What is compost?

Compost is organic material (e.g., yard and food scraps) that has been broken down into a nutrient-rich soil amendment with the aid of human intervention. In nature, the process of decomposition without human interference is referred to as humus. The Conservancy uses compost throughout all 400 acres of Riverside Park as a soil amendment. This is anything that is added to the soil to improve its physical properties such as water retention, permeability, filtration, drainage, aeration, and structure.

Why do we compost?

Composting helps revitalize soil by incorporating organic matter that attracts beneficial organisms to the soil while reducing the need for pesticides and fertilizers. Proudly, we do not rely on the usage of pesticides or fertilizers in our landscapes in Riverside Park. Instead, we focus only on all-natural conservation methods to maintain the vitality of our green spaces.  

Composting reduces the potential for soil erosion. As a waterfront park, it is our priority to contain and maintain the health of our soil and water. Urban runoff is a major source of water pollution, and we work tirelessly to reduce our impact on the ecology and water quality of the Hudson River. 

Composting assists in sequestering (i.e., capturing) carbon in the soil. Removing carbon from the atmosphere aids in the fight against a warming climate. When integrated into the soil, it provides the conditions necessary for soil microbes to become plentiful and make nutrients in the soil more available for plant roots to absorb and use. A warming climate means increased rainfall; composting helps soil hold more water and be healthy enough to filter contaminants that are found in urban runoff while helping our soils weather the extreme weather that will become more frequent as climate change continues to occur.

How does composting fit into the larger framework of sustainability?

Our composting program directly supports New York City’s zero waste goal by diverting as much organic waste away from our landfills as much as we can. About 1/3rd of all of New York City’s waste is organic compostable material. As a green space, we are dedicated to keeping as much of our organic waste out of that waste stream as we can. Composting, on site, will cut down the amount of trash that the Riverside Community is contributing to our landfills, as well as reducing our carbon emissions that it takes to haul and process these materials.

How to compost?

Compost is as simple as saving your food scraps and bringing them to your local drop-off site. To start, store your compost in a sealed compost container in your freezer to limit smells. When using our compost compound, follow our guide to see what kinds of waste we are able to take! Different compost systems may have different guidelines. At our compound, you can compost leaves, woody debris, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grinds and filters, tea bags, eggshells, corn cobs, newspaper, and cardboard. You cannot compost dog poop bags, diapers, meat, fish, bones, plastic, metal or glass

Composting at Home  

If you want to keep your compost for use at home, there are a couple of easy ways to do so. Vermicomposting is the easiest way to compost inside and uses worms to help speed up the decomposition process, leaving behind the “castings” that make up compost. You can also compost inside by using a countertop compost bin to store your food scraps. Charcoal filters or storing the bin in your freezer can limit that trademark compost smell.

Leaf Mold

Creating a leaf mold is a wonderful and accessible way to get introduced to composting. Leaf mold is the byproduct of letting leaves sit and decompose over time. The result is a dark crumbly black and brown earthy soil amendment that is easy to make, simple to use, and an incredible way to improve soil health. During the autumn season we see a lot of leaves pile up throughout the park. We have community volunteer days related to the pickup of these leaves, they are then put to good use at our composting site and will either be used as an ingredient in our compost or turned into leaf mold to be used as a soil cover (i.e., like mulch).

What are we doing?

Our goal is for Riverside Park to be as self-sufficient as possible, operating the way nature intended. We rely on planting native, removing invasives, and incorporating compost as a way to heal our soil. Our naturalistic garden designs may sometimes look unkept and wild, when not in bloom, but that is the point. We want our landscapes to look this way to encourage our local wildlife to interact with its environment, to perform the ecosystem services that they are meant to perform. Insects drive pollination, assist in the decomposition of organic matter, and keep pests away. Mammals help with seed and spore distribution amongst other important services. Encouraging our wildlife to interact with our landscapes is vital to the continued success of our park.  

To learn more about these topics and others, please join us at one of our free educational workshops. These are offered year-round and focus on a variety of sustainability related concepts. Check this page for future educational opportunities. 

The 95th Street Compost Compound

Our new, state-of-the-art, Compost Compound is the processing center for debris and materials collected and dispersed across parks within Northwestern Manhattan, excluding Central Park. This is where all our woody debris, leaves, greens, and invasives are taken once removed from the park. We then process these materials on-site at our composting operation. This compost is then incorporated back into the park. We also store mulch, woodchips, and topsoil at this site to be dispersed throughout the park whenever and wherever needed. 

This site has seen many uses in its day and there have been many visions for the future of this site. We have decided upon using this site as a composting facility in order to reduce our carbon footprint in the Park. It is our responsibility to divert as much organic debris from our landfills as we can. New York City is dedicated to reaching its zero-waste goal by 2030 and Riverside Park proudly and actively supports this mission. 

How Can You Help?

Riverside Park Conservancy prides itself on its dedicated and knowledgeable volunteer base. You are invited to work side by side with our Conservancy staff by attending reoccurring volunteer opportunities at our composting facility every other Wednesday morning between 9AM and 12PM. The work you can expect to participate in will include loading and processing materials, weighing and recording data, measuring compost temperatures and soil moisture, helping to maintain our Tumbler and our Compost Bays, as well as caring for the surrounding garden beds. Learn more about volunteering in Riverside Park here


Master Composter Certificate Course

Composting Information in Spanish