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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