release from April 18th on Int-1524. After reaching 33 co-sponsors, a public hearing was set in motion.

Green Jay Landscape Design founder Jay Archer was asked to testify as an expert witness on behalf of the ecological and organic landscape industry.  He was among good company — Patti and Doug Wood from Grassroots Environmental Education and Jay Feldman from Beyond Pesticides both leaders in public outreach and education on broad environmental issues, including pesticide use.

There was a great deal of scientific evidence presented about the health dangers of synthetic chemical pesticides. 

“Parks should be for playing not pesticides,” said Kallos at the bill’s launch in April. “All families should be able to enjoy our city parks without having to worry that they are being exposed to toxic pesticides that could give them and their families cancer.”

Jay’s testimony focused on the environmental repercussions of applying indiscriminate toxins to biodiversity and the health of our ecosystems:

I am here today to testify that roundup/glyphosate and lawn care chemicals and pesticides are absolutely not essential to landscape management, and if fact, basically, they don’t work. They suppress and eliminate biological diversity while we are already in danger of losing more and more precious species…more life on earth. The largest percentage of weeds and insects in our landscapes are either beneficial or benign, not pests threatening our heath and offending our sensibilities. But we indiscriminately target them all, intentionally or not. We keep making the same mistakes. Pesticides don’t work as advertised! They are ecologically counterproductive to environmental and human health and economically inefficient in terms of resource management. Desirable beneficial organisms can’t read the label.

Earlier, someone had mentioned their concern for not being able to tackle invasive species removal effectively and cheaply without synthetic chemicals.  Jay drew upon his experience managing the maintenance of many Westchester County parks and nature preserves, including dealing with invasive species.  He compared glyphosate to chemicals of the past like DDT and chlordane, once considered miracle chemicals, until we realized their far-reaching consequences. Jay stressed that simply removing unwanted vegetation is useless without replacing it with something –preferably fast-growing natives– to fill the bare soil and prevent weeds from returning.

Jay feels passionately that every “removal” project should also be an opportunity to improve the biodiversity and ecosystem services provided by the landscape.

We need to restore, nurture and encourage life and biodiversity in every nook and cranny of our urban spaces. Why do we embrace cultural, ethnic and racial diversity in our society but not biological diversity in our parks, where our children grow and breathe?

With ecological landscape design, we can create more productive landscapes through habitat creation (pollinator gardens, birdscaping) rain gardens, erosion prevention, carbon-sequestration, and more.  We not only need to shift our perception of how to maintain our landscapes healthily, but also how use them to mitigate many of our pressing environmental concerns.

At the same time, not every invasive area is cause for alarm.  The invasive vines growing around trees on the side of the highway are a great example.  In most cases the trees are already dead, and removing both them and the vines would be a huge expense, and require a massive replanting effort for the removas.  But the side of the highway is a mostly unusable space, anyway, and in fact, the invasive vines are serving a purpose.  They are flourishing next to the highly polluted roadway; they are absorbing hydrocarbons as they photosynthesize.

Jay says we need to pick our battles in how we spend our resources and energy.  Improving city parks to be model ecosystems with thriving biodiversity and without toxic chemicals, is a great use of resources because of the high public exposure and ability to both educate and protect millions of New Yorkers.

“Why not make NYC a model” Jay testified “of parks as ecosystems to support human health and well being. That would elevate the quality of life for all. It’s already happening in Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

Watch the rally outside city hall and remarks from Ben Kallos below!

More information and ways to get involved on the Facebook page Parks for Kids NYC.


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