Category: Community Voices #1: Energy and Green Living
Community Voices 1: Energy and Green Living
| May 16, 2010 | 1:09 am | Community Voices #1: Energy and Green Living, Events | Comments closed

The first Community Voices event featured Jaime Stein and Adam Friedman.

Jaime Stein spoke injustices involving waste management. She mentioned Hunts Point, an area in the Bronx, which handles 40% of NYC’s waste and 100% of the waste from the Bronx. Hunts Point is home to a sewage treatment plant, a sewage pelletizing plant, and four electrical power plants. On top of all of this, Hunts Point has over 60,000 trucks traveling through due to the heavy fish, meat, and a produce industries of the area.

Jaime also mentioned the New York Organic Fertilizer Co. (NYOFCO), which is a plant that changes liquid waste to fertilizer to be used in Florida. Although the idea seems very practical and beneficial, the contract for this plant has not been renewed in a very long time. Also, this plant is not regulated in terms of waste and operation, which puts both the area around it and the product fertilizer at risk.

Another topic that Jaime discussed was the Clean-Water Act. She mentioned that this act didn’t really solve any problems, but that it just shifted the burden from the oceans to the communities.

To end her talk, Jaime talked about the South Bronx. Currently, the South Bronx area has a land to person ratio of .5 acres/1000 people. The New York recommended ratio is 2.5acres/1000 people. Also, the South Bronx area has a 25% unemployment rate. To fight these problems, Jaime presented the South Bronx Greenway master plan, which creates green spaces along roads. She also mentioned the Bronx Environmental Stewardship training, which would help provide jobs.

The second speaker was Adam Friedman from the Pratt Center for Community Development. He spoke about building sustainable communities through creating jobs and helping local business grow. Adam mentioned that in order to have productivity in a community, we need both environmentalism and economic development, and he mentioned that sustainability requires economic diversity and behavioral change.

Adam discussed the pros and cons to PlaNYC. He said that its strengths were in raising awareness, dealing with issues involving mass transit, energy, public health, and that it provided economic strategy. However, he mentioned that PlaNYC did not do anything to change economic trends in income disparity because it didn’t deal with direct job creation, zoning and space for green collar jobs, and living wages.

Adam proposed a number of plans to help fill in the gaps of PlaNYC. One of them was the Block by Block program, which had the goal of making neighborhoods more sustainable by changing housing. The changes in housing would reduce energy consumption and costs, while raising affordability and public health.

Another plan that Adam mentioned was the Sustainable Community Development: Houses of Worship. The goal of this project was to promote sustainable neighborhoods by creating jobs, promote sustainable practice, and to strengthen neighborhood institutions. The plan talks about houses of worship, that usually have lots of vacant space during the week, renting their space out to small businesses in order to help local business grow and thrive, while bringing the community together.

Community Voices 1: Energy and Green Living
| April 27, 2010 | 11:54 am | Community Voices #1: Energy and Green Living, Uncategorized | Comments closed

The first common event for CHC 250 comprised of two speakers, Jamie Stein from Sustainable South Bronx and Adam Friedman from the Pratt Center, both of whom spoke of methods to increase environmentally green living in NYC. Environmentally conscious living can be accomplished in various ways, specifically by creating equal share of the burden of city living (waste, pollution, to name a few factors) and by increasing the number of jobs in green manufacturing so as to provide a financial incentive for lower class residents to start adopting environmentally responsible practices as well.

Jamie Stein spoke at length about the South Bronx, an area of NYC subject to industry practices that are deleterious to human health. This portion of the Bronx specifically fell victim to industry because it is comprised of a population that has limited political power and representation: low-income minorities. Sewage plants and highways are the main pollutants in the area. The main thoroughfare that has contributed heavily to pollution is the Cross Bronx Expressway, which was not constructed in a practical area. Connecting to Seminar 3’s classroom discussions, Robert Moses chose the ultimate, current route, even though in certain segments, a more more convenient pathway one block south could have been built with more ease. It is increasingly baffling as to why the South Bronx was subject to this overwhelming infrastructure project considering it ultimately proved expensive with just one mile of asphalt totaling $40,000,000. Of course, high costs are most likely linked to construction workers having to building around the Grand Concourse (an existing major highway), a subway line, and an above ground train line. The highway prompted all but the poorest residents to relocate elsewhere. Currently, the South Bronx is plagued by childhood rates of asthma higher than in other NYC areas, decreased property values, and heavy traffic. With regards to the issue of heavy traffic plaguing the South Bronx, Jamie Stein unveiled the city’s approval to transport waste in barges instead of trucks. Considering that 145,000 vehicles traverse the Cross Bronx Expressway daily, this is only a start to decreasing heavy traffic flow.

With the broken windows theory in mind, other polluting industries settled into the South Bronx. The New York Organic Fertilizer Company (NYOFC) moved in and added injurious byproducts, from the city sludge to fertilizer process, to the surrounding air. Of course, Stein’s main point of environmental injustice hit home when she related that 100% of the Bronx’s garbage is destined for the South Bronx, in addition to 40% of the city’s trash. Stein proposes that to mitigate the injustice, new landfill sites be erected in in affluent neighborhoods such as the Upper East Side.

After Stein concluded, Adam Friedman approached the same issue of creating a more sustainable New York City. He approached this on a variety of scales: community-wide, individual, residential, and commercial. He suggested that communities can take a larger role in adopting environmentally friendly practices by converting certain institutions such as churches into more energy efficient buildings/organizations. Since certain institutions have more personal meaning, perhaps this would inspire residents to maintain these beneficial changes longer, and incorporate green living tips in their own homes. On an individual level, Friedman showed how impactful we can be. He specifically gave the staggering statistic of four million plastic cups being used by airlines every day in the US–one speculates how easily this could be mitigated if passengers could bring their own containers or simply refused a drink.

In terms of commercial reform, Friedman suggested that by creating green manufacturing–factories that create products from recycled waste, there would be two advantages: the creation of jobs for low-income residents and decreasing waste. Of course, this method also would hopefully elevate these factory workers to middle class, and this would be provide financial incentive for the workers’ and their families to join the green movement. This ties in to Stein’s topic of environmental injustice which addressed poor neighborhoods as a factor. With the creation of a middle class, hopefully this would result in a more educated, empowered community that could represent its issues to their respective politicians. Then, a solution is more feasible if there is communication between the community and local authorities.

In terms of residential fixes, Friedman advocates retrofitting buildings. This is preferable as opposed to virtually reconstructing a house. Retrofitting refers to increasing energy efficiency of buildings by adding insulation to keep heating costs down, adding ventilation to decrease an A/C bill, and other cost- and energy-saving changes. This also ties in with Seminar 3, specifically the final project my group presented, which was about retrofitting the Macaulay Building. We suggested that solar panels be installed on the roof, as well as the above mentioned suggestions. When tackling practicality, we pointed to government subsidies that reduced or eliminated the cost of installing solar panels. If we could just start following Stein’s and Friedman’s suggestions, then environmentally sustainable New York City buildings and neighborhoods are certainly viable. Of course, the backing of residents and any other important individuals or groups needs to be ascertained, which will hopefully occur as more speakers like Stein and Friedman educate communities.

By Patricia Paredes

Community Voice # 1 Energy and Green Living
| April 23, 2010 | 12:33 am | Community Voices #1: Energy and Green Living | Comments closed

At the Macaulay Community Voices, Jamie Stein from Sustainable South Bronx, and Adam Friedman from the Pratt Center spoke about improvements that can make New York City more sustainable. Jamie Stein introduced her presentation with a short clip titled “Breathe Easy” about the two children living in the South Bronx. In this clip, the children touched upon issues that affected their community, specifically the issue of increased asthma due to pollution from trucking. This clip brought up the issue of environmental injustice where a community like the
South Bronx faces increased burden because of race and class.

After the clip, Jamie Stein provided a short history on how the South Bronx became subject to environmental injustice. She linked the decline of the community to Robert Moses’ highways that caused urban sprawl. Because of the decreasing populations and redlining, the community became an undesirable place to live and without a voice, the community was targeted by industry. Areas like Hunts Point in the South Bronx inevitably started taking in 40% of the city’s sewage because of environmental injustice. Companies such as the NYOFCO set up plants that burned city sludge into fertilizer, which polluted the surrounding atmosphere with nitrogenous wastes and toxic chemicals. Residents who could not afford to leave the area were forced to live in the polluted community and could do little about it.

Jamie Stein expressed how unfair it was that this community had to take in such a large percentage of the city’s sewage. She spoke about the Sustainable South Bronx as an organization whose aim is to prevent such injustices. Started by Majora Carter, the organization has developed many projects to improve the community. Jamie Stein described how the organization succeeded in distributing sewage and waste more uniformly around New York City to relieve the burden in Hunts Point. In addition, she also mentioned other projects the organization has worked on, including the restoration of the Hunts Point waterfront and the establishment of different outreach programs. She mentioned training programs like BEST that reach out to low-income community members who need second chances. Such training programs train participants in sustainable development giving them many new opportunities to help their community.

After Jamie Stein concluded, Adam Friedman introduced his presentation with art from Chris Jordan. The pictures he displayed emphasized how much garbage an average human makes per day. Adam Friedman used these pictures to discuss ways to reduce pollution and excessive waste. He stressed that individuals have control as to how much garbage they produce by changing their behavior. The example he used was on gift-wrapping. By choosing not to wrap gifts, an individual can reduce the amount of waste he or she will produce and this will have cumulative impact on the environment.

In addition to waste reduction, Adam Friedman also discussed ways to improve the community. Mr. Friedman suggested for communities to engage in local renovation projects to increase sustainability by block. He emphasized that neighbors should join together to make changes to their block so that renovations would be cost efficient. Also, such retrofitting would decrease energy costs and increase public health affordability.

In addition to housing renovations, Adam Friedman discussed how social networks allow communities to work together to increase job availability. Mr. Friedman spoke about increasing job support by incubating small businesses within existing usable spaces. By using local church kitchens for example, small startup restaurants can gain the jumpstart they need as a business. Through this description of job development, Adam Friedman also started talking about planNYC. He criticized Mayor Bloomberg’s plan for 2030 in which he claimed that it did not make provisions for employment and land use.

At the end of Adam Friedman’s talk, he mentioned a few challenges to the sustainability movements. One issue he described was that people of higher class have more influence over law, which is a problem in getting things done. In addition, a second problem he described was how subsidy negatively impacts an individual’s decision making. These challenges must be overcome in order to make improved movements toward sustainability.

From this community voices event, an understanding of the challenges of sustainable development was gained. Through Jamie Stein’s talk, we learned about environmental injustice around the city and the efforts being made by the Sustainable South Bronx to alleviate the problems. In addition, from Adam Friedman’s talk, we learned about how important an individual’s behavior and networks are in developing sustainable habits in a community. These discussions were helpful for development of future plans for a sustainable New York City.

Common Event #1: Energy and Green Living
| April 17, 2010 | 9:15 am | Community Voices #1: Energy and Green Living | Comments closed

The “Green Living and Community Planning Community Voices” event featured two speakers, Jaime Stein from Sustainable South Bronx, and Adam Friedman from the Pratt Center for Community Development. The event focused on different aspects of environmentalism and sustainability and how these different components are interwoven.

Stein’s lecture involved environmental justice, using the South Bronx as the main example. Environmental justice is the equal sharing of environmental burdens, such as pollution or waste management. The concept came about as a result of poor, underserved communities, such as the South Bronx, having to take on the burdens of the negative effects of industrial processes. Stein specifically mentioned NYOFC, which is the New York Organic Fertilizer company. The factory was built in the South Bronx to convert sludge into fertilizer. Since the factory was located in the South Bronx, it created repercussions for the community. Putting facilities such as these creates environmental justice problems. The factory created air pollution and other environmental problems that led to health problems such as obesity, asthma. The South Bronx was a neighborhood that was especially susceptible to environmental justice problems because so much industry was concentrated in the area.

Stein discussed some of the ways that environmental justice could be addressed. One of these ways was changing land use patterns to share environmental burdens. One example was setting up waste management facilities in many different neighborhoods regardless of their social or economic standing, such as on the Upper East Side. She also emphasized the importance of understanding the repercussions planning policies can have. For example, the shutting down of Fresh Kills landfill caused NYC to ship its waste to other areas. Transport of this waste by trucks would create problems, especially for the neighborhoods that these trucks were stationed in and had to pass through. Transport by barge would alleviate some of these problems, and solutions like these are important to recognize when planning policies. Another main point Stein made was the creation of jobs for individuals with low incomes in overburdened communities. The Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training program was one example of how jobs could be created. By teaching individuals certain skills that would promote sustainability, individuals would be more likely to see the economic benefits of a sustainable environment and be more willing to make personal sacrifices such as using less paper cups, because they are more aware of how sustainability can help them economically.

Adam Friedman’s presentation further elaborated on this idea of economic development and environmentalism. Economic growth and environmentalism need to go hand in hand to obtain the highest output with the least input. Sustainability requires a behavior change and a change in values along with economic practicality. People will be more willing to change their beliefs and values about the environment if they are fully aware of the economic benefits of sustainability. According to Friedman, the creation of jobs that promote sustainability is very important. He mentioned the PlanNYC 2030 plan and how it failed to provide for the growth in income disparity and creation of jobs for the local economy. The plan made no linkage between economic development and sustainability, and without this linkage it is difficult for people to accept sustainability policies such as using less paper or plastic. The manufacturing sector can be sustainable by following economic principles. Friedman used the term “Green Manufacturing” to describe this idea. Green manufacturing is manufacturing that has a small impact on the environment and uses minimal resources to still produce a high output of products. Friedman believed that small businesses were especially capable of doing this.

Friedman also focused on the importance of individual impact. He used Chris Jordan’s photograph of the amount of plastic cups used on airlines every six hours to illustrate this. Individual efforts to make a community green and sustainable can have large impacts on the environment. Friedman discussed the use of energy audits, retrofits, block-by-block analysis of the energy use of houses rather than analyzing house at a time, and fixing churches to make them more environmentally friendly.

Friedman and Stein both stressed the importance of the practicality of green living. Planning and initiative, the demand side of the equation, needs to focus on the importance of individual impact, which can be accomplished by training people in jobs that promote sustainability. This leads to sustainable production and green manufacturing, which makes up the supply side. People then realize the economic benefits of a green community, and work towards achieving sustainability. This leads to sustainable community development.

Friedman and Stein presented a practical model to achieve green living, and one that I believe could have positive impacts. By focusing on the economics of sustainability and environmentalism, it would be easier to show people that they can benefit from forming sustainable communities, and they would be more willing to change their behavior and values to work towards that goal.

Community Voices #1
| April 3, 2010 | 12:17 pm | Community Voices #1: Energy and Green Living | Comments closed

The first Community Voices event at the Macaulay Honors College featured two speakers, Jamie Stein of Sustainable South Bronx, and Adam Friedman of the Pratt Center for Community Development. Together, these two guests contributed to a night of discussion on “Energy and Clean Living,” which focused on environmental justice and green economic development.

Being an employee of Sustainable South Bronx, Ms. Stein focused her lecture on the foundations and progress of the organization, which was started by Majora Carter after seeing the deplorable state of the Bronx River in that neighborhood. Ms. Carter started the organization with the goal of creating a green recreational space built around the waterfront for residents of the South Bronx. The surrounding neighborhood of Hunt’s Point, had been a victim of environmental injustice, which is the unfair burdening of environmental problems concentrated in one particular area. These environmental issues eventually led to health problems for the residents of this area, including some of the highest asthma and obesity rates in the city. The goal of SSB was to counterbalance the air problems of this neighborhood, so as to alleviate its harmful effects and beautify the region. After much time and energy, Ms. Carter eventually achieved her goal, and established Riverside Park in the South Bronx.

Ms. Stein also discussed environmental justice in terms of solid waste and energy. That is, when looking at a map of New York City’s garbage disposal, it becomes apparent that a few neighborhoods unfairly receive much more trash and devote more space to landfill than other areas. For example, Bronx Community 1 and 2 take in 40% of the city’s trash, and 100% of all trash from the Bronx. This has led to environmental hazards in these areas, and contributes to residents’ declining health, not unlike that of people living in Hunt’s Point. Ms. Stein explained one solution to this problem, which was to more evenly distribute trash-collecting sites around the city, even possibly adding locations in Chelsea and the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She also explained the possibility of switching to barges instead of trucks to collect trash, which would reduce not only land pollution, but also traffic due to sanitation trucks. Concerning energy and environmental justice, Ms. Stein discussed the problems with dirty power plants that are used in specific parts of the city. She did not, however, offer a clear solution to this problem. Overall, her discussion was focused on distributing the burdens of environmental problems all around the city, and cleaning up those areas that have been unjustly affected.

The second speaker, Mr. Friedman, focused more on job opportunities and environmental economic development in the city. He explained that New York has a very wide gap in income, with many people having high-paying jobs and many having low-paying jobs, with a shrinking middle class. As the Director of the Pratt Center, Mr. Friedman’s job is to locate environmentally-friendly economic opportunities for residents of the city. A large portion of this consists of green manufacturing; that is, there is much potential to create jobs that not only enhance the city’s environment, but also its economy. Mr. Friedman elucidated this with examples of using recycled glass to make “granite” tops and recycled cork that can be used for flooring, both of which have been used in many buildings in Brooklyn already. The main message he was trying to get across was that jobs can be formed by creating a market for recycled products, especially in construction. He explained that a lot of money can be saved by making such adjustments, as predicted by an “Energy Audit.” Although this process is slow and gradual, vast improvements can be made to the city over time, with the additional benefits of job creation for city residents.

These speakers, although in different fields and performing different tasks, both have in common the need to improve our city’s environment. Though they take different routes to get to the same place, they both excellently demonstrated the processes by which change can be made. They also both illustrated their ideas with real-life examples of their progress in the city. Overall, their positive messages and steadfast attitudes left their audience feeling inspired and hopeful for New York City’s future.

The Green Living and Community Planning Community Voices Event
| March 18, 2010 | 12:01 am | Community Voices #1: Energy and Green Living | Comments closed

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.