Tuesday, March 31, 2009
It wasn’t sunny by any means last Sunday, but that didn’t stop the Hannah Senesh Community Day School in Carroll Gardens from celebrating the sun with its Solar Fair.
Children and adults from the school and the surrounding community flocked to the fair, where they listened to sun-themed music, got their faces painted and made solar ovens and pinwheels. Recycled yogurt containers, used to plant sunflowers, were donated by the Park Slope Food Coop.
Master composter Marion Stein brought a worm composting bin and information from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on composting, and representatives from solar energy advocacy group Solar One led workshops where children built small solar-powered cars (above).
Borough President Marty Markowitz took the stage to congratulate the school, which he called “one of the best, not only in the neighborhood but in the entire city.” He presented Nicole Nash, who is the head of the school, with a proclamation and declared that day “Solar Day in Brooklyn U.S.A.”
Every year, Hannah Senesh sends their students to Jewish environmental education institute the Teva Learning Center, said science teacher Lisa Ochs. This year, the school and the institute decided to put on the fair in celebration of Birkat Hachama, a Jewish blessing honoring the sun that is said once every 28 years.
Birkat Hachama takes place next Wednesday, April 8, when, according to Jewish tradition, the sun will be in the same place it was when it was first created.
Hannah Senesh took this opportunity to teach the entire student body about the power of the sun. “In February and March, every grade in the school has been learning about the sun and solar energy,” Ochs explained.
Sixth-graders made the solar ovens, seventh-graders built a bike generator — which would generate electricity when pedaled — and eighth-graders worked together to build a solar cell.
Children came in droves and packed into the gym at Hannah Senesh to learn about solar energy, sitting with rapt attention as they watched a skit put on by the Teva Learning Center. The performance explained where we get our electricity right now, and demonstrated how much more efficient it would be to use only solar power.
“The sun is sending enough energy every day to the [entire] earth to power all of the earth’s energy needs for a year,” Ochs said.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Have you ever wondered just how much of an impact changing one daily habit would have on the environment? Well, National Grid has the answers for you, via a polar bear named Floe.
Floe is the star of an interactive web site National Grid introduced last year to educate people about how their lives effect the environment. At the site, visitors are presented with Floe standing on an iceberg.
They can choose different habits to change — such as taking a shower instead of a bath, replacing five light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, or eating locally — and Floe’s iceberg will grow, while a counter in the corner of the screen indicates how much carbon has been saved.
This month, National Grid took Floe on a tour of New York state, traveling in a clean, natural gas-powered van and visiting locations upstate, on Long Island and in the city. Some of the stops in Brooklyn were Kings Plaza, a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at city hall, a green fair at Families’ First, and National Grid’s own MetroTech Center.
Employees of the power company set up a table at the different locations, “giving out information about not only being more energy-efficient at home, but also how to save money,” said National Grid spokesperson Elizabeth Margulies.
The tour supported the www.thinksmartthinkgreen.com campaign and web site, which customers can visit to find out about energy efficiency programs and incentives available to them.
Hundreds of people visited the National Grid tables, picking up informative brochures, energy rebate forms and green giveaways, and checking out Floe’s web site, www.nationalgrid.com/floe. “The kids really enjoyed it,” Margulies noted.
She said that since the web site launched last year, visitors have pledged to save more than 52 million pounds of carbon, which would be like taking approximately 4,200 cars off the road for a year or recycling nearly 411,000,000 soda cans.
Photo courtesy of National Grid
Friday, March 27, 2009
Earth hour is an initiative started by the World Wildlife Fund. Click here to find out how you can make your vote count toward the target of 1 billion, which will be presented at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.
In late summer of 2007, a group of friends went to see Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary on the climate crisis, The 11th Hour. They weren’t environmentalists, and they didn’t have backgrounds in environmental science, but, inspired by the film, they decided to take action. Thus, the Brooklyn Green Team was born.
Now, a year and a half later, the team — sisters Amanda and Noelle Gentile, Melissa Browning, Jennifer Bartels, Johanna Voutounou and Robert Weinstein — is still going strong. Through a series of “eco-challenges” posted on their blog (brooklyngreenteam.blogspot.com), they’ve inspired many people — including each other — to green their lives.
“We were thinking about making small steps, asking people to do little things to change their daily habits,” said Amanda. “The first [challenge] that we did was the ‘No New Clothing Challenge.’” They didn’t buy new clothes for six months, instead visiting vintage and thrift stores, and sharing clothes with friends.
Subsequent challenges were the ‘No Water Bottle Challenge,’ the ‘No Plastic Bag Challenge,’ the ‘Five-Minute Shower Challenge,’ and the ‘Bring Your Own Mug Challenge,’ all lasting three months, because “six months was a little long,” Amanda noted.
Once they come up with an idea for a challenge, “we put it on our blog and send an email blast to all of our readers,” said Amanda. “Once people sign up and pledge we send one-month progress reports that talk about how we’re doing, giving tips, silly videos online, statistics, to kind of remind people that they committed to doing this.”
At the end of each challenge the team invites everyone who participated to a party, where they have had presentations, discussions and launch the next challenge.
Currently, the team is holding the ‘YES WE CAN Volunteer Challenge,’ in which participants commit to three hours of volunteer service over the course of three months.
“We rarely bring in politics, we really try to focus on good green things that are happening,” Amanda explained. “The more you hammer in negativity, the more people want to just throw their hands in the air. We keep it light, humorous and easy.” They’ve adopted the slogan, ‘Pow! You’ve Been Greened,’ and playfully don green capes at times.
They’ve only encouraged people to change one small aspect of their daily life, to make change more manageable. “It’s an idea that collectively small actions make a huge difference,” Noelle said. “I think that’s the message that we’re trying to get out to people. There’s nothing we’re doing that’s incredible, or amazing or a unique idea.”
But what does make the Brooklyn Green Team unique is that its members are learning as much as its followers. “When we start a new challenge its something new for us too,” said Noelle. “When you feel a sense of community and people doing it together, it feels good.”
They’ve seen the effects of their efforts. Family members, coworkers and friends passing on the street will tell them about their progress with the challenges. And what they’ve noticed is that even though the challenges go on for only three months, participants keep up their efforts after.
“I haven’t gotten a plastic bag since,” Melissa said.
“We have to remind people of doing things on their own,” Melissa said. With recent budget cuts throughout the city, “environmental programs are going to be the first ones to be slashed. It’s even more important now that we remind people.”
The group wants people to know that every little bit helps. “As far as big companies go, consumers don’t feel like they have sway,” said Robert. “But when you do write letters and you do make phone calls there are actually people who listen.”
“This is a consumer’s time,” said Noelle. “Businesses are very open to hearing feedback because it’s a scary time for a business.”
But for the Brooklyn Green Team, a group so grassroots that it’s practically devoid of a budget, they’re “totally resilient to this economic crisis,” said Amanda.
It’s just a group of friends inspiring others as well as themselves to take action. “I’m glad and surprised that we’ve been doing this for a year and a half,” Jennifer said. “We really stuck with it and I’m proud of us.”
Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Green Team
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Sometimes a little goes a long way. For developer Seth Brown, of Aspen Equities, that’s definitely the case.
His new residential project in Prospect Heights, dubbed “Sterling Green,” is “a seriously green project,” he said. And while there weren’t a ton of green incentives available to him during construction, he took advantage of two rebates from National Grid.
Among the eco-friendly features of Sterling Green — which is at 580 Sterling Place — are low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, energy-efficient windows with low-E (low-emissivity) glass, energy-efficient lighting in kitchens and bathrooms, and dual-flush toilets.
But Brown got rebates for tankless gas hot-water heaters, which heat water only as needed, and standard programmable thermostats, which can be set for lower temperatures when the condos are unoccupied.
The tankless water heaters originally cost $800. National Grid gave Brown a $300 rebate for each unit installed in the eight condo, five-story building.
The programmable thermostats, which cost between $25 and $50 originally garnered him a $25 rebate for each one.
Because of the venting process required for the water heaters, the rebate doesn’t cover a lot of the cost, but “it’s certainly something,” said Brown.
But he spoke very highly of the thermostats. He calls the installation of a programmable thermostat “one of the cheapest and smartest ways to save money — it’s super easy.” He explained that anyone can put one in at their own home.
“If you’re going to do just one thing, it’s probably the best thing you could do,” he said.
Brown, a Park Slope resident for three years, said he has been concerned about the environment for some time, particularly about building green in urban environments.
A graduate of Yale, where he majored in urban history and got his MBA, he is also the founder and a current board member of Next American magazine, a non-profit environmental organization.
Brown, who got his start in real estate development working for The Hudson Companies and the LeFrak Organization, said he now spends 90 percent of his time as a developer and the rest of his time “more on the idea side of things — thinking green and thinking urban.”
This is his first independent Brooklyn project, although he has plans in the works for a two-family green townhouse in Park Slope
The eight condos include alcove studios and large one-bedroom duplexes. Prices start at $299,000 for a studio and go up to $475,000 for the largest duplex. Brown estimates that the project will be fully completed in about eight weeks with closings and move-ins anticipated for early summer.
Co-written by Linda Collins
Image courtesy of Apsen Equities
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Tomorrow, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will join Make the Road New York, a community-based organization in Bushwick. The organization will accept an EPA environmental justice grant to conduct participatory research and outreach. Make the Road New York promotes economic justice, equity and opportunity for all New Yorkers through community, advocacy and many other support services. Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income in the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.
It will be tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. at 301 Grove St. in Bushwick.
He’s the founder of Aeon Solar, a company that installs solar panels in New York, New Jersey, California and Colorado. And if you want to get panels for your home or business, Ashmore will take care of everything for you.
One of his clients is Rolf Grimsted, who runs the mom-and-pop realty company R & E Brooklyn, with his wife. When retrofitting his property at 93 Nevins St. in Boerum Hill, he wanted to make it “what we thought the new urban home should be,” which was as green as possible.
The building (right) is made up of two townhouses, both of which Ashmore fitted with solar panels. “It was one of the first green choices we made,” Grimsted said. The building has good southern exposure, he explained, which makes it “well-situated” for solar power.
Grimsted also installed radiant heating in the floors and sourced as many of the materials as locally as possible. The townhouses have health benefits from the clean filtered air in the building. It’s so healthy that the American Lung Association awarded it Health House certification.
Ashmore explained that the original cost for two solar panel systems was $27,000 each. New York state offers a rebate at a rate of $4 per watt for the first 5,000 watts and $3 per watt for the next 5,000 watts. Since these systems were 2,700 watts each, the rebate was $10,800 per system, making the after-rebate cost of each system $16,200. Grimsted then got a state tax credit of 25 percent, or $4,050, per system. After subtracting that from the after-rebate cost ($12,150), he got a federal tax credit of $3,645, or 30 percent.
The rebate and tax credits took the cost of each solar panel system down to $8,505. But the incentives don’t stop there, Ashmore said. Grimsted then gets a property tax abatement of 35 percent or $2,976.75, split up over the next four years. So each year, he will have a property tax abatement of around $744, making the actual cost of each system to be about $5,528.
And that doesn’t even include the money saved on each townhouse’s electric bill over the next 30 years. Ashmore said the electric bill will be about $75 less per month, per system.
Aeon Solar’s next project is installing solar panels on a brownstone on Columbia Heights in Brooklyn Heights. This system costs $70,000, and after the rebate, tax credits and property tax abatement, the end cost will be $16,640, Ashmore said. “The savings on their Con Ed bill will eat away at that cost, typically in about five years,” he added. After that, “All the power that system produces is free.”
So, as it turns out, it pays to be green.
Photo courtesy of R & E Brooklyn
Friday, March 20, 2009
It’s green. It’s the first green residential development in Vinegar Hill and DUMBO. And its model apartment will open on Earth Day, April 22. How cool is that?
Story by Linda Collins
Image courtesy of The REDD Group
Thursday, March 19, 2009
By day, Michael Allegretti works with such well-known political figures as Tony Blair and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But last week, he took the time to speak to the AARP chapter in his hometown of Bay Ridge.
Allegretti works at The Climate Group, an international organization that deals “with the issue of climate change in a common-sense way that leads to economic growth,” he explained. As the head of government relations, he works with some of the biggest companies in the world to start “public and private initiatives that come up with climate solutions always with an eye toward economic growth.”
Recently, Allegretti and The Climate Group went to Michigan — a state that he says is “reeling” — to discuss how existing industries (particularly the auto industry) and new industries can work together to “lift themselves up.
“We’re bringing hope to some folks that don’t have any,” he said.
He also meets with small-business leaders and union workers and students, “demonstrating how to save money, but also about how to create jobs, jobs that can be seeded in Brooklyn, Staten Island and other parts of New York City.
“There are white-collar and blue-collar jobs to be created, and if we have a candid look at the numbers, we see that many of these jobs can be created right here. From carbon traders who will work in the city’s financial services firms, to building tradesmen who will work retrofitting buildings to greener specks, New York City has a competitive advantage in the new energy economy, but it needs to be developed,” he explained. “Through a combination of market innovation and better public policies, we can see these jobs start to take hold in our city.”
But in Bay Ridge, Allegretti approached discussion in a different way. He spoke to the approximately 80 people in the Shore Hill Community Room, “communicating a message focused on saving money through simple adjustments to one’s daily life.”
While many people talk about climate change in scary ways that often overwhelm and sometimes are misconstrued, Allegretti said he “depoliticizes” the issues and puts them “in a language that people can understand.
“For some audiences it’s about saving money, and for some it’s about saving the planet,” he said, adding that for others, it’s both. He spoke to his audience about using energy-saving appliance, eating locally when possible, and using reusable bags to shop with. “Let’s not be wasteful,” he said.
But he urged listeners to “use as much as you need,” and “was so impressed by the level of knowledge,” he encountered, saying that the questions and dialogue were very smart and addressed topics that even he hadn’t planned on speaking about.
“It was just a great group,” he said. “I love Bay Ridge.”
In his own life, Allegretti carpools to work at The Climate Group, where printing is always double-sided, no paper kitchen products are used and they even offset their travel.
Photo courtesy of The Climate Group
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Sandi Franlkin (left) resigned from her position of executive director of the Center for the Urban Environment last week. She had taken over from founder John Muir in 2002 and during her tenure, the center moved into its LEED Gold certified home on 7th St. in Gowanus and celebrated its 30th birthday.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
By joining a CSA, you can.
A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is essentially a partnership between a community and a farm. At the beginning of the season — which usually starts around June and ends around November — members of the CSA purchase shares from the farm, which go to the cost of the upcoming season’s harvest and paying the farmer’s living wage.
During the season, the farmer delivers fresh, healthy produce to a distribution center, which is oftentimes a church or a school. Members can purchase full shares, with which they get food every week of the season, or half shares, which is every other week.
Typically, the farm offers vegetable shares, but in some cases, it offers fruit, flowers, eggs, milk or even meat. A CSA can also partner with more than one farm to offer its members different products. The produce members receive is usually enough to feed two to three people for a week.
Just Food is a non-profit based in Manhattan that “works to create a more sustainable food system in New York City and surrounding areas,” said Paula Lukatis, CSA in NYC program manager at Just Food. Her organization partners neighborhoods in all five boroughs with regional farms.
Manhattan has the most CSAs in the city, but “of the outer boroughs, Brooklyn certainly has the most,” said Lukatis. This year, there are 26 in the borough, seven of which are new, she explained.
Here is a list of some of them:
— The Prospect/Lefferts Gardens CSA (www.plgcsa.org) distributes from the Maple Street School on 21 Lincoln Road. In its third season, this CSA offers vegetable and fruit shares and has a membership of 70 households. Out of the 45 vegetable shares it offers, there are 20 full shares (which cost $575 each) and 25 half shares (which cost $325 each). Only full shares are available for fruit, which cost $200 each. The CSA is partnered with Windflower Fram, and founder Diana Liss says it’s unique because the distribution center is a preschool, so they are “able to work some of the healthy eating into the curriculum.”
— Also partnered with Windflower Farm is the Clinton Hill CSA (www.clintonhillcsa.org), which distributes from P.S. 56 at 170 Gates Ave.
— The Park Slope CSA (www.parkslopecsa.org), which is starting a new distribution day this summer, is partnered with Windflower Farm as well. It distributes from Garden of Union at Union east of 4th Ave. It offers shares of vegetables ($440 full, $220 half), fruit ($180 full, $100 half) and flowers ($110 full, $55 half).
— Another CSA partnered with Windflower Farm is the one in Prospect Heights (www.prospectheightscsa.org). It distributes from P.S.9 at Underhill between St. Mark’s and Bergen and share prices differ depending on household income. The CSA offers vegetable, fruit, organic flower and egg shares.
— The East New York CSA (www.eastnewyorkfarms.org/csa.html) has its distribution at the East New York Farmers’ Market on Schenck Avenue between New Lots and Livonia avenues. As of now, there are 18 members, and they are partnered with the Walter Rogowski Farm in Pine Island, N.Y. Started in 2002, it is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday from July to November. Farmer Mike Rogowski goes to every distribution, said farmers’ market manager Julie Sanon, who added that this CSA gives subsidies for people with food stamps.
— Anne Petersen is the treasurer, records keeper and membership coordinator of the Sweet Pea CSA in Brooklyn Heights, which is in its third season. The CSA is partnered with the Garden of Eve farm, and offers vegetable, fruit, egg and flower shares. Petersen said that in the future, the group hopes to partner with farms that distribute baked goods and meat. For new members, full shares cost $510 and half shares cost $265. Returning members get shares for lower prices, “as an incentive to keep coming back,” explained Petersen.
— Farmer Ben Shute of Hearty Roots Community Farm has partnered with the East Williamsburg CSA since 2005. Its distribution center is Red Shed Community Garden at 266 Skillman Ave. Some 150 people have shares and get food Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., from June through October. “Every season we’ve added more shares and every season there are fewer shares left over,” Shute said. This particular CSA is unique because it distributes at a community garden, he said, and farmers have the opportunity to give the gardeners advice.
— The Greenwood Heights CSA (www.greenwoodheightscsa.com) is also partnered with Hearty Roots Community Farm. Distribution is at the local playground Slope Park on Sixth Ave. between 18th and 19th Streets. President and Founder Miriam Weiner said, “I think we were the first — and possibly only — CSA to be in a city playground.” Now in its third season, this CSA has over a hundred members and distributes from June through October. “We now have 85 vegetable shares, 50 fruit shares and hopefully this summer we will also be providing eggs and milk,” Weiner said.
— Another CSA partnered with Hearty Roots Community Farm is the Bay Ridge CSA, which is in its second season. Last year, the 41 shares sold out and the waiting list grew to 77 people. “Without exaggeration, we can characterize our first season as an unqualified success,” said outreach coordinator Valerie Gates. “The vegetables were outstanding, the members were happy, and our growing waiting list convinced us that there is a real, unsatisfied demand in Bay Ridge for quality food.” This year, the CSA expects to offer 65 shares, which cost $495 each and are distributed on Saturdays from 8:30 - 10:30 a.m. at the Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church on Fourth Ave. between 68th and Senator Streets.
— The CSA in Cobble Hill (www.cobblehillcsa.org), with 200 members, is not only one of Brooklyn’s largest CSAs, it’s also the oldest. It was started in 1996, the first year Just Food began establishing CSAs in the city. General coordinator Jackie Glasthal said that this season will begin on June 2 and last until Dec. 28. Partnered with Green Thumb Organic Farm, Glasthal said that a cattle farmer also attends the distributions to sell meat to members. She added that the CSA will be able to offer frozen produce (from farmers who aren’t prepared to offer winter shares) during the winter season through a partnership with Dines Farms.
— The Red Hook CSA distributes from Centre St. and Clinton St. and is partnered with Added Value Community Farm.
— Natasha Davis is the accounting coordinator for the Greenpoint-Williamsburg CSA (www.greenpoint-williamsburgcsa.org), and she explained that this group is unique because it’s not just one CSA, it’s actually two. There is one core group, but it has two different distribution days, one on Wednesdays and one on Saturdays. “We’re one big happy family,” she said. The CSA is partnered with Garden of Eve, and offers vegetable shares, fruit shares, flower shares and egg shares. Each share has its own price, but Davis explained that combinations are offered for a lower price. Members can get a combination of all four or sign up for the “vegan” combination, which includes everything but eggs. Davis also noted that her CSA offers an extended payment plan.
— Also partnered with Garden of Eve is the Kensington/Windsor Terrace CSA (kwtcsa.blogspot.com), which started in 2007. Last year, it had 114 members, with more than 50 on the waiting list. “The CSA is very popular, to say the least,” said volunteer core group member Catherine Barufaldi. “And for the past two years, we’ve had a partnership with City Harvest, who picks up any leftovers and distributes them to those in need.” The CSA’s distribution is from the community garden on E. 4th St between Caton Ave and Fort Hamilton Parkway, on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. A vegetable share must be purchased, but the CSA also offers fruit and eggs shares.
— The Carroll Gardens CSA is partnered with Garden of Eve as well, and distributes from The Transit Garden at Smith St. and Second Pl.
— The DUMBO/Vinegar Hill CSA (www.dumbocsa.org) is partnered with Sang Lee Farms and distributes from the courtyard of Phoenix House at 50 Jay St., every Tuesday during the season from 4:30-7:30 p.m. A full share costs $565 and consists of 8-10 different vegetables a week. Partial shares cost $350.
— In its second season is the Bushwick CSA (www.bushwickcsa.com), which was commissioned by Make the Road NY’s Bushwick office and set up by Jennifer Parker as her AmeriCorps Vista project. It accepts about 40 members each season, and last year there was a waiting list of about 20 or 30 people. It is partnered with Nolasco's Farm and part of its mission is to have an equal number of high income and low income members, providing multiple payment options.
— Also partnered with Nolasco's Farm is the Fort Greene CSA (www.fortgreenecsa.org), which started last year through a partnership between FUREE, the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project (MARP), and Just Food. “Our shares are available on a sliding scale,” said co-coordinator Cambra Moniz-Edwards. The 50 shares offered this season will be split evenly between middle- and upper-income households and lower-income households. The season runs from June 10 to November 4, and the pickups are every Wednesday from 4:30 to 8pm on the northwest corner of Fort Greene Park. “We are also planning to have youth volunteers come help with set-up and the first few hours of distribution each week,” said Moniz-Edwards. “A total of two teams of two students will work on alternating weeks throughout the season. We think that this is a great opportunity for local youth to become more involved in the community, learn about healthy food, and develop great skills for later in life.”
— The Bedford-Stuyvesant CSA (bedstuycsa.wetpaint.com) distributes from Magnolia Tree Earth Center at 677 Lafayette Ave. and is partnered with Conuco Farm. Members have the option to purchase additional fruit, egg and meat shares from other local farmers. Share cost for this CSA is based on household income.
— The Ditmas Park CSA distributes from Third Root Health Center on Marlborough between Cortelyou and Dorchester and is partnered with Amantai Farm, run by Jorge Carmona. "I met Jorge when I was the manager of the Cortelyou Road Farmer's Market 2 years ago," said Molly Holder. "Towards the end of the season, he asked me if I would like to help him start a CSA. I spoke with some neighborhood residents who were market regulars, and there seemed to be interest so we got the word out and had a wonderful season last year." There were about 80 members, made up of 40 full shares and 40 half shares of vegetables. Egg shares are also available. Full shares cost $500 each, and if you want a half share, there are two options: a full share every other week ($250) or a half share every week ($300).
— New to Brooklyn’s bevy of CSAs is the Boerum Hill CSA. Distribution will be at the YWCA at Atlantic and Third Avenues on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Shares are purchased from a farm in Goshen, Orange County NY.
Share prices vary between CSAs, and Lukatis said that Just Food tries to make it as affordable as possible. In some cases, share prices depend on family income and some CSAs take food stamps. She emphasized that CSAs should be “available to people regardless of their income level.”
Lukatis said that in the years after Just Food started, six or seven CSAs would be established. Last year there were 10 new ones citywide, and this year, there will be 20.
“I think it’s really exciting,” she said. “There’s a connection to food that I think a lot of people are looking for.”
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009
“This is a seriously green project,” said developer Seth Brown of his new residential project in Prospect Heights.
Story by Linda Collins.
Images courtesy of Aspen Equities.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
On Saturday, as temperatures rose to unseasonably high levels and the sun came out, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) held its 28th annual Making Brooklyn Bloom event.
Adults and children alike came out in droves to the garden for this year’s theme, “Growing Up Green: Guiding Youth From Gardening to Green-Collar Jobs.”
The theme was designed to engage kids in gardening and thus to mobilize the “greening” of urban communities, which will hopefully then lead more people to green-collar careers. Scot Medbury, BBG president, said that one of the reasons the garden chose this theme was because of the “popular support for a new green-collar economy by President Obama.”
Participants attended morning and afternoon workshops, on topics ranging from cooking to gardening to composting, and perused exhibits in the Palm House (right).
The exhibits were given by greening groups from not only Brooklyn but New York City as a whole. Among the exhibitors were the Center for the Urban Environment, the Brooklyn Compost Project, East New York Farms and Slow Food NYC.
GreenBridge, the garden’s community horticulture program, gave out free plants at the Urban Oasis exhibit. At Solar One’s exhibit, attendants made solar-powered cars and at the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum exhibit, children helped make apple cider.
Discussion was generated through questions from the audience, many of which were geared toward the current economic climate.
One prominent topic was how to generate revenue for a green start-up. Aucoin said, “You get it where you can, any way possible,” and stressed the importance of fundraising. Freilla spoke about the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers (NYRAG), but Marvy told the audience, “it’s going to be tough for you to get a grant this year.”
He continued by saying that if you’re interested in starting a green initiative, “look at what community investment means.” He explained that he might look to his neighbors and ask them to forgo a cup of coffee a day, instead putting that money toward the initiative.
Zidar added that because of the “economic doom and gloom ,the local model starts to make more and more sense.” She gave the example of waste oil from restaurants. These restaurants could pay to have it removed, or a local business could take that oil and convert it into biodiesel fuel.
The consensus among the panelists was that it might be difficult because of the economy, but there are still many opportunities to start a green-collar career. “Grab on to a vision,” Marvy said. “It’s about leadership and finding people to work on your vision.”
“To have entrepreneurs, you have to have confidence,” he said. “I like to think these young people are like plants. The better you nurture them the better they’ll grow. I’m confident that these young people can change countries.”
Youth in Small’s programs learn how to make compost and grow food, which they then sell. He said there was nothing more exciting to him than seeing a young person eating food that they themselves have grown.
“There is an incredible renaissance going on here,” said GreenBridge director Robin Simmen. She explained that despite recent budget cuts, the organization has figured out how to extend the Brooklyn Compost Project — “Maybe the New York City’s greenest project ever” — to 2010.
“The public is more eager than ever to learn about sustainability,” she said.
Top photo is of Elan and Ana Rabiner making apple cider at the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum's exhibit.
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Monday, March 9, 2009
The Brooklyn Green Team wants you to "commit to volunteering at least three hours in the next three months. We know you can do it."
For more information on the challenge, how to enter, and a list of organizations you can devote your time to, click here.
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"The funds will help sustain our work over the next five years when the design of the greenway will be completed and the first segements will go into construction. In the current financial environment, coming up wiht the required match for our funding from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund is proving challenging. You can help by voting for the greenway as an innovative climate change solution at www.justmeans.com/competitionidea/7254/promoteidea.html."
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Friday, March 6, 2009
From the outside, 33 Flatbush Ave. doesn’t look like much. Someone passing on the sidewalk might not even notice it. But on the inside, the building is anything but ordinary.
Al Attara acquired the building around 30 years ago and began filling it with salvaged materials. Now he’s adding start-up businesses.
Three floors of the structure are managed by different companies: Ecosystems, Green Spaces and Interboro. Each of these companies leases space out on the floors to start-up businesses, creating a co-working environment. Ecosystems and Interboro created separate entities — Treehouse (above) and MEx, respectively — under which they rent space.
“Treehouse is a co-working initiative,” said Ecosystems co-founder Andrew Personette. “This is a place where people can come and work together and share resources. We offer the cheapest possible way to have an office outside of your home with all the resources you need.”
For approximately $250 a month, an entrepreneur can bring in their laptop and work, taking their things with them at the end of the day. For around $400, that entrepreneur can have a permanent desk space. “If you have more than one person in your company, it’s slightly discounted for each additional person,” Personette explained.
Which floor a business is assigned to depends on what kind of business it is. Ecosystems, being a sustainable design firm, hosts businesses through Treehouse that are geared toward design: graphic design, furniture design or web design, for example. Green Spaces hosts green entrepreneurs and MEx hosts architecture and urban planning businesses.
Personette said that as of now, there are at least 50 start-ups working out of the building, maybe more. There is a media company called Good News Broadcast, which only reports on good news, a fair trade coffee bean importer and a company that does carbon trading, among many others.
Because there are so many different businesses of different natures, the benefit of working in this space isn’t the price, it’s the shared experiences. “You just hear how so many different people handle their start-ups,” Personette said. “It’s really the right place to be if you’re a start-up because everyone here has the same energy, the same questions.”
All the furnishings are provided by Attara, who has a seemingly endless supply of found objects, ranging from an antique wheelchair, a metal donkey from a game on Coney Island, a spotlight from an old theater in Brooklyn, and several cast iron bathtubs.
There’s so much Attara has collected over the years that the second floor and the basement of the building are completely filled. He built a working kitchen on the fifth floor that is shared by all the tenants, and has everything he would need to build a restaurant if he wanted.
“You could call him a junk collector, but man, he’s got really good taste,” Personette noted. “The whole building is about reclaiming, recycling and creative re-use.” In fact, one of Treehouse’s tables is a granite slab.
Everything in the building is shared among its tenants: space, the kitchen, internet, printers and a wood shop on the second floor.
The wood shop is mainly for small-scale production. “We do everything it takes to get to the point of manufacturing. So, designing, prototyping, all the evolutions of thought processes to get to the product, but then we don’t do large production runs here in this building,” Personette said.
While this co-working community has done so much in such a short time (only a few years), there still is a long way to go. One goal for the future is to create an entity to encompass the building. And also to make sure all the floors have proper heating.
Personette said there will be rooftop farming in the near future. “We already have somebody signed up to raise bees on the roof and gather their honey. We’re planing to make this a really productive space,” he said.
And even farther in the future, “Al would like to share ownership with the inhabitants of the building,” Personette said.
“What’s going on in the building is amazing. As a whole this is totally rare, I don’t know of any other places where there’s a building owner saying ‘Let’s make this amazing.’"
Click for information about Treehouse, Green Spaces and MEx.
Photo courtesy of Treehouse
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Wednesday, March 4, 2009
For eight years, Capt. Samantha Heyman (below) of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater (right) has wanted to bring her ship to Brooklyn. This summer, she will get her wish.
From July 30 to Aug. 2, the Clearwater (a 108-foot wooden replica of an 18th- and 19th-century traditional cargo vessel) will be docked near the Fairway Cafe in Red Hook, said Captain Heyman. Normally, the ship’s stay at any given dock would be two to five days, but in this case, “there is the possibility that it could be extended,” she said.
This particular dock is owned by Tom Fox, the president of New York Water Taxi. Heyman is grateful to him, as well as property owner Greg O’Connell, for their generous support.
She explained that the Brooklyn location for the Clearwater is ideal for many reasons. It has “the best fishing in the Hudson River estuary,” and is wide open enough for the wake from other boats “not to get too vicious.” When sailing in the East River, the ride can “become uncomfortable,” Heyman added, saying that sometimes the ship can even slam into its dock.
Heyman also wanted to dock the Clearwater in Brooklyn because “it’s a great community. We have a pretty loyal group of members in Brooklyn.” She said these members are so loyal they will take the subway for more than an hour to make it to docks in uptown Manhattan for a 9 a.m. departure.
The Clearwater is a “member-supported organization” and it needs this enthusiasm and loyalty. Which is why it held a benefit at the Brooklyn Brewery last week.
Heyman explained that she wants to raise money through “an initiative of small grassroots events,” like the one at the Brewery. For $20, people who went to the benefit heard several local bands, drank Brooklyn Brewery beer and ate food from a local deli.
“I want to do it again, we had such a good time,” Heyman said.
This kind of grassroots approach was “how Pete [Seeger] raised the money to build the boat in the first place,” said Heyman, referring to the singer’s mission in 1966 to get the public to care about threatened waterways by caring for one boat. The Clearwater was launched in 1969.
Today, children can take school field trips on the ship, which last three hours. The programs the Clearwater holds vary depending on the group, because students from fourth grade through college can sail.
The group of students usually ranges from 40 to 45, and when they get on the boat they help throw out a fishing net. They put the fish they catch into aquariums on the boat to study and learn about them. The Clearwater has a catch-and-release license, explained Heyman, who has caught starfish and even two sea horses in New York Harbor.
During the sail, students take turns steering the ship, they help raise the sail, and are divided into groups that visit stations around the vessel. They can learn the chemistry of the water, get close up to the fish they caught and see what it’s like to live on a boat.
Heyman explained that an overall lesson the students learn is how to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
“When we turn the engine off and are only on the sails, we relate it to riding a bike instead of driving a car,” she explained. Seeing what life is like for the 17 crew members living on the Clearwater teaches students about conservation and living with less.
“Seventeen people can live in a situation with limited resources,” Heyman said. There are no napkins, paper plates or plastic water bottles. She wants students to see that “it is possible to live well without so much stuff.”
But you don’t have to be a student to board the Clearwater. Public sails are offered, where you can sign up with a group or come to just “relax and enjoy yourself” on the boat, she said.
And during every sail, Captain Heyman says that there is always a moment of complete quiet, where the group on the boat can sail in silence. This is to show students that their trip on the Clearwater isn’t just about learning, it’s about enjoying it too.
Photos courtesy of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.
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Tuesday, March 3, 2009
For 28 years, BBG has produced Making Brooklyn Bloom — an event that has grown more popular as it has become increasingly resonant with the borough’s citizens. This year’s theme is “Growing Up Green: Guiding Youth From Gardening to Green-Collar Jobs.”Making Brooklyn Bloom ’09 is devoted to engaging youth in gardening as a way to mobilize the “greening” of urban communities and pave the way to “green-collar” careers, especially through growing fresh food. The free event offers ... read more.
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Monday, March 2, 2009
For more information on what you can recycle and locations in Manhattan, click here.
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