Brooklyn Heights

Goats arrive in Brooklyn Bridge Park to whack weeds

Horatio, Eyebrows, Minnie and Hector take to the berm

June 23, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A herd of four Nubian goats has taken up residence on the steep berm near Pier 3 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photos by Mary Frost
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A herd of four Nubian goats has taken up residence on the steep, grass-covered berm near Pier 3 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The four adorable brothers – Horatio, Eyebrows, Minnie and Hector – will be working over the summer to clear the berm of weeds without the use of harmful herbicides. The goats will also naturally fertilize the berm, which was built to attenuate noise coming from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

It turns out that goats are perfectly suited to gambol up and down the berm’s steep incline. (Not so much reporters, who attempted to follow the goats as they scampered about during Thursday’s press conference.)

The goats are penned inside a fence built around the berm, and will be overseen by Brooklyn Bridge Park staff for the duration of their two-month “pilot” stay. (The park is, however, looking to hire a goat attendant.) They will be kept in a shed overnight, with water and supplemental hay if they need it.

“It’s something that many institutions are trying out right now,” Rebecca McMackin, director of Horticulture for Brooklyn Bridge Park, told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“This is the most sustainable method of keeping the weeds to a manageable level,” she said. “It’s a fun way to do our work, but it’s the most sustainable as well. We’re not using herbicides or pesticides, and we’re not spending the incredible amount of man hours we would need to cut down these weeds on our own, the goats are doing it for us. And it’s a fantastic situation for them. It’s a win-win.”

The young brothers were rescued from a petting zoo and obtained through Green Goats, a goat farm in Rhinebeck, New York.

Goats have been used for similar purposes at Prospect Park, Freshkills Park, Pelham Bay Park, and other area parks. “You’d be surprised – there’s hundreds of goats working right now in landscapes all over New England, down to Pennsylvania,” McMackin said.

The test area for the pilot is a thousand square feet. “This area’s intended to be just grasses, so what the goats are eating here are the weeds — broadleaf leaves, with flowers,” McMackin said.

When the goats work their way through the weeds and down to the grasses, they’ll be moved offsite, she said.

During the pilot, park visitors will not be permitted to touch or feed the goats.

“The priority right now is making sure that this project works,” McMackin said. “We need the public not to bother the goats and not to feed the goats. If they eat grain or bread, they’re not going to be hungry to eat the weeds. These are working goats.”

Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park, said in a statement that the work the goats are doing this summer “should make a big difference in reducing the berm’s weeds along the Pier 3 uplands.”

Brooklyn Bridge Park gardener Abby feeds the goats some supplemental food during Thursday’s press conference.


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