Pod Walks

Come take a tour on the issues of sustainability in Brooklyn.

What Is a Pod Walk?

A pod walk is an interactive walking tour that guides the participant through the various aspects of a site. These pod walks help one understand what aspect of each location is sustainable. Each pod walk consists of:

  • an audio guide detailing sustainability at each stop and guiding one through the site,
  • a visual map of the stops, and
  • an interactive guide highlighting the main points at each stop and providing tips to engage with the site.

Our Pod Walks

Three pod walks address sustainability problems and initiatives at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn College, and Gowanus Canal. They were created by the students of the fall 2012 Macaulay Honors College Seminar 3: Science and Technology in New York City class, under the instruction of Professor Tammy Lewis. Each pod walk focuses on a different aspect within the three pillars of sustainability—environmental, social, and economic.

More pod walks were created in spring 2018 for the capstone course in Urban Sustainability (SUST 4001), one for Green-Wood Cemetery and additional walks for Gowanus Canal and Brooklyn College. These pod walks also provide a virtual story map tour in case you are not able to do the actual walk.


Issues of sustainability are constantly changing. Therefore, these pod walks will be periodically updated to reflect those changes.

Brooklyn Bridge Park (2012)

This interactive StoryMap holds stops, images, and content from the podwalk. Full-screen version.

Learn about Brooklyn Bridge Park and urban sustainability at the Brooklyn waterfront.

Brooklyn Bridge Park (2012)

The Theme

This pod walk takes you through the different environmentally, socially, and economically conscious aspects of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The Argument

This park is sustainable in the three pillars (as mentioned above) and, therefore, should be considered as a model for all sustainable parks in the nation.


Learn more about the sustainable initiatives on the Brooklyn College landscape.

Brooklyn College (2012)

The Theme

This pod walk shows how Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 initiatives and Brooklyn College’s sustainability goals, as evident through the 10-Year Sustainability Plan draft, are important in the development of the college as a sustainable campus.

The Argument

With the implementation of various initiatives, the college is definitely on its way to becoming sustainable. However, there is still much to be done.


Achieve an understanding of how sustainability and PlaNYC has shaped the Brooklyn College’s campus and goals.

Gowanus Canal (2018)

Explore Gowanus is a visual and audio pod walk available to the public that can be easily accessible via any smartphone. You will experience a unique neighborhood that is undergoing a great deal of changes. This pod walk will help you to explore some of the Gowanus gray and green infrastructure and its history, culture, and ecology. During this walk, you will find the contrasts between the old and new structures and the higher- and lower-income groups.

The Gowanus Creek was a tidal estuary flowing into the Gowanus Bay in New York Harbor when Europeans first landed in the area. The Lenape Indians occupied this area where they harvested oysters with gusto. Oysters were a major part of their diet intake, and, in fact, they decorated the coastline with empty oyster shells. These dumps for the oyster shells were called middens by archaeologists. When European settlers arrived on the land of the Lenape Indians, they were amazed by the great abundance of foot-long oysters in Brooklyn. Rich and poor folks enjoyed eating oysters, as they were easy to harvest as a free food source. Eventually, the oyster industry became a commodity for the European settlers. They began an oyster stand selling oysters. During the beginning of the 20th century, when industrialization was booming, the population was also booming. There were no sewage treatment plants, so raw sewage poured into the surrounding waters and eventually flowed into the ocean. The sewage waste contaminated New York Harbor and helped destroy oyster reefs, which then contributed to the loss of marshes and habitats for many other aquatic species.

Despite the historical damage done to the canal, there are many efforts to restore the canal, such as the Gowanus Lowlands project.

Gowanus Community

The Gowanus community is very diverse, with longtime residents of private homes, NYCHA residents, and business owners. The Gowanus is a part of Community Board 6, and there are many organizations that the community uses to let their voices be heard: Gowanus Canal Conservancy, Gowanus Neighborhood Coalition for Justice, and Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club.

New Development

The NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) launched a Gowanus Neighborhood Planning Study to figure out different approaches on future development of the remaining land around the Gowanus Canal. The plan focuses on priorities of community building in the Bridging Gowanus process of mix use property, affordable housing, investment in public realm, sustainability, resiliency, arts, and culture.

Connecting Sustainability

The Gowanus community has been combating environmental issues since the days of industrialization, hence why the canal is labeled as one of the most polluted waterways in the world. The EPA has identified this area as a Superfund Site with progression of the clean up since October 2017. Approximately 377 million gallons of combined sewage overflow is released into the Gowanus Canal. There are efforts being made with the help of NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to design and construct gray and green infrastructure to reduce and decrease the amount of raw sewage flowing into the canal. In fact, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy has partnered with several design firms to create several curbside rain gardens, bioswales, high-level storm sewer system, and two large underground sewage detention tanks.

Building Resilience

Building resilience is the only way to combat environmental issues. The ongoing construction of new infrastructure must take into account the potential nature and manmade disasters and disturbances that are yet to come. Therefore, it is important to incorporate long-term changes of our new infrastructure: buildings, landscape, communities, and regions to become more resilient. Without a doubt, climate change is not a myth, and we will continue to see sea levels rise, increased frequency of heat waves and regional drought, just to name of few. The Gowanus Canal community is helping to prevent these nature occurrences with the help of grey and green infrastructure projects.


This interactive StoryMap holds stops, images and content from the podwalk. Full-screen version.


Share your journey by adding images of the things you discover. Participate and help us collect data. Full-screen version.

Discover planed and current projects in and around the Gowanus.

  • Education—The Gowanus Canal Conservancy provides several educational workshops and tours, including the STEM Gowanus curriculum, Citizen Science, School Tours, Service-Learning, and Expo Gowanus.
  • Art—The art community in the Gowanus is abundant, and you will most likely see various art murals scattered throughout the neighborhood.
  • Community—The Gowanus Community is very diverse with long-time residents of private homes, NYCHA residents, and business owners.
  • Gowanus Lowlands—Gowanus Lowlands vision will reshape the watershed to help combat environmental problems and will provide a green lush space for all to enjoy.
  • Sponge Park—ponge Park is about 1,8000 square feet surrounding street-end rain gardens along the banks of the Gowanus Canal.
  • Thomas Green Playground—This is the largest public open green space in the Gowanus neighborhood.
  • St. Mary’s Park—St. Mary’s Park is currently in construction and will cost about $1.5 million to complete the project. This green space will include several permeable surfaces allowing for rainfall absorption.
  • Salt Lot—The Salt Lot is an eco-industrial green space began with a collaborative effort from both the Department of Sanitation of New York and Gowanus Canal Conservancy.
  • Nursery—The Salt Lot includes its very own nursery where volunteers and students help grow various native plants.

Fun Facts

The Salt Lot includes its very own nursery where volunteers and students help grow various native plants.

  • 236—CSO in millions of gallons per year*
  • 153—Reduced from CSO tanks
  • 110—Remaining CSO volume
  • 801—Cost in millions of dollars

*Baseline does not reflect present-day conditions. It assumes implementation of gray infrastructure from previous plans and green infrastructure that will manage stormwater from 10% of the impervious surfaces of the combined sewershed area around the Gowanus Canal. To see official documents about the LTCP (Long-Term Control Plans), visit the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Gowanus Canal (2012)

The Theme

This pod walk focuses on the gentrification occurring in the neighborhoods surrounding the Gowanus Canal.

The Argument

Gentrification possesses some positive and negative effects. One example is that gentrification is helping the area become environmentally sustainable (by initiatives to clean the polluted canal), yet socially unsustainable (by displacing longtime low-income residents).


A pod walk along one of the most polluted waterways in New York.

Green-Wood Cemetery (2018)

Guide and Map

This pod walk was developed by seniors at Brooklyn College to observe the aspects of sustainability present in Green-Wood Cemetery. The goal of this pod walk is to emphasize the environmental aspects and services that the cemetery provides both as greenspace for citizens and also a practical function within society.

Learn about Green-Wood Cemetery and the environmental aspects and services that the cemetery provides.

Introduction of Green-wood Cemetery

This pod walk was developed by seniors Brooklyn College to observe the aspects of sustainability present in Green-Wood Cemetery. The goal of this pod walk is to emphasize the environmental aspects and services that the cemetery provides both as greenspace for citizens and also a practical function within society.

Using six stops, we will visit locations throughout the cemetery that highlight the many aspects of sustainability present in Green-Wood. These stops include the main gate at 25th Street, the pond by Davin Larson’s bee hives, a mausoleum that was formerly a lake, Battle Hill (the highest point of natural elevation in Brooklyn), a lake run by solar panels, and a location with various species of trees.

Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838. During the 1860s the cemetery became the second most popular tourist attraction in New York State, attracting 500,000 visitors per year. Green-Wood’s popularity became inspiration for more parks in New York City, including Central Park and Prospect Park. The 478-acre cemetery has over 560,000 residents, including musician and composer Leonard Bernstein, various civil war generals, and other famous New Yorkers. The cemetery is also a Revolutionary War Historic Site because in 1776, the Battle of Long Island was fought nearby. Although Green=Wood remains vibrant today, many of the sculptures, monuments, mausoleums, cast iron, and landscaping has weathered and degraded with time. In 1999, the Greenwood Historic Fund was created to maintain the significant historic, cultural, and architectural monuments and to preserve the cemetery’s natural habitat. With funding from memberships and donations, the Historic Fund offers public events like walking and trolley tours, book talks, and other seasonal events. In 2006, Green-Wood Cemetery was officially designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Bees and Turtles

Bees are highly threatened species, as pesticide use and deforestation around the globe affect their overall health. These changes in our ecosystems have led to a decline of bees, making it necessary for local communities to implement beekeeping practices. In Green-Wood Cemetery, there are seven beehives that attempt to provide a healthy habitat for bees to encompass. Beekeeping at the cemetery provides a sustainable resource for this greenspace, encouraging the pollination of local trees and other wildlife.

There are various styles and architectural designs associated with beekeeping, which determines the shape of the hive. The beehives at Green-Wood Cemetery are Langstroth Hives, which can be packed with more than 20 pounds of honey at a time. Davin Larson, the owner and caretaker of these hives, sells this specific honey throughout the year and has taken on volunteers to help maintain this beekeeping space. Starting in 2014, Larson began beekeeping in the cemetery to encourage dialogue about the health of bees and to generate a healthy bee community in Brooklyn. His bees are Carniolan honey bees and have a very docile nature, encouraging their activity in such a public space. Larson was conscious of how they would interact with cemetery inhabitants, and encourages individuals to have a positive attitude toward the bees.

At the base of this hill, there is a small pond in which a population of turtles resides. These turtles are red-eared sliders, which can live to be over 50 years old. Providing a space for these turtles in New York City is necessary, as less green space is available for local wildlife. This site is the perfect location for local residents to relax and observe nature in New York City.

Highest Point in Brooklyn

Battle Hill is the highest natural point in Brooklyn, standing 220 feet above sea level. The hill is part of the Harbor Hill Moraine, which runs the entire length of Long Island and can be observed at this location in the cemetery as well. The Wisconsin glaciation is the most recent glacial period observed in this area. To the south of this moraine is the outwash plain that formed due to the melting of the glacier sitting above this topographic terrain. This outwash plain can be observed by looking from Battle Hill down to the the ponds found in the cemetery, as well as the Upper New York Bay and Atlantic Ocean. From this high vantage point you can observe the ways in which stormwater and other natural phenomenon will be shed by the surrounding steep topography.

There is also cemetery placed plaques displaying specific historical accounts of the Battle of Long Island and specifically Brooklyn that took place in part in the now cemetery. When visiting this location be sure to read about the specifics of the battle, and the importance of the high vantage point and strategic value in time of war.

Lake with Solar and Hillside (Sylvan Water)

This location in the cemetery has several key factors to note while observing here. The first of which is the pond and its natural appearance within the cemetery (it fits with the topography). This type of pond is referred to as a kettle pond, and it forming is due to outwash from a melting glacier, which Green-Wood and much of Long Island owe their shape and topography to. Another feature to note is the large solar panel placed on the island at the center of the pond. The energy collected from this panel produces energy to run pumps within the pond to circulate the water and prevent stagnation. If left stagnant, this would make breeding grounds for mosquitoes and the diseases they can carry. The last feature we will have you note for the area is the steep almost cliff like topography of the Sylvan Avenue side of the pond. This steepness demonstrates the variability of the cemetery’s topographic spectrum, and also helps demonstrate the way the watershed functions, causing water to run downhill into the pond for collection.

Optional: The pond serves many purposes not only for the cemetery in collecting and retaining water, but for the city as well. Water collected is water that does not become apart of the city-wide problem of WWTP and CSOs during rain events.

The Drained Lake

Green-Wood Cemetery is known for its unique topography, which has not been largely altered since the cemetery was opened; however, this location shows an example of how the cemetery has been altered to appease the increasing constraints for space. This site shows a memorial where loved ones who are buried in the cemetery can be commemorated. Prior to this memorial, the area was a lake, which was drained to contribute more burial space to the cemetery. These changes show how natural habitats are often changed for the needs of society. As you walk around you can see the topographic shape of a former lake and observe how the hill of the memorial is a manmade installation versus being a natural aspect of the landscape.


Green-Wood Cemetery is home to approximately 200 tree species. The tree population includes many common trees of New York City as well as some of the oldest and largest species of sassafras trees and camperdown elms. In the recent years, cemetery staff have extended an invitation to give people an opportunity to get in touch with the natural elements of the cemetery through volunteer programs.

Hemlock Avenue near Battle hill is an amazing place to spot a few interesting trees, including yoshino cherry trees, flowering dogwood, and American beech. These trees can be observed in different phenophases throughout the year.

Another important aspect of Green-Wood Cemetery is tree management. A large American beech tree that has been trimmed can be seen near Hemlock Avenue. It is common to see trees such as this one in manicured parks and greenspaces.

Brooklyn. All in.