Jamie Stein, from Sustainable South Bronx, and Adam Friedman, Director of the Pratt Center, were the speakers for the Green Living and Community Planning Community Voices event. This lecture frequently addressed and complemented topics we have studied in class.  

Stein, the first to speak, gave a similar presentation to Majora Carter’s, using many of the same slides. However, after reading about Robert Moses for class, this discussion about the multitude of problems the Cross Bronx Expressway led to was richer for me. Stein went over again the definition of environmental justice; Carter’s pathway to getting a grant for the creation of a park by the waterfront in Hunts Point; and Sustainable South Bronx’s dedication for training the local community in green jobs.

Additionally, Stein went into further detail about the amount of waste the city congregates in the area. We learned about NYOFCO, which is a planet that converts sewage sludge to fertilizer pellets, many of which are used to fertilize oranges in Florida. Since the plant is not air tight, a sickening smell pervades the area. The good news is that NYOFCO’s contract has not been renewed! Additionally, Stein talked about how Sustainable South Bronx has successfully convinced the government to have more waste be transported by barge instead of truck, and for a trash collection sight to be installed on the Upper East Side, easing the burden on the South Bronx.

After this, Friedman discussed his work in building sustainable communities in New York City. He started off by showing examples of Chris Jordan’s artwork and urging us to think about our everyday actions and make them greener.

Picture of artwork by Chris Jordan: 1 million disposable cups – the amount used by airline flights in the US every six hours

Friedman also talked about PLANYC 2030 and the key things, in his opinion, that are missing from it. In class, we discussed how there were certain assumptions in PLANYC 2030 that seemed unreliable. Friedman, though, focused on the role of job creation in PLANYC 2030. The plan does not address the growing income disparity in the city and the need to preserve space for job creation.

Another important idea he discussed was that instead of doing retrofits and energy audits building by building, they should be done block by block in order to engage communities as a whole. Furthermore, he talked about greening churches, a really interesting strategy because by doing this a whole congregation can be involved and inspired to enact these changes in their own lives.

Finally, going back to Moses, Friedman discussed the inefficiency of the Sheridan Expressway and how the Pratt Center for Community Development is working to convince the state to tear it down. Tearing down a highway is a pretty radical idea, but the state is considering it! If it is torn down, the land would be used to create parkland, affordable housing, and space for new businesses.

This lecture enhanced my understanding of the important role Sustainable South Bronx and the Pratt Center play in New York City, how any citizen can get involved in greening their community, as well as adding to our classroom conversations about these planning issues.