By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
For New Yorkers who want to roam the wild, public parks are urban forests teeming with over 600 species of wildlife.
Tracking the migratory and breeding patterns of birds, bats and beasts is Community Coordinator Karolina Janik, a self-described computer nerd who works at North Arsenal of the Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
“I always wanted to work in public service and for my work to have purpose,” said Janik, a Social Services Employees Union Local 371 member, who was raised in Baltimore. “Before I moved here, I never realized how much wildlife exists in New York City.”
Janik collects data on red-tailed hawk fledges nesting on a 96th Street fire escape and wild coyotes in Pelham Bay. She finds blue, yellow, and orange warblers that dart skyward and make New York City a stopover on their epic annual migration from South America to the Artic.
Marshlands along Jamaica Bay and rocky East River shores shelter wading birds, bullfrogs, and muskrats. She tracks seals, dolphins and Humpback whales in the New York harbor and its rivers.
Janik, who is the first in her family to attend college, helps the Parks Dept. understand how species adapt to and survive in urban environments. After two years on the job, she won a Rookie of the Year award at the Parks Dept.’s annual employee recognition ceremony in April.
“This was totally unexpected,” Janik said. “I was surprised and happy to be nominated by my supervisors. The award is super flattering because in my unit everyone is a self-starter and is hard working.”
She spends hours at a computer screen monitoring the city’s cache of critters—owls, osprey hawks, Virginia opossum, and illusive flying squirrels. Janik’s findings protect raptors like bald eagles from eating rats that have ingested poison. She is part of a team that develops Parks’ new interactive maps and calendars. (https://www.nycgovparks.org/programs/wildlife-management/calendar).
“We’re very proud of Karolina Janik,” said Local 371 President Anthony Wells. “New Yorkers can enjoy closer contact with nature and have positive experiences in public parks thanks to her contributions that make our city great.”
The DC 37 Blog is an online publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 125,000 municipal workers in New York City.