Park Blog

The latest news about one of New York City’s best waterfront parks.

Photo by Alex MacLean
Park People

Julie Feinstein

It’s safe to say there may not be a creature in Brooklyn Bridge Park that Julie Feinstein hasn’t encountered! Not only is she generous (she donates her time and knowledge to the park, as you will see below) but she really knows her stuff (her background is in science and she’s a terrifically engaging writer and great photographer). Find out why we’re so lucky that people like her are part of this wonderful park community:

What do you do when you’re not in the park?

I am the Collection Manager of the Ambrose Monell Collection for Molecular and Microbial Research at the American Museum of Natural History. The collection is an archive of frozen biopsy materials from non-human animals from all over the world that are used for genetic analyses.

I am also a writer, and author of The Field Guide to Urban Wildlife.

Please describe what you do for/with the park.

I lead “Birds, Bugs, and Bees” wildlife walks in the park during summer and fall. I often feature wildlife I find in the park in my blog Urban Wildlife Guide.

How did you become interested in urban wildlife?

Although urban wildlife is not exotic, it is interesting. From my porch in Brooklyn Heights I see cardinals, blue jays, peregrine falcons, and even raccoons; these are elegant animals with fascinating private lives. Once I realized that, I was hooked.

What’s the most exciting discovery you’ve made in or around the park?

It’s hard to pick one. I watched Pier 1 being built from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade – from truckloads of gravel to grassy hills. Shortly after the pond was installed, I saw pioneer dragonflies lay eggs in the water, founding a population there. I was also very excited to find a bush full of tiny baby praying mantises by the side of a path in the water gardens. And then there was a hummingbird moth that has transparent wings and looks like a hummingbird until you get close enough to see its antennae! Oh, and there was a muskrat burrowing in the mud around the pond for a while. All very exciting!

What’s an interesting fact you’ve learned about Brooklyn or the park since you started collaborating with us?

There are comb jellies in the East River! We caught some (and returned them after looking) while Seining the River Wild under the Manhattan Bridge, which is one of the park’s excellent and fun educational programs. I hope it is offered again in 2013.

What do you like about the park?

Lots of things: the views, the plantings, the walks, the food carts, the events, the carousel, and the wine bar! I also like the way it fits in the surrounding neighborhoods; it’s easy to find a very good lunch nearby. And it is great to watch new different parts of the park taking shape.

What motivates you to partner with the park?

I’m excited that it’s there. I’ve lived in Brooklyn Heights for 20 years and as cool as the neighborhood was, the new park just makes it more so.

Why is it important to educate park visitors about wildlife?

Knowing about it helps people see it. Seeing wildlife enriches the viewers and motivates them to promote preservation. It’s an upward spiral!

What is it about Brooklyn Bridge Park that makes it good for viewing wildlife?

Varied habitat: plantings that attract insects, food and cover plants that attract birds, and a river for the ducks, geese, gulls, and terns.

Anything else you’d like to share about your experiences in the park?

It’s a good place to sharpen wildlife photography skills. The fence along the east side of Pier 1 is especially good for insect macro photography because there are lots of insects there near eye-level that you can get very close to. And after a day of that, you can change lenses and settings and capture night shots of Manhattan.

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