Memo 1 redo: waste-to-energy and NYC policy

To: Prof. MacBride
From: Jenny Lee
Date: Feb. 17th (hehe)
Re: Research Paper Topic Proposal

For my research paper, I would like to take a look at NYC’s current policies and plans about/around waste-to-energy and critically review them. I guess it’s first outlining and describing what is in place, answering “what steps is the govt. taking right now and to what goal?” and then judging feasibility, efficiency, and possible other options for “is there a better way to approach this?”
For find the information needed, I will use the NYC Department of Sanitation site. Then, I’ll look into publications/editorials for professional opinions, readings and resources provided by you through this website, and search through the library’s databases if necessary.

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Memo1: Waste to Energy; Sweden vs NYC

To: Professor MacBride
From: Narciso Correa
Date: 2/14/13
Re: Memo #1

In my research paper, I will try to determine the reasons for why, despite its large success, has a waste to management system yet to be implemented in one of the largest waste producing cities in the world, NYC. To find the answer to this question, I will thoroughly profile Sweden’s Ecocycle program, one of the most efficient waste to energy systems currently in operation in the world. By studying Swedish government data and private research data, I will provide a detailed explanation of the program’s implementation and expand on the program and logistics of running such a system. I will then try to determine aspects of the waste to energy system in Sweden that might make it incompatible with NYC, paying special attention to NYC politics, culture and economy.

I plan on using data from the Swedish government to find out more about their Ecocycle program. One problem that I might encounter is that their data may be in Swedish and I may have to resort to secondary sources. With regard to obtaining data about NYC politics/economy I will consult the various arrays of data filled government websites available to the public. To determine cultural implications on waste to energy in NYC, if time permits then I may conduct a survey. But if not I will rely on the numerous surveys about environmentalism that are available through Baruch’s Databases.

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Memo 1 – Research Topic: Urban Farming

To: Professor MacBride

From: Jessica Lin

Date: February 13, 2013

Re: Urban Farming in NYC

I plan to explore rooftop farming in New York City. Since New York City is an urban setting full of buildings and skyscrapers, there are many buildings capable of supporting rooftop farms. Rooftop agriculture is a self-sustaining method to provide food locally to its residents. It maximizes our resources and space without invading the city life. Benefits to local produce include fresher and nutritious food for you. But also, urban farming can help to cool and control temperatures, and help to reduce water run off during storms. It helps to cool down buildings, which in turn reduces energy consumption.

I would like to explore the methods of urban agriculture, find information on the rooftop farms that already exist in areas like the Bronx and Brooklyn, and see what future plans exist. If rooftop farming is implemented throughout the entire city, what benefits and results will it have, statistically, on the amount of people it can feed, the estimated overall temperature reduction, and money saved from energy consumption. I think a good source of information would be to visit the sites that already exist, such as Brooklyn Grange or Bright Farms. I may have some trouble trying to collect statistics since urban agriculture is still a fairly recent development.

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Memo 1: Soot Pollution and Government Mitigation

To: Professor MacBride
From: Steven Sklyarevskiy
Date: 2/13/13
Re: Changing heating methods in NYC due to soot pollution

Fuel lobbies seem to be under the impression that clever names like “clean coal” and green, flowery designs are enough to make people overlook the harmful side-effects the have. However, it will take more than a good PR team to make New Yorkers overlook the dark plumes of soot that even billow out of their own buildings.

The EPA and Mayor Bloomberg have recently put out plans to reduce harmful soot pollution that have led to countless ailments including asthma and cancer. Although some may see this as a step in the right direction, a large amount of NYC infrastructure is out-of-date and would either have to cut down on the heat it produces or be overhauled to be able to handle other types of fuel. In my paper, I plan to research the way that poor and middle class apartment buildings produce heat, the harmful effects that the soot and other by-products have, and the plans put forward to prevent them, whether those plans are feasible and effective.

I plan on using online databases and articles for most of my research but I am also considering reaching out to the EPA, somebody in the NYC government, or even an ordinary landlord for an more human perspective.

The role that Mayor Bloomberg and the federal government play will determine if their plans will make things better or worse. Are they planning on just putting caps on soot polluted or will they actively be helping these old building come into the 21st century?

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Memo 1: Public transportation pollution mitigation

To: Professor MacBride
From: Raymond Wang
Date: 2/13/13
Re: Ground level public transportation pollution mitigation in New York City

Public transportation is an integral part of commuting in New York City. The MTA has been consciously improving pollution output for all their methods of public transportation. I will be focusing on such transportation on the ground level, e.g. buses and the rail system. As many daily commuters may have noticed, buses are considered to be “hybrid” nowadays, running both on fuel and electricity. The rail system such as the Long Island Rail Road and MetroNorth both have improved train cars to help facilitate “green” public transportation. I take a bus daily for about six years and observed the changes in vehicles. I also rode the rail system often for about two years and saw the improved train cars compared to the older ones.

My topic as a question would be “How has ground level public transportation improved to help mitigate pollution in New York City?” I will be researching how the MTA has tried to improve their public transportation. This includes improvements that favor going “green.” Such information is publicly available as the MTA tries to update commuters of incoming changes. I will also look into what further improvements are planned for buses and the rail system. Technology today is changing rapidly and upgrades to the current buses and train cars are definitely planned for the future. I will also attempt to find how changes are being made not to the vehicles to themselves but everything else such as dedicated bus lanes that prevent buses from stopping as often to conserve gas. Researching about said topics will definitely enlighten me about how the city is attempting to become more environmentally friendly.

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Memo 1: PlaNYC’s initiatives on solid waste management

To: Professor MacBride

From: Yana Manevich, Michelle Guo, Sean Proctor

Date: February 13, 2013

RE: Research Proposal – PlaNYC on solid waste management

For our research project, our group is interested in delving deeper into PlaNYC’s sustainability initiatives, specifically in the area of solid waste management. Since there are three of us in the group, each of us will tackle one or two of the specific initiatives regarding solid waste management mentioned in the plan, and then work together to see how these initiatives come together to meet the city’s sustainability goals. We will learn about what the city plans to do to deal with this growing issue, track what the city’s progress thus far has been, and what setbacks it has experienced or can potentially experience. Our multi-part research question, therefore, is “Under PlaNYC – what specific initiatives has the city undertaken to address issues of solid waste management? Has there been any progress in this area since the conception of this plan? Has the city run into any economic, legal, or social setbacks (i.e. public resistance) in trying to carry out these initiatives?”

In conducting our research, we initially plan to consult the PlaNYC official government page – – where we will read through the solid waste section of the report that the city has published and try to narrow our research down by selecting a specific initiative or two for each person to focus on. From there, we will do background research on the proposals of each specific initiative to learn more about it. We will also consult the various progress reports that the city has periodically published regarding their efforts to see whether they have been on track with their goals, what sort of problems they have run into, and their plans for dealing with those setbacks. We also plan to look through scientific journals and Baruch’s scientific databases to find outside professional opinions on either the particular methods of solid waste management mentioned in the initiatives or on the initiative as a whole to get a well-rounded view of the issues.


Memo 1: Green Roofs against Climate Change

To: Professor MacBride

From: Hye Min Lee

Date: February 13, 2013

Re: Research Paper Topic Proposal- Green Roof as NYC’s Adaptation to Climate Change in the Future

Topic I will be researching is green infrastructure, specifically green roofs in New York City buildings as a way of mitigating the effects of climate change in the future. I will be focusing on one effect in particular: urban heat island.

One of the major growing environmental concerns is the global temperature rise. This gradual rise in temperature especially affects urban areas like New York City, simply because there are a lot more activities going on, crowded with buildings and people. Observations have shown that temperatures in cities are higher than that of their surrounding areas, which is more commonly referred to as the urban heat island effect. I will be researching, examining, and questioning how affective green roofs would be in reducing temperature while bringing more nature into the city in the years to come. How practical would it be to plant green roofs citywide taking the cost, long-term maintenance, and safety into consideration?

I have begun my basic general search via Google. I want to first gain a greater understanding of how rapidly temperatures are rising and the gravity of the detrimental effects of the changing climates. I will be looking at several New York Times articles as well as research papers related to green roofs. Germany is one of the leaders in the world’s green roof industry so I will also be looking into their system, any difficulties, improvements its cities have experienced after green roof installation. I will also be looking at growing green roofs right here in the United States including Chicago and Washington, D.C. Mayor Bloomberg is a strong advocate of this kind of infrastructure and several green roof legislation and tax incentives have been put into place to encourage more green so I will be researching those as well.


How New York Infrastructure Adapts to Climate Shifts

To: Professor MacBride
From: Derek Ku
Date: 2/13/13
Re: Infrastructure of New York City.

As natural disasters become more frequent, scientists are attributing these occurrences to drastically rising temperatures and sea levels. New Yorkers are investing in infrastructure and technologies that will prevent and mitigate climate change. I will find relevant data and charts by looking through scholarly and news articles regarding the damages inflicted upon New York City during natural disasters related to the changing climate. I will be analyzing climate trends, water levels, and temperatures to determine which problems to tackle first.

I’m really fascinated by New York City infrastructure: New York City is a city of tunnels. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, we were affected by the floodwater. The water affected the transit system and damaged the water and electric infrastructure leaving Lower Manhattan stranded without any power nor clean water. For example, some of the solutions for clean water sources in New York City was having the subways creating inflatable plugs filled with 35,000 gallons of water and preserving the Croton and Catskill/Delaware Watersheds. Tracking environment trends will allow New York to analyze and prioritize its next actions and its consequence.



Memo 1: The Future of Composting in NYC

To: Professor MacBride

From: Kelly Wu

Date: February 13, 2013

Re: Research Topic Proposal-The Future of Composting in New York City

My topic for this paper will concern the feasibility and adaptability of a widespread composting program in New York City. Disposal of food comprises much of the city’s waste, and investigating in sustainable methods to transform organic matter into something useful is worthy of exploration. Furthermore, the controversy concerning landfills and environmental justice clearly calls for a much healthier and safer method of waste management.

I would like to explore the challenges and obstacles of composting in such a unique place like New York City. Ultimately, I would like to answer the question: how would New York City implement a large scale composting program in the future? In order to answer this question, I would need to conduct research concerning the history and background of composting. What are the advantages and disadvantages of composting in New York City? Which method of composting (vermicomposting, aerobic composting, backyard composting, etc) is more beneficial to New York? Why has the city failed thus far in implementing a widespread composting program? Will alternatives such as landfills be a more efficient approach? Hopefully, by answering these questions, I will gain greater insight regarding the role of composting in the future of New York. I am also interested in comparing different successful composting programs around the world, and determine what features can be adapted into New York’s program.

For my research, I will start by looking at governmental websites such as and the U.S Environmental Protection Agency for background information regarding New York’s progress with composting thus far. I will also look at the NYC Department of Sanitation’s NYC Compost Project as well as visit different local compost project sites like the Lower East Side Ecology Center. I also discovered that there are compost sites at various Greenmarkets, which might prove to be yet another valuable resource in the future. In addition, I have looked at several environmental science databases such as Web of Science, ScienceDirect, and GreenFILE. I am concerned that my topic might be a bit general at the moment, but I am hopeful that it will become more specific as I delve deeper into my research.

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Memo 1: Research Topic: Virtual Trees

To: Professor MacBride
From: Richard Chan, Amanda Huang
Date: February 12, 2013
Re: Research Topic: Virtual Trees

I wish to conduct research about virtual trees. I am curious about the rather ambitious notion of capturing massive quantities of carbon dioxide for sequestration that also offers the opportunity for recreational usage. My question is: Is it feasible to “plant” enough virtual trees in New York City to offset the current rates of carbon dioxide emission of the city? “Feasibility” is a question of practicality of resources as well of environmental significance and distraction (akin to the argument of aesthetics about windmills), given its possibility to be a game-like recreational unit.

My general plan of research is to use online databases as a starting point for information. It will then be supplemented with some broad googling, to identify official websites pertaining to the businesses in question, to glean more knowledge. If at all possible, I could contact one of those persons, or their representative, if appropriate, for research as well as personal opinions. I expect plenty of resistance from superfluous journal articles (bar those that sit at the top of the search page, of course), and the information from websites could be limited, or worse inaccurate.

(On a side note, I did want to do a topic on methane extraction from landfills, but then I realized that there were no landfills in New York City, as per part of the requirements in the topic, and that trying to tie in the landfills that we do use would probably be a stretch. Also, there was a gaming element for the current proposal, so that would be hard to pass up.)

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Memo 1: Christopher Chang’s Research Topic Proposal

To: Samantha MacBride
From: Christopher Chang
Date: February 13th, 2013
Re: Research Paper Topic Proposal – Restructuring the subway platforms all over NYC

One of the greatest systems in New York City, even though it is often times taken for granted, is the Subway. A complex network of tunnels and overhead tracks form the well renowned NYC subway system. However as of late, people have been finding major problems with our current subway system. Hurricane Sandy has made it blatantly clear that the MTA New York City Subway needs major changes. Immense flooding paralyzed the subway system and crippled travel between all of the boroughs, especially between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The research question I want to answer is “What can New York City do to strengthen the subway system and prevent a transit collapse again?” The topic I want to more closely pursue is train doors on every platform at every underground station in the five boroughs. The idea of doors closing off the platforms when trains aren’t at the station is not revolutionary. It is currently used in Korea. But, the NYC subway system is much more complex. So, I would be looking more into how it would work in NYC and what kind of results it can produce.

The way I will go about my research is to first research the platform doors themselves. I will look at different countries, especially Korea, to see when they were installed and how effective they have been. Looking to the MTA for information will be paramount in finding out if a plan like train doors at platforms underground will be possible. Researching companies that dealt with manufacturing and installing these doors may also be helpful.

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Memo 1: Vertical Farming in NYC

To: Professor MacBride
From: Jessica Piccolino
Date: 2/13/13
Re: Research Topic Proposal

In a metropolis as distinguished and prosperous as New York City it is essential to design an efficient and effective system of managing the urban food cycle. Along with such a booming population arises the obligation to grow enough food to feed this increase in people and to provide more suitable land for raising crops. However, traditional farming practices require much more land than the earth has to give in order to feed it’s inhabitants. A potential solution to this problem is vertical farming, which involves indoor farming and employing the use of progressive technologies that is inexpensive, safe, and simple to create.

In my research, I plan to focus on the role that vertical farming can play in the future of New York City, and how the concept can provide a sustainable and reliable food supply, as well as restore sites that have been forfeited for traditional farming. In order to conduct my research, I will read Dickson Despommier’s book “The Vertical Farm” on feeding the world in the 21st century and look to his website as well. I will also look into the challenges of vertical farming and watch many talk videos and presentations by speakers on the topic of vertical farming.

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Comments on Edson’s Project, the First to be Posted!


First, thanks for being the first to post.  You have chosen a terrific project idea, and yours is an example for others to follow.

In this regard, let me strongly suggest that you now narrow down the focus of your topic to one particular aspect of NYC subways in an era of climate change.   Choosing a focus topic will still give you room to get a broad, historical and comparative overview of the issue (which you have proposed very well) but will keep you from being drawn off in too many directions.   A suggestion for narrowing focus might be on the issue of flooding in the subway system, or even flooding on a particular line or station.  You can always adjust if you go to narrow, but normally students thank me for pushing them to narrow and specify early.

All students should keep this in mind.  In addition, Edson will be able to blend his research with the assigned readings (and optional readings) we are covering during Week 8, which will help him and enhance the class.  As you conduct your research, try to maximize the resources already covered in class.

Great work Edson!  Let me know when you have refined your focus.

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Proposal – Air Pollution from Transportation Methods in New York City

To:                   Professor Samantha MacBride

From:              Megan Chiu

Date:               February 10, 2013

Re:                   Research Paper Topic Proposal – Air Pollution from Transportation Methods in New York City

For my paper, my overall research question is, how has air pollution in New York City changed as new forms of transportation have emerged and improved? I want to research the development of the modes of transportation in New York City. Specifically, I want to look at the history and increase in use of cars, trains, and buses throughout the city. This will help bring awareness to New Yorkers about how impactful or harmful certain types of transportation are to the environment and bring light to the technological efforts companies and agencies are making to reduce emissions.

My research data will be comprised of statistics directly from different agencies. I will look to the MTA for information on train and bus emissions and commuter statistics. I will look to the New York City Department of Transportation for its “Citywide Congested Corridors Studies” and similar studies for information about vehicular emissions. I want to examine the emission levels from cars over time.

I also want to see if there is any correlation between new “green” movements in transportation technology and overall air pollution levels. Furthermore, I plan to look for government agency reports, primarily from the United States Environmental Protection Agency if they are available, for information on the overall air quality and its relationship to climate change.


Memo 1.- NYC Subway: goals and challenges for the 21st century.

To: Professor MacBride
From: Edson Flores
Date: Feb/12/2013
Re: Research topic proposal.

One of the things that sets New York City apart from other major cities is its public transportation system. However, as a saying goes: a city is as good as its subway system. The NYC subway, as convenient as it is, was shown to be vulnerable in the wake of hurricane Sandy, paralyzing the city and leaving thousands of New Yorkers stranded and immobilized.

In my research I plan to focus on the future of the New York City subway system, what challenges does it face today and what others is it likely to face in the long run. Particularly I am interested in the cost/benefit trade off of modernizing the subway system. What impact did hurricane Sandy have on the MTA’s plans for the New York City subway? Given the antiquity of the subway tunnels and stations, what measures are viable to modernize and reduce the vulnerability against the effects of nature of the subway system?  An interesting project to look at is the ongoing construction of Second avenue subway line, is it being built following a different approach towards efficiency and sustainability?

In order to conduct my research I first must delve into the history of the New York City subway. For this I will consult books written about the subject and also visit the New York Transit Museum to take a look at their archives. Once I attain sufficient background, I will contact the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the New York Department of Transportation for further reference and professional commentary. Additionally, I will look at the different metro systems from major cities around the world and find out what is being done there to improve public transportation via subway; what trends in modern subway systems exist, what environmental measures are being established and following in the construction of subways. I will compare and contrast the other subways with NYC’s and identify what elements could be implemented in New York to overall enhance our subway system.

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Choosing a research topic – Memo 1

PLEASE NOTE:  The memo is due no later than 10:30 PM on 2/13, as per the course calendar.

Your topic must take up the question of the “Future of New York City”, addressing the notion of “the future” from the standpoint of the future of nature and society, not just your own life.  You will propose your topic by submitting  a new post in the “Proposals” Category, which falls under “Research.”

Full instructions on how to propose are in Written Assignment Details.

If you wish to do a group project instead of an individual one, you may, but you will all need to prepare individual presentations that can be merged into one large presentation, and you will all need to submit individual research papers written only by you.

Here are suggestions for topics and links to get you started.  If you choose one of these topics, you will still need to to formulate a research question and explain how you will do the research, per the instructions for Memo 1.

You are of course free to, and encouraged to, select another topic.  Ask me questions earlier rather than later.  Don’t wait until the last minute.

Ideas for Topics:

Floodgates, Barriers, and other Human-Engineered Structures to Protect NYC’s Waterfront Neighborhoods.

The Wetland: from Detested Swamp to Heroic Protector.  The History and Future of Wetlands in NYC.

Braving the Elements:  Plans to Heat and Cool Vulnerable Populations in Times of Crisis in NYC

Virtual Trees:  Gaming and Post-Modernism in an Era of Climate Change.

The Urban Food Cycle: Vertical and Rooftop Farming, Sustainable Cuisine, and Composting as a Future Way of Life in NYC.

Energy from Waste – Solution or Scourge for New York City?  The Re-Emergence of Waste-to-Energy as Public Policy in 21st Century New York City.

As always, contact me with questions.




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