Welcome to Slow Nature Fast City, a beginner’s guide to noticing and exploring nature in the five boroughs of New York City.
Nature in the Concrete Jungle
If you ask most New Yorkers about finding nature in the city, they might make a joke about rats or pigeons. They may say that we have a few parks to run around, rivers to bike past, and crowded beaches to enjoy in the summer, but that’s about it. Nature is what you visit on vacation, not something you see in everyday life. In New York, it’s easy to miss the natural world and to exhibit the signs of the nature deprived.
But actually New York is the perfect place to connect with nature every day. Hundreds of species fly over our buildings and swim around our shores. We live and work in a vast urban forest of over 5 million trees. Meadows, waterfalls, gardens, beaches, and salt marshes are all within walking distance or a subway ride away.
How to Discover Nature in NYC
As New Yorkers, we hike all the time – though we think of it as walking quickly from point A to point B. The good news is we have a daily opportunity to change our routes slightly, to slow down and notice what is in front of us.
New York City has an abundance of landscapes, hidden green spaces, and off-the-beaten-path locales. In the Find Nature section, you’ll find inspiration to expand your own personal map of NYC.
Go Slow (When the City Wants You to Speed Up)
Like other Slow movements (Slow Food, Slow Cities, Slow Travel, etc), the focus here is on slowing down, savoring the moment, and pursuing a more balanced life. But to notice nature in NYC, you literally have to slow down. This is not easy. This is a city of relentless energy. New Yorkers are strivers, not slackers.
Here are a few techniques to try:
- Become a connoisseur of the side street, the pocket park, the hidden green space
- Walk as slowly as a tourist in Times Square
- Take out your earbuds
- Put down your phone or other devices
- Open up your senses. This may be challenging in a city that is screaming at you.
- Consider going solo. It may be easier to concentrate.
- Focus on the non-human for a short amount of time. Try not to think about your job, your relationship, or your rent during these precious moments.
- One way to help you focus: Try to describe what you see to yourself. Don’t take notes until AFTER the walk is over.