Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Unbeknownst to her, Kate Kerrigan helped make DUMBO greener before she even got there.

During an internship at the Alliance for Downtown New York, “the largest [business improvement district] in the country,” in 1997 and 1998, she worked with the Department of Transportation (DOT) putting up a temporary park at Coenties Slip in Manhattan.

At the time, one of the people Kerrigan worked with from the DOT was Randy Wade. After Coenties Slip, Wade went on to DUMBO and in 2007 worked with then-executive director of the Dumbo Improvement District, Tucker Reed, to create the Pearl Street Triangle. “She [Randy] is the link between the two,” said Kerrigan.

Like Coenties Slip, the Pearl Street Triangle used to be makeshift parking. It was tra
nsformed into a green space surrounded by large stone blocks, with parking along the perimeter.

“There’s an interesting juxtaposition between vehicular and pedestrian use,” Kerrigan said of the Triangle. “Because of our particular space, it really works.”

Before coming to DUMBO last year, Kerrigan had been working at the Alliance for Downtown New York since October 2001. She succeeded Reed as executive director of the Dumbo Improvement District in May 2008.

With the Dumbo Improvement District, Kerrigan continues an initiative started by Reed in early ’08: SEED — Smart Environmental Efforts in DUMBO.

The objective of SEED is to “create small changes in the everyday lives of residents, workers and others visiting DUMBO,” explained Kerrigan. “The more we double down on existing green efforts going on here in DUMBO, the more world-class workers, residents and tourists we lure into this exciting community.”

Green businesses abound in DUMBO, and SEED has been an integral part in the greening of the neighborhood. One of its first programs involved distributing canvas tote bags and compact fluorescent light bulbs to DUMBO residents.

“Breaking the habit of
using plastic is a very difficult thing for all of us to do,” said Kerrigan, who added that the Dumbo Improvement District partnered with retailers in the community to create incentives for bringing totes instead of using plastic bags. Some were even offering 10 cents off purchases to customers who brought their own bags.

Unfortunately, the tote bag program was difficult to sustain given the economic times, said Kerrigan. But the next SEED program landed DUMBO at the forefront of the green movement and made it “a change agent for other neighborhoods.”

With the help of the Department of Sanitation, street recycling bins (right) were placed throughout DUMBO, making it the first neighborhood in New York City to do so. “It is certainly something we are very proud to have done,” said Kerrigan. “As of June ’08, an estimated four tons of paper, metal and plastic had been removed from DUMBO for recycling.”

In another program, SEED worked with the DOE Fund to collect cooking oil from local restaurants, which was then recycled. Over the summer, the Dumbo Improvement District held a greenmarket, and in December, holiday lights in the Pearl Street Triangle were solar powered. SEED also distributes a “green guide” said Kerrigan, which includes facts and advice about going green.

Yet another facet of SEED, and the Dumbo Improvement District as a whole, is supporting alternative modes of transportation. “Since our founding, we’ve had 35 bike racks installed in DUMBO,” noted Kerrigan, adding that she is always happy to advocate for bike racks. One at the F train stop in DUMBO is pictured below.

In the short time since its beginning, SEED has been extremely influential in decreasing DUMBO’s impact on the environment. But Kerrigan says the initiative won’t stop there.

“We started with small changes in everyday life,” said Kerrigan. “We examined those activities, we tried to continue those activities and we’re moving toward the continued involvement of this community to make larger changes in our own built environment and our own attitudes to create a greener DUMBO.”

Kerrigan sees SEED as an advocate, teaming up with the community to be greener. DUMBO is “a community filled with these enlightened souls who want to help. The future of SEED is in tapping into this enlightened and visionary community’s talents and expertise.

“The small changes we hope to ingrain in our community should lead to a greener planet, a greener DUMBO, and just a greener day-to-day life for a worker or a resident.”

Kerrigan is pictured above right with Kim Gillman. Gillman is participating in a one-year fellowship with the CORO Program — a program designed to prepare its participants for leadership in public affairs — and is helping Kerrigan with SEED.

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Energy in Obama's Inaugural Address

Included in the topics of President Obama's speech was the energy crisis and his commitment to working to reverse it. The energy-related quotes are:

"...each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

"We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.

"With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet."

If you didn't see Obama's address (or you did and want to read it because it was amazing) you can read the full transcript on The New York Times web site here.

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