More than two dozen goats have traveled from upstate New York to spend the summer working in New York City.
Their job? Eating. A lot.
"They're going to eat up all the invasive plants and clear the area and make it more usable for people, and to allow us to regenerate our native species," said Dan Garodnick, president of the Riverside Park Conservancy.
"Goats have been used for horticultural care in many places," he added. "In fact, if you live anywhere else in the country, it's probably not that novel for you."
But it's the first time a project like this has taken place in Manhattan. The effort is part of the Riverside Park Conservancy’s "GOaTHAM" Woodland Restoration Initiative. The name is a play on one of New York's nicknames, Gotham City, which translates to "goat town" in Old English.
"And for the goats, it’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s like the ultimate farm to table. It is a great way for us to effectively clear the area and do what we really want to do to make this a usable part of the park," Garodnick said.
He said the goats will roam the park, grazing on things like poison ivy, pests and vines that block out sunlight.
Goats can eat 25% of their body weight in vegetation. Their fecal matter then returns nutrients right back into the soil. Their presence means no harmful chemicals are needed to maintain the area. For all the work they will put in, they will earn a title: summer interns.
Larry Cihanek, who owns Green Goats with his wife Anne, supplied the animals from their farm in Rhinebeck, New York.
The couple didn't mean to get into the goat business. But 14 years ago, a man who oversaw the park at Fort Wadsworth was looking for help cutting back thorns and poison ivy, which were preventing workers from cutting down trees that were damaging a building.
“So he sent 400 emails out to goat owners asking if somebody would come to New York City with the goats. Eight responded, seven said it couldn’t be done. We went down and did it," he said.
When night falls, the "summer interns" will rest in a shed in the park. The Cihaneks will visit occasionally and check in with park staff on FaceTime before the goats return home in August.
But in the meantime, New Yorkers are happy with — but not surprised by — their newest residents.
"We're New Yorkers," one witness said. "Anything can happen in New York!"