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New York City, the most dense and populous city in the United States, is one of the world's most altered landscapes. Yet, New York City boasts an urban ecology which…
New York City, the most dense and populous city in the United States, is one of the world's most altered landscapes. Yet, New York City boasts an urban ecology which produces invaluable environmental benefits. The extent and vitality of its green and blue spaces would not be where it is without the unrelenting organization, stewardship, and advocacy of the New York citizenry.
Born from these grassroots environmental justice movements, citizens have built the nature-based solutions (NBS) they seek out of oft-neglected landscapes and vacant lots. Today, over 800 civic environmental stewardship groups are active across all of New York City's 205,000 acres. These groups directly manage, restore, and conserve greenspaces, as well as advocate for their investment and expand ecological awareness through educational programming and campaigns, and their work is more important as ever, with the growing impacts of climate change. This chapter will review three cases of community environmental stewardship, including a distributed community garden movement, restoration of a polluted waterway, and an emerging framework for adaptive coastal protection. Through these cases, we may understand the origins and frontiers of some of today's civic networks stewarding New York City's natural areas. These cases emphasize a socioecological view of the city's ecology. They show that we must consider green infrastructure and natural resources as places which have social and cultural meaning, not merely spaces with ecological functions. They highlight the labor and investments committed by community groups which require compensation and nurturing. Lastly, they demonstrate the importance of supporting social networks and local capacities in stewarding nature-based strategies and building resilient, adaptive, and equitable socioecological systems.