Thursday, April 2, 2009

Brooklyn Loses Beloved Environmental Organization

This week, the Brooklyn-based Center for the Urban Environment (CUE) closed its doors after 30 years of service to the borough and the rest of the city.

A nonprofit that gave urban tours in all five boroughs and had programs in over 300 schools throughout the city, CUE’s funding had recently been cut. It was reported in the Eagle in February that New York State’s Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums Grant Program (ZBGA) was to be eliminated, resulting in a $62,000 loss for the center.

Founded by John Muir in 1978, the organization was originally knows as the Prospect Park Environmental Center, then the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment. It operated out of the Prospect Park Tennis House until last year, when it moved to its last location in the LEED Gold-certified building on Seventh St. in Gowanus.

Sources say that one reason CUE went under was the debt generated from renovating the building. State-of-the-art green technologies were installed, such as a “walk-off grate” was installed on the floor just inside the doorway, a lighting system that will adjust to the amount of natural light coming into the building and the most energy-efficient desktop computers on the market.

Speculation has arisen that the current economic climate may have also played a factor in CUE’s decline, causing funding to dwindle and fundraising to become difficult. Representatives at the center were either unavailable or unable to comment.

Whatever the cause, there have been indications for several weeks that something was amiss at CUE. There were reports of employee layoffs, and Executive Director Sandi Franklin abruptly resigned.

Franklin took over as executive director in 2002 from Muir, who had held the position since he founded the organization. Upon Franklin’s resignation, the board of directors appointed Patricia Synan, first vice chair of the board and a retired school superintendent, to serve as interim executive director.

“A lot of nonprofits are going through a hard time right now,” Aisha Glover, director of public affairs at CUE, told the Eagle in March. “But everybody is really hopeful about moving forward... we’re actually okay.”

But hope, apparently, wasn’t enough. “Effective immediately, the Center for the Urban Environment is closed,” is Glover’s current voicemail message.

What will happen to the green building is unknown, as developer David Sweeney, from whom CUE leased the space, did not return calls by press time.

Remembering CUE

There’s no doubt that the Center for the Urban Environment will be missed. Eagle managing editor Raanan Geberer recalled not only the urban tours he took through the center, but also the ones he gave.

“I was always interested in local history, and wanted people to know more about it,” he said. As for the organization’s impact, “They made people aware of places or aspects of the city that they wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise.

“I’m very surprised it closed because it’s been around for so long,” he added. “It seemed to me that it was actually expanding.”

Brooklyn Brewery owner Steve Hindy, a friend of Franklin’s, said, “The Center for the Urban Environment was doing very important environmental programs in many public schools in Brooklyn. I think it’s a shame that their efforts are no longer continuing.”

Go Green Expo in Manhattan This Month

Go Green Expo, the largest environmentally focused business and consumer show in New York’s history, announced today its return to the city for the second year in a row. It will be open to the public on April 18-19, at the New York Hilton in midtown Manhattan.

Some of the exhibitors include: Disney’s Earth movie, The Sundance Channel’s The GREEN, DELL, Home Depot, Food Network’s Good Food Garden, and Honda’s all-new advanced hybrid vehicle, The Honda Insight.

“We are so pleased to bring Go Green Expo back to New York for the second year in a row,” said CEO and Founder Bradford Rand. “Last year’s event was such a success with over 10,000 attendees, and we have even more to look forward to this year.”

The event will showcase a variety of special interest consumer and business areas including: home building and energy conservation; health, beauty and fashion; travel and transportation; business and electronics and a kids zone.

New Yorkers will have the chance to see, learn and interact with the latest in energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly products and services, as well as participate in interactive seminars with leaders in the green industry, local politicians and community organizations.

Some Highlights:

— Stars Mariel Hemingway and Nigel Barker will join environmental leader Josh Dorfman and bestselling authors Julie Edelman and Seth Leitman as some of the headlining names participating in this year’s event.

— Over 20 notable environmental and business leaders including Jen Boulden, Founder of and Gay Browne, Founder of Greenopia, on speaking panels about today’s most topical green issues including Greening Your Business, Greener Transportation, Renewable Energy, Green Tech and Green Leadership.

— Food Network, in conjunction with their charitable partner Share Our Strength®, a childhood hunger relief organization, will feature a Good Food Garden visitors can learn how to plant fresh food.

— Green Spaces, a New York City based green business competition, will announce this year’s semi-finalists on April 17 at 2pm, followed by a panel discussion that will include the winning companies’ three-minute elevator pitches to an audience of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.

— ConEdison Solutions WIND Power Program allows ConEdison users to get FREE admission for the weekend when they bring their ConEdison energy bill to the expo and sign up for wind power.

Weekend passes to the expo cost $10 for adults and are free for children and seniors. Tickets can be purchased online at or in person at the show.

The Center for the Urban Environment Has Closed Its Doors

The Eagle learned (via a posting on Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn) the the 30-year-old Center for the Urban Environment (CUE) — formerly the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment — has closed its doors. Calls to the center yielded voice mails or former employees not at liberty to give statements.

In early March, Executive Director Sandi Franklin (who took over from founder John Muir) resigned after eight years of service and was replaced by Pat Synan, a member of CUE's board of directors. In her tenure, she moved CUE to its current location on Seventh St. in Gowanus. The building was renovated and recently achieved LEED Gold certification.

There's no doubt that Brooklyn has lost a valuable institution. CUE sponsored tours of all five boroughs of New York City and held programs at over 300 schools city-wide, educating students about the urban environment and sustainability.

In November, Franklin told the Eagle, “It’s a quiet revolution. I think its getting louder among [the activists.] But I don’t think it’s getting louder among the immigrant population, and I don’t think it’s getting louder in the ghetto populations, and I don’t think its getting louder in deprived and poverty stricken populations.

“It’s because they can’t afford to engage in it because they’re worried about survival,” she added. “I’m trying to flip it — I’m trying to say: ‘Let’s make survival this.’”
CUE will be missed.

Mayor Bloomberg Proclaims April 2009 MillionTreesNYC Month

The Eagle received this press release:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Wednesday proclaimed April 2009 as MillionTreesNYC Month in New York City. The month seeks to engage New Yorkers in MillionTreesNYC, a public-private partnership between the City of New York and New York Restoration Project (NYRP) that aims to plant one million new trees throughout the five boroughs by 2017.

It was announced at the event that 173,229 trees have been planted since MillionTreesNYC was launched in October 2007, far exceeding the initiative’s yearly target planting goal.

“Spring is a time for growth and renewal, and MillionTreesNYC Month in April 2009 encourages all New Yorkers to get involved in greening our city,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “By planting trees in parks, on streets, and in your own front and backyards, you can help create cleaner air and cooler streets, which will improve the health of all New Yorkers..”

Trees have been planted in places such as schoolyards, public housing sites, health care facilities, business districts, commercial and residential developments, front yards and other private lands.

Throughout the month, Parks, NYRP, and MillionTreesNYC partners will host free citywide events for the public, including Earth Day and Arbor Day celebrations, tree education seminars, tree stewardship workshops, tree pruning instructional courses, and Urban Park Ranger tree identification hikes throughout the city.

All New Yorkers are encouraged to plant trees in their front and backyards during MillionTreesNYC Month. The One in a Million Tree Coupon, supported by BNP Paribas, offers $20 off the purchase of a 1-inch caliper or larger tree at 13 select New York City garden centers and nurseries throughout the five boroughs.

Coupons are available online at, the MillionTreesNYC official web site, or at participating nurseries. All New Yorkers will share in the many benefits that come from planting trees in their yards — more beautiful neighborhoods; cleaner air and water; higher property values; energy savings; cooler summer streets; and a healthier, more environmentally sustainable City.