Great Neck Plaza makes “monarch pledge” to bring in more butterflies

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The Gold Coast Arts Center's parking lot, whose plant species already attract some butterflies, could be seeing a few more in the next few seasons. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender signed onto a “monarch pledge” to try attracting more monarch butterflies into the village on Wednesday, setting the stage for adding new plants into the Maple Street and Bond Street parking lots.

Celender said that by signing onto the pledge, they would plant more plants friendly to the monarch butterfly over the course of a few seasons. It could also be educational, she said, and feature an interactive display.

“It will take some physical effort to do, but we don’t really have to go out and purchase more plants to start doing it,” Celender said at the hearing. “It’s very nice, it’s very exciting. I don’t see any downside to it – I only see upsides.”

The Mayors Monarch Pledge, sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, a nonprofit conservation agency, calls on mayors to take action to help protect monarch butterflies. This can include doing things like planting silkweed, the butterfly’s natural habitat.

Over the last two decades, the black and orange butterfly’s population has plummeted by 90 percent, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

More than 300 municipalities nationwide have taken the pledge, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

But, according to a map of participating cities, this would make Great Neck Plaza the first Long Island village to make the pledge and one of a handful in New York.

Robert Sedaghatpour, a Great Neck resident, and Jeff Petracca, the manager of the Long Island Aquarium’s butterfly exhibit, originally raised the idea to Regina Gil, director of the Gold Coast Arts Center, who then connected them to Celender.

“If this pollinator population is so endangered and threatened, it’s also a reflection and microcosm of how unhealthy our environment is,” said Sedaghatpour, who has been pushing for municipalities to create more habitats and a “butterfly superhighway.”

This follows the creation of a butterfly garden by the Great Neck Park District in the Parkwood Park, which Sedaghatpour, and Zach Galasi, his associate, had also originally proposed.

Gil said this adds onto the eco-friendly nature of their parking lot and that she “couldn’t be happier” about it. She also said that this reinforces the idea that kids should not be wasteful, could build on their educational programming, and that it tries to help a dying breed of butterfly.

“On top of being beautiful and lovely and fun and magical for children, it’s a serious science,” Gil said.

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