Monday, June 29, 2009

Green Bowling in Billyburg

Former Wetlands Team To Deliver Bowling,
Food, Music With Eco-Friendly Spin


There are solar panels in the Heights, wind turbines in the Navy Yard and a greenmarket in Bay Ridge, so it’s no surprise that Brooklyn is now home to what is probably the first green bowling alley in the world: Brooklyn Bowl.

Owners and founders Charley Ryan (above left) and Peter Shapiro (above right) signed a lease for their space at 61 Wythe Ave. two years ago and are set to open within the next week. Their commitment to sustainability is one of the reasons it’s taken so long for Brooklyn Bowl to become a reality.

They didn’t take their eco-consciousness lightly. Among the many green features of Brooklyn Bowl are: 100 percent wind-powered electricity; wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC); pin-spotters that use 75 percent less energy than regular pin-spotters; draught beers sourced locally; no bottles or cans; 100 percent reclaimed cork floors in the bowler’s lounge; and a stage floor made of 100 percent recycled truck tires.

“Our water usage will be minimal,” Ryan said, explaining that urinals in the men’s room will use only a pint of water when flushed rather than a gallon.

He and Shapiro are pursuing LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for the building, which dates back to 1882. The cork floors, the tire floors and the pin-spotters, however, didn’t fit in with the LEED system and didn’t garner the building any points toward certification. These features were installed anyway because they wanted to do the right thing, Ryan said.

Environmental activism is nothing new for the pair, who together operated the Wetlands jam band venue in Manhattan, which closed in 2001. Both have histories of environmental activism behind them. Ryan told the Eagle that in the early ‘70s, he campaigned to save a pygmy forest in northern California from development — and won. Then in the ‘80s he lobbied against incinerators, and in the ’90s he swam around Manhattan to raise environmental awareness.

Shapiro founded GreenOrder, a consulting firm specializing in sustainable business, with his brother in 2000. He also founded the Green Apple Music Festival, a musical celebration of Earth Day, a few years ago in Manhattan, which has since expanded across the country. Ryan called the festival “the biggest Earth Day celebration in the world.”

But even though Ryan and Shapiro have strong environmentalism backgrounds, “We’re not really interested in preaching,” Ryan said. “Ultimately, what we’re doing here is providing a place that’s fun.”

The space has a capacity of 600 people with 16 bowling lanes and a state-of-the-art sound system. The elevated bowler’s lounge is strategically placed next to the stage. The food’s by Blue Ribbon and the beer’s all Brooklyn: Brooklyn Brewery, Six Point and Kelso.

Brooklyn Bowl won’t preach environmentalism, but Ryan thinks people will get the message, and he hopes it will create a “ripple” effect.

“It was absolutely central to what we wanted to do here,” he noted. “If you believe in it, it isn’t even an option not to do the right thing.”

Photos by Adam Macchia


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Weekend Gowanus Cleanup


Eagle photographer Mike Plotz caught up with John Muir (pictured), vice chairman of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s Board of Directors and longtime Brooklyn environmentalist, at this past Saturday’s “Clean and Green” event sponsored by the conservancy.

Muir is the founder of the
now-closed Center for the Urban Environment (CUE).

At the cleanup, volunteers collected large bags of debris and weeds and also planted wildflowers and other plants on the banks of the Gowanus Canal. Organizers say that when it rains, heavy metals from car runoff will then be absorbed by the plants instead of polluting the already troubled canal.


Photo by Mike Plotz

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Brooklyn Parents Want Greener Schools

Last week, Brooklyn parents spoke a combination environmental event and Lander campaign rally outside the Old Stone House in Washington Park, which was supported by City Council Democrat candidate Brad Lander. Eagle writer Harold Egeln reports here.

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Heights Resident Turns Solar Activist


Len Gelstein, of 11 Montague Terrace in Brooklyn Heights, wanted to install solar panels on his home, but discovered that because his roof is oriented slightly north of east. For solar panels to be a good option, the roof either needs to be flat or tilted slightly south. Not to be discouraged, however, Gelstein plans to spread the word to his neighbors about solar energy. Read the full story by Zoe Thomas here.

Photo by Mike Plotz

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Panel Explores Green Business Solutions


For the small business owner at a loss about how to adopt greener business practices, the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) Thursday held a panel entitled “Green Solutions For Small Businesses,” sponsored by Con Edison.
The panel was moderated by Debera Johnson, the director of Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation, and the Academic Dean of Sustainability at Pratt. Panelists were Catherine Barton, founder of NYIRN’s (New York Industrial Retention Network) Spec it Green educational series and member of Green Depot’s advisory board; MaryEllen Etienne, managing director of Reuse Alliance New York; and Paul Mankiewicz, director of Gaia Institute.
Presentations by Johnson and the panelists were followed by a question and answer session. Some of the themes most emphasized by the group were investigating and thinking about the entire life of a product, reusing unwanted materials and investing in green technologies.
Johnson spoke about Pratt’s recently launched Center for Sustainable Design Studies (CSDS), which educates students about sustainable practices, provides innovation workshops and helps launch start-up businesses from alumni. One of those start-up businesses, Johnson said, creates household items out of discarded pieces of wood.
“This is a really interesting model, I think it’s relevant to every one of us in terms of rethinking the life cycle of products and services,” she explained. “We have to think about what happened before it got into my hand and what happens after it leaves my hand... it’s a really great decision making tool of how you bring products into your environment.”
Barton touched on this theme as well, giving the example of a company that supplied building materials for the Bank of America tower in Manhattan, which is on track to achieve LEED platinum certification. Because of this goal, the packaging from the building materials would have to be diverted from a landfill. In response, that company created reusable packaging crates that they now use exclusively. The $14 million they were spending to take care of the packaging waste turned into $2.5 million maintenance costs.
In addition to choosing products after examining their entire life cycle, it’s also important to make sure products are what they claim to be. Barton spoke about greenwashing and emphasized truthful business practices.
“Be clear and truthful, both with yourself and the people that you represent your products and services to about who your company is and what your goals are,” she said. “Really try, if possible not to overstate.” Many companies that produce green products sometimes use heightened language to describe them. A good way to weed out those products is to educate yourself about the different certification processes and labels. Barton explained that Greenseal, Rugmark, FSC, Greenguard, Energy Star, Watersense and LEED are all trustworthy labels.
Being aware and knowledgeable about the products you use in your business is good, but reusing those products and materials is even better. Etienne is the program director of an online service called NY Waste Match, where members post materials they don’t want anymore, giving it to someone else who might need it.
“Businesses find homes for things they no longer need,” she said. “It’s a very valuable thing for start-ups.” This “matchmaking” system, as she called it, is beneficial because it saves businesses money and diverts waste materials from landfills.
One NY Waste Match product is OROE, the Office of Recycling Outreach and Education, part of CENYC (the Council on the Environment of New York City). “We outfitted them with an entire office,” said Etienne.
“Always reuse first,” she added. “Where you can’t, try to find a place to recycle.”
Mankiewicz, as director of the Gaia Institute, works with the relationship between humans and the environment, developing soil for green roofs and increasing the number of community gardens and trees in the city. While new green technologies, such as green roofs and solar panels, are pricey right now, he said, “the horizon is good. The technology is just getting there... the more we build, the better off we are.”
Small businesses taking steps like these will have an impact on the environment. Diverting waste from landfills will reduce greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, and increasing the city’s tree canopy and green spaces will also reduce emissions.
“It will drop the body temperature of the city,” Mankiewicz said. “We will see this almost immediately.”
“There are tremendous opportunities in the green economy,” Barton said. “I like to think of it as the triple bottom line: the social benefits, the environmental benefits and the economic benefits. I encourage you to look for conversations about sustainability because it’s really more than just the environment, it’s about the whole community.”

Photo above left to right: panel moderator Debera Johnson, director of Pratt’s Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation; panelist MaryEllen Etienne, managing director of Reuse Alliance New York; Stuart Leffler, manager of Economic Development at Con Edison; and panelist Paul Mankiewicz, director of Gaia Institute.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

'New Views' Greenway Party a Success Despite Weather

Just got this from my friends over at the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI):

Over 200 supporters of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway came together on June 18th at IKEA’s Erie Basin Park in Red Hook to celebrate the Greenway’s progress and to recognize three honorees, all of whom have been instrumental in moving the greenway forward this year.

New Views 2009, the annual benefit hosted by Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI), was saved from the weather by quick action from the IKEA staff and BGI volunteers, who moved the entire event under the garage next to the new Greenway segment at Erie Basin Park. Rain and wind had ripped two tents and left standing water at the original event site two hours before it started.

Despite the weather, the evening was characterized by good humor. Jon Orcutt, Senior Policy Advisor to NYC DOT Commissioner Jeanette Sadik-Khan, introduced Christopher O. Ward, Executive Director of the Port Authority by saying, “I bet this is the first time Chris Ward was honored in a parking garage.” Mr. Ward, who during a prior tenure at the Port Authority was instrumental in helping the Greenway said, “I was involved in this project 15 years ago. I had no idea then that it would become as big as it has.” Mr. Ward and the Port Authority were recognized for making additional space available for the Greenway along Degraw and Van Brunt Streets.

Jeannette Nigro, Vice President for Economic Development of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce recognized IKEA Brooklyn and Mike Baker, Store Manager, on behalf of Carl Hum, the Chamber’s president. Ms. Nigro said, “We commend IKEA, Mike Baker, their entire team, the community residents who make up the IKEA staff, and Brooklyn Greenway Initiative for their investment in the Brooklyn waterfront, making it one of the most progressive green neighborhoods for residents and businesses in Brooklyn.” IKEA’s 6-acre Erie Basin Park, designed by landscape architect Lee Weintraub, includes a section of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.

Teresa Toro, Transportation Committee Chair of Community Board 1 and one of last year’s honorees, introduced Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives (TA). She said, “TA Brooklyn Committee members play a major role in the efforts to improve the Pulaski Bridge, to implement the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, to promote best practices for sharing the streets to all users and to minimize cuts in transit services for communities with limited transit options.” Mr. White acknowledged BGI by saying, “If all of our community partners were like Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, we’d have it all done by now.”

New Views 2009 honorees received an autographed copy of Walking Brooklyn by Adrienne Onofri, as well as a complete kit for repairing bicycle flat tires donated by R&A Cycles. Recycle-a-Bicycle also donated a BMX bike that was raffled off at the end of the evening.

The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is now a NYC DOT project. Preliminary design and engineering is expected to begin this year using federal funding secured by Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. When complete, the greenway will be a 14-mile continuous landscaped route with separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists. Funding for planning the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is provided by the New York Department of State Division of Coastal Resources with funds provided under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund. The NYS funding is sponsored by the Office of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

BGI also announced the release of the second edition of A User’s Guide to the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. Major funding for the greenway guide was provided by the J. M. Kaplan Fund, Independence Community Foundation, and Brownstoner. The guide is free and it can be requested by going to BGI’s website: www.brooklyngreenway.org.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Climate Week NYC Coming in September

The Eagle received this press release:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Steve Howard, CEO of The Climate Group; and Paul Dickinson, CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Project, today announced Climate Week NYC, a five-day program of events being held throughout New York City from September 21 – 25 that will address the urgent need for action on climate change.


The Climate Group, an international organization that brings governments and businesses together to tackle climate change, will serve as the secretariat for the Climate Week NYC activities, which will focus on carbon emission reduction, alternative energy, LED lighting and super grids. As a member of the HSBC Climate Partnership, The Climate Group works with New York and other world cities to accelerate low carbon development.

“This fall, our City will be honored not only to host the annual UN General Assembly, but also to enthusiastically support Climate Week NYC and the summit on climate change on September 22. The summit will spotlight the urgent need for action, both to slow the pace of climate change, and also to adapt to the environmental effects of global warming that are already underway,” said Mayor Bloomberg.

“We are far beyond the point of debate over whether climate change is real,” said Secretary-General Ban. “I have seen the impacts of climate change first-hand. I have met families whose crops have been withered by droughts. Billions of people are at risk. Never before has there been such universal acknowledgement that now is the time for decisive action. And just as we have collectively contributed to the creation of this problem, we must also collectively implement solutions. I commend the Climate Group for creating a dynamic platform through which the public, organizations and private business can participate in this process in a direct and meaningful way.”

The event will coincide with the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Mr. Ban announced that he is inviting all world leaders for a one-day summit on global climate change on September 22, a day before the opening of the general debate of the UN General Assembly. Over a hundred leaders are expected to participate and provide political impetus and direction to the ongoing intergovernmental negotiations to reach agreement on a new climate deal in Copenhagen in December.

The United Nations Foundation is a vital member of the Climate Week NYC team, working to connect a diverse array of advocacy groups with their counterparts in the UN system in order to jointly push for a new climate deal in Copenhagen.

The Climate Group is launching a Web site, www.climateweeknyc.org, that will be updated regularly with details on descriptions, locations and times of events, and information on how the public can participate or attend. Some events will be coordinated directly by The Climate Group, while others will be organized by other partner organizations. Organizations that wish to have their events partnered with Climate Week NYC can call can call Callum Grieve at 646.233.0552, or e-mail him at cgrieve@theclimategroup.org.

“Influential US partnerships and smarter choices will be critical to tackling global warming and setting the world on a pathway to a prosperous low carbon future,” said Steve Howard, CEO of The Climate Group. “As world leaders gather in New York, Climate Week NYC will let everyone know that the time for change is now.”

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Con Ed Power Breakfast This Week

This Thursday, June 25, at the Brooklyn Public Library's Business Library, Con Edison will sponsor a "Power Breakfast," in which a panel of environmental experts will discuss innovative and affordable business practices.

Panelists will be Catherine Barton, Spec it Green; MaryEllen Etienne, NYC Materials Exchange Development Program; Debera Johnson, Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation; and Paul Mankiewicz, the Gaia Institute.

The breakfast will start at 8:30 and run until 10:30. To register, visit
www.biz.brooklynpubliclibrary.org or call (718) 623-7000 and select option 4.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

A Reason to Recycle

For people skeptical of recycling, here's a message from an expert:

"There's a link between recycling and climate change. Everything that goes in a landfill is creating methane," says Julie Walsh, assistant director of the Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC).

After carbon dioxide, methane is the greenhouse gas that has the highest impact on global warming. So when you choose to recycle, you know that diverting those materials from a landfill will help reduce global warming. Of course, it's always best to reduce your garbage.

"Recycling is good, but waste prevention is even better," Walsh noted.

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NYC Carbon Counter

Have you ever wondered just how much greenhouse gases are contributing to global warming? Crain's New York reports that a 70-foot-high billboard is outside Madison Square Garden and Penn Station, and will track in real time the growing amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The sign uses low-energy light, offset by carbon credits and is sponsored by Deutsche Bank.

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Coalition Convenes to Bring NYC to Fore of Emerging Green Economy

The Eagle received the following press release:

For over a year, more than 170 organizations have worked together to put forward a just and comprehensive workforce development strategy to prepare New Yorkers for green collar jobs. The multi-stakeholder campaign, the Green Collar Jobs Roundtable, met for its third convening Thursday to celebrate its work and launch the next phase of its dynamic process.

“We are very humbled by the great work done by so many important organizations invested in the future of our City,” said Joanne Derwin, Executive Director of Urban Agenda, convener of the Roundtable campaign. ”This was not only a truly grassroots process, but a unique undertaking, and the culmination of a lot of hard work over a sustained period of time. The breadth and depth of the process has helped identify several salient recommendations to ensure that all New Yorkers can benefit from the emerging green economy.”

The Roundtable process has tapped the collective knowledge of green employers, unions, workforce development providers, and environmental and environmental justice groups to chart a Green Jobs Roadmap — a blueprint that articulates specific, targeted steps to direct the City towards a comprehensive, coordinated, citywide strategy to train New Yorkers for green collar jobs. The Roadmap is due to be released in the fall, and will be shared with mayoral and city council candidates in the upcoming election.

“Just look at the size and diversity of this group,” said Ed Ott, Chair of the New York City Apollo Alliance, “we all share a common goal of creating good, green collar jobs that pay family sustaining wages, build sustainability, and create pathways out of poverty for all New Yorkers.”

“This is the moment to act," he added, "the Roundtable represents the best shot we have to show what’s right for workers and good for business, to talk about government’s role and bring communities’ voices to the table.”

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Views Greenway Party Tonight

Despite the rain, New Views 2009, a benefit for the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, hosted by the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, will take place as scheduled tonight starting at 6 p.m. It will be at IKEA Brooklyn's Erie Basin Park (under a tent).

Online ticket sales have closed, but if you still want to go, $60 tickets can be purchased with cash or check at the door.

Manhattan-dwellers interested in going need not worry about getting home: a NY Water Taxi shuttle will depart from IKEA at 8:15 p.m. to take guests back to Pier 11 in Manhattan.

Recycle-a-Bicycle has donated a mint BMX bike for a special raffle, and the Transportation Alternatives Brooklyn Committee will be providing valet bike parking.

Should be a great night!

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Boro Hall Greenmarket: Highly Sustainable

Reaches Quarter-Century Milestone

Sure, greenmarkets and local eating are all the rage now, but they’ve been around longer than you might think. The Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC), which was started in 1970, has been opening and maintaining greenmarkets for more than 30 years.

“The first market opened under the 59th Street Bridge in 1976,” said CENYC assistant director Julie Walsh. Today, CENYC operates 49 greenmarkets in the city, with 11 in Brooklyn. The newest is in Bay Ridge, which opened in October of 2008.

This month the Borough Hall Greenmarket, one of the city’s oldest, will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Monthlong festivities will culminate in a celebration on June 27, which will include a seafood cook-off, pizza baking with Bread Alone Bakery, and a solar panel demonstration from environmental education group Solar One. Sustainable food advocates Just Food will have a table at the event, as will CENYC’s Office of Recycling Outreach and Education (OROE).

On Cadman Plaza at the intersection of Court and Montague streets, the Borough Hall Greenmarket is held on Tuesdays and Saturdays year-round and Thursdays from April 2 through Dec. 24.

Fred Wilklow, head farmer of Wilklow Orchards, has been selling at the Borough Hall Greenmarket since it started. Back then, he said, customers came from all over because it was the only one in the area. Even now, some of those same people shop at the greenmarket.

“I’m looking forward to [the party], I’ll see a lot of people who have been customers since the first day,” Wilklow said. “I’ve seen families grow up, my family has grown up. It’s become my second hometown.”

Wilklow Orchards, along with Phillips Farms, provides fresh picked fruits and vegetables, plants and flowers, and grass-fed meat to the market. Also available are fresh fish, eggs, buffalo yogurt, cheese and meat. New this year are Long Island wine producers Paumanok Vineyards, along with organic vegetables, chicken and eggs from Fishkill Farms.

Michael Hurwitz, CENYC Greenmarket program director, said the Borough Hall Greenmarket “demonstrates the strength of the market, the farmers that are there and the community around the market.” He added, “You can go there on a Saturday and buy anything you want that’s edible. There’s a diverse array of products.”

CENYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen says the greenmarket “is an example of all that we’ve been able to accomplish,” and that it’s one of the organization’s most popular greenmarkets.


Helping the City Live Better


CENYC’s mission is to “give people the tools and the education and the resources to make New York City a more sustainable environment,” Walsh said. “It’s by the people, of the people, and for the people.”

In addition to greenmarkets, CENYC brings fresh food and produce to underpriveleged areas with its Youthmarket program.

“Communities that are food deserts, that really need access to fresh healthy food, they can’t support a traditional farmer’s market model, so what we do is we buy wholesale from the farmers in our Greenmarket program and set up a farm stand that’s staffed, operated and managed by community youth,” Walsh explained.

In some cases, the presence of a youthmarket has helped make neighborhoods safer. Walsh told about one particular youthmarket in a south Bronx neighborhood near a police surveillance tower. “Within two weeks of the market operating, [the police] were able to leave,” she said.
With CENYC’s Open Spaces Greening program, 57 community gardens have opened in New York City since 1978, 26 of them in Brooklyn.

“We want people to engage in behaviors that will make a more sustainable city — behaviors that they will carry with them,” Walsh noted. “People can see the link. When you go to a community garden you see the importance of preserving nature.”

CENYC also has a presence in 13 city schools with its environmental education program, one of those being Madison High School in Midwood. Through Training Student Organizers (TSO), students have built and demonstrated solar ovens, planted trees, removed invasive species and learned about New York City’s watershed.

In 2006, the Office of Recycling Outreach Education (OROE) was created by CENYC. This part of the organization is specific to the five boroughs, each having its own recycling outreach coordinator. These coordinators target specific neighborhoods that have low recycling diversion rates.

“[OROE] teaches people how to properly recycle,” said CENYC development and communications specialist Amanda Gentile. She said that in the past, OROE has set up a table at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket and conducted a “recycling challenge.” Its purpose is “to make recycling as easy as possible,” she added. OROE will hold the recycling challenge at the Borough Hall Greenmarket’s anniversary celebration.

But no matter what CENYC does, it’s always with a positive outlook. “There’s not so much talking about negativity,” Gentile said. “We’re simply doing things that are directly making improvements, and trying to get people involved in doing that with us.”

Photo above, by Don Evans, is Eva Skillicorn from Wilklow Orchards

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Sustainable Lectures at Governors Island

As I was checking out the Governors Island web site, I happened upon an event listing for this summer: CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities Summer Lecture Series. Every Saturday starting June 27 and ending September 5, there will be a lecture relating to sustainable urban practices.

Here are details for the first few lectures:

June 27, Saturday, at 12:30 p.m. in Pershing Hall
Projjal Dutta, Director of MTA Sustainability
“How Transit Riders Are Saving The Earth”
Learn what we’re doing right in New York City and how we can make mass transit work better for cities nationwide.

July 11, Saturday, at 12:30 p.m. in Pershing Hall
Carey Pulverman, LES Ecology Center
“Composting in the City? Yes We Can!”
New Yorkers discard more than a million tons of organic material a year. Learn how to curb waste and compost—it’s easy, and you can even do it in your apartment!

July 18, Saturday, at 12:30 p.m. in Pershing Hall
Dylan Gauthier, Mare Liberum & TheFreeSeas.org
“How To Build a Boat from Recycled Materials in a Day”
Join us as we build a true water-ready 15-foot boat from scratch in an afternoon—made from discarded plywood!—and learn how you can build one yourself.

July 25, Saturday, at 12:30 p.m. in Pershing Hall
Andy Padian, Community Preservation Corp.
“How To Curb Catastrophic Waste in Your Home or Condo”
Learn 10 things that you can do in your apartment, building, and office to dramatically reduce energy waste and make your cash flow increase. Money is the real green!

For the full list, along with listings of other events throughout the summer, click here.

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Red Hook Renewable Energy Developer Gets First 100% Electric MINI E in New York


Renewable energy developer Beautiful Earth Group, based on Brooklyn’s Columbia Waterfront, has received New York’s first MINI E — MINI Cooper’s fully electric zero emissions vehicle — as part of a year-long field study of the new plug-in car (left). Eagle writer Caitlin McNamara reports here.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Planting Trees on Atlantic Ave


The Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association and the Teen Tree Corps of Project ReGeneration teamed up in a beautification project of two blocks on Atlantic Avenue: one block between Bond and Hoyt streets, and another between Court and Clinton streets. This photo shows Teddy Francis, program director of Project ReGeneration, with Curtis Cruz and Trish Holt.

Photo courtesy of Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

DUMBO Photo Exhibit Grapples With How to Portray Climate Change


The term “climate change” is used often these days, in conjunction with “global warming” and “extreme weather.” Sure, we know that the earth is hotter today than it has been in the past four hundred years, the polar ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising. But what does it all actually look like? Most of us don’t have the means or ability to see the effects of climate change, we usually just hear about it.

The current photography exhibition at the Henry Gregg Gallery in DUMBO, entitled “Visualizing Climate Change,” brings powerful images from around the world to Brooklyn. Work of photographers Gary Braasch, Ashley Cooper, Benjamin Drummond, Peter Essick, Steve Kazlowski and Joshua Wolfe is on display, with subjects ranging from polar bears, to glaciers, to forest fires.

Brooklyn-based photographer Wolfe explained that, as members of GHG (which stands for greenhouse gas) Photos, these photographers deal with the basic question of: “How do you portray something that’s happening as gradually as climate change?”

“For me, a lot of it is trying to explain through images not just that climate change is all extreme weather all the time and a polar bear,” Wolfe explained. “There’s more depth to it, the issue is more complex, there are a lot of factors going into it.

“Any of us working individually can’t create such a complete or such a nuanced picture of climate change,” he continued. “Our goal is to present people with what’s going on, to give a more complete picture.”

On one wall of the gallery is a photo by Wolfe of an oil pump in the foreground and a group of wind turbines in the background (above). Another by Kazlowski — whom Wolfe calls “the best polar bear photographer in the world” — is a member of the threatened species swimming in the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean. Yet another by Cooper shows a man knee deep in water in his South Yorkshire kitchen, searching for food after floods in the summer of 2007.

Hanging on another wall of the gallery is a series of before and after photos of glaciers, taken by Wolfe and Braasch, portraying the stark decrease in glacier size over the years.

Using photography as the medium to portray climate change was challenging, says Wolfe. “If you look at photojournalism, we really thrive on an event. We thrive on a conflict. We know how to do wars, we know how to do protests, to a lesser extent, we know how to do celebrities,” he said. “Gradual, decade-long, century-long, year long changes aren’t things that photojournalism is necessarily comfortable with.”

Adding to the difficulty, Wolfe says, is that in some cases it’s hard to tell if something like extreme weather is climate change or not. “With hurricanes or forest fires or droughts, is this just noise in the system or is this definitively climate change?” he asked, which is the reason for pairing before and after photos of glaciers, or juxtaposing a picture of a forest fire in Greece with a satellite image of more fires ravaging the country.

Collaboration with Henry Gregg Gallery director AndrĂ© Martinez-Reed gives the show a different perspective: “He’s relating to the images in a different way than I do,” Wolfe said. “AndrĂ© mixed them up to make a layered and more nuanced story.”

“Each individual show has its own spirit, its own energy,” said Martinez-Reed. “With Visualizing Climate Change, it gives people a chance to experience something that’s going on in the world that probably they wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to experience.”

“We have this unique experience to view a lot of the things going on with climate change that the average person can’t see,” Wolfe said. “We’re changing the way people look at things around them.”

Visualizing Climate Change will be on view at the Henry Gregg Gallery at 111 Front St., Suite 226, in DUMBO through June 21. The exhibit is also on view at the Port Authority building at the corner of 42nd St and 8th Ave in Manhattan. Wolfe will be speaking at this Thursday’s Nerd Nite at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO about climate change.

Photo above by Joshua Wolfe, courtesy of GHG Photos

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rethinking Urban Space: Mini-Golf in a Vacant Lot

Vacant lots are a common sight in this city, so common that many don't give them a second thought. But this summer one previously empty and trash-filled space will be transformed into a 9-hole miniature golf course. And it's opening on Saturday.

Dubbed the Putting Lot, it's in Bushwick at 12 Wyckoff Avenue. Each hole was designed by a different group of artists or architects, chosen by an open call for submissions conducted in April. With a budget of $500, the teams got to work on creations with the theme of "urban sustainability."

The materials are reclaimed and repurposed, just like the lot, and are used in non-conventional ways.

Sustainability was the main focus and drive for the project. According to the Putting Lot's web site: "We think vacant spaces can be used in ways to help build neighborhood sustainability, as much as they can diminish it. We believe neighborhood sustainability is one of the most important aspects of urban sustainability."

Starting this Saturday, June 6, the Putting Lot will be open Wednesday through Friday from 12 - 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. It's super affordable at $5 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under.

For more information, visit www.theputtinglot.org.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Congresswoman Clarke Urges New Yorkers to Take Action

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, along with Greenpeace NYC field organizer Eva Erbskorn, submitted an editorial to the Eagle about the current climate crisis.

Given that hurricane season is upon us, we may soon be confronted with intense storms caused in part by global warming. "Unless we take action immediately," Congresswoman Clarke writes, "that means more flooding of basements, more disease, and more drinking water shortages (and worse)."

She urges New Yorkers to take action: "We can start by investing in efficiency and clean energy sources like solar and wind power, as well as in smart transportation, like more subways and buses."

For Congresswoman Clarke's full editorial, Greener Economy Essential in Face of Rising Waters, click here.

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New Views Greenway Party on June 18


My friends over at the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) sent me the following press release about their upcoming Greenway benefit:

BGI will hold New Views 2009, its fourth annual benefit for the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, on Thursday, June 18, from 6-9 p.m., at IKEA Brooklyn’s Erie Basin Park (above). Join BGI’s Board, Host Committee and Greenway supporters for a Swedish smorgasbord, drinks and music along the first privately funded and maintained section of the planned 14-mile Greenway.

IKEA Brooklyn store manager Mike Baker will be honored as BGI’s Corporate Partner of the Year and Christopher O. Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will be honored as BGI’s Government Partner of the Year. Biking advocacy group Transportation Alternatives will receive BGI’s Community Partner of the Year award.

BGI, along with its partners and supporters, have had a great deal to celebrate this year, most importantly the commitment by the New York City Department of Transportation to develop a master plan for the full 14-mile Greenway route, which will then qualify it as a city capital project. Both the Erie Basin Park segment and the Columbia Street segments of the Greenway opened within the past year, and in April of this year, BGI announced an additional $2.5 million in federal funding secured for capital construction.

Tickets start at $60 and are available at www.brooklyngreenway.org. For questions, contact Brian McCormick at bmccormick@brooklyngreenway.org or (718) 522-0193.

Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Be an ‘Urban Explorer’ At Tour de Brooklyn


This Sunday approximately 2,000 bicyclists will participate in a one-of-a-kind ride through Green-Wood Cemetery — which doesn’t normally allow bikes — during the fifth annual Tour de Brooklyn, held by biking advocacy group Transportation Alternatives (TA).

“It’s probably the highlight of the tour,” said TA spokesperson Wiley Norvell. “It’s definitely a real treat.”

The ride will begin at KeySpan park in Coney Island at 9 a.m., traveling through such South Brooklyn neighborhoods as Gravesend, Kensington, Windsor Terrace and Victorian Flatbush. In addition to Green-Wood, the tour will ride through Prospect Park, where there will be a rest stop. The 23-mile tour will conclude at about 1 p.m. back in Coney Island.

Norvell says the ride follows a different route every year. Since many riders have seen neighborhoods like Park Slope and Williamsburg by bike, the south Brooklyn loop this year is “a great stretch of Brooklyn that a lot of our riders probably aren’t familiar with,” he noted.

And after the ride ends, “everyone can stay and spend the day on Coney Island at the beach.”

The important part about the Tour de Brooklyn is that it’s not a race, said Norvell. “It’s a leisurely day biking around Brooklyn,” he said. The pace is family-friendly, with “a gentle incline up and a gentle incline down.”

All 2,000 participants ride in one big group, stopping at points to let the riders in the back catch up. Cars are cleared from the streets with a “rolling closure,” during which police escorts will drive in the front and the back of the group, closing streets as the ride goes on. It’s about five minutes from the front of the group to the back, Norvell said.

Bicyclists from all over — Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Virginia, even California — registered for the free event. In other years, online registration has sold out before the ride, but this year it sold out within 24 hours. “It’s the hottest ticket in town,” Norvell said, laughing. There will be a limited number spots for same-day registration before the tour starts, he added.

You won’t see many serious cyclists during the ride. “We tend not to get the spandex set,” Norvell said. Instead, he called the riders “urban explorers.”

“We want this to be accessible,” he continued. “What we want to inculcate is slow, civic riding. We want people to really enjoy the city around them.”

And they do. Molly Sullivan rode in her first tour in 2007 and loved it so much she volunteered for TA and is now the organization’s events coordinator.

“I had such a positive experience,” Sullivan said, describing it as a safe, family-friendly, calm ride. “It opened up bicycling in Brooklyn for me.”

She was amazed by the number of people and families that gathered for the ride. “It was a wonderful sight to see,” she said.

“The feeling I came away from the tour with was: I have to do this every day, I have to become a bike commuter,” Sullivan said. “I’ll never forget it.”

Visit www.tourdebrooklyn.org for additional information about the tour, including what to bring.

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Chamber Recognizes Green Buildings

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and its Real Estate and Development (RED) Committee announced the winners of Building Brooklyn Awards for this year. Of the 12 recipients, two are green buildings: Galapagos Art Space and the Perry Building at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Carl Hum, Chamber president and CEO, said that past winners have been environmentally friendly, but this year was the first year a specific award was given to a green building. This would be the National Grid Award for Energy Conservation, which the Perry Building received.


Opened in early April, the Perry Building (above) is the nation’s first multi-story green industrial facility. It is on track to receive LEED gold certification and features the first permanent building-mounted wind turbines to be operating anywhere in New York City.

The turbines, combined with rooftop solar panels, will provide electricity for the building’s lobby and other common areas, which will amount to about 10 percent of the overall energy. Other green features of the Perry Building are reflective roofing and pavement to reduce surface temperatures, the use of recycled rain water in toilets, recycled building materials, high-efficiency lighting fixtures, natural ventilation systems and special accommodation for bicyclists and low-emission vehicles.
Awarded in the Arts and Culture category, Galapagos Art Space (above) has shown a commitment to the environment from the get-go. A LEED-silver certified building, all of the steel is 80 percent recycled, the concrete is 30 percent recycled, the toilets are low flush and the sinks have low water flow. The 1600 square foot lake inside the venue is filled by a well, so as not to waste city drinking water.

Galapagos director Robert Elmes has said, “if the arts can’t show leadership, who can? ... We have a responsibility to lead with social issues.”

The ceremony and cocktail reception for the awards will be held on July 15 at
Stage 6 at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a green building in the yard that will apply for LEED Silver certification, in part for the adaptive reuse of a 150,000 square-foot WWII era building.

For more information and the full list of recipients, see the story here.

Photos courtesy of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.

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A Bike Made of Bamboo?

This past Sunday, Washington (former J.J. Byrne) Park was the setting for Brooklyn's first annual Bike Jumble, a bicycle flea market.

Sean Murray, a staffer for Bamboo Bike Studio in Red Hook, was at the Bike Jumble, showing his bikes made out of bamboo. The bamboo comes from Long Island and is a sustainable alternative to the traditional titanium.

Click here to read the full story about Murray and the Bike Jumble
by Eagle writer Caitlin McNamara.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Fix Your Leaky Faucet

A faucet that drips slowly when turned off can waste 20 gallons of water a day. That's 140 gallons a week, and that's just a slow drip.

So don't take a leaky faucet lightly!

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