During the last week of July Living City DC took a boat trip down the Anacostia River with the Material and Resource Sustainability Interns from Howard University. The trip shed light onto the harmful impact of people living in DC on the Anacostia River. The Anacostia Watershed Society provided this explanation of the watershed:
“Water falling inside the yellow boundary in the form of rain or snow drains into the Anacostia River and its tributaries. In turn, the Anacostia carries that water into the Potomac River where it eventually flows into the Chesapeake Bay.”
Washington DC has a combined sewage overflow system. This means that when there is a heavy rain, the rainwater and raw sewage both dump straight into the river. The Anacostia Watershed society elaborated upon this point by stating, “Each year, Washington’s antiquated combined sewer system dumps over 2 billion gallons of raw sewage and storm water directly into the river. Recent efforts have begun to reduce this overflow volume. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than 20,000 tons of trash and debris enter the Anacostia’s waters each year.”
Due to this pollution, the river is unsafe to use for swimming or fishing. In fact, 2/3 of all of the catfish in the river have tumors due to the high level of pollutants. The photo below shows the Howard University Interns observing the contamination in the Anacostia River.
By Victoria Vele, Social Media & Water Intern
As many Gowanus residents remember in 2007 a whale by the name of Sludgie made its way into the Gowanus Bay. Sludgie, a baby Minke whale, tragically did not last long in the polluted waters near the Canal. Since then there have only been whale sittings periodically…until now. It is an exciting time in New York when off of the New York Harbor, dolphins, seals, and whales are returning in large numbers. Last year, scientists recorded seeing 6 species of whales including the Humpback, Blue, and Fin whales off the coasts of Staten Island, Coney Island, and the Rockaways. With that, aquatic recreation as increased as well, with whale and dolphin watching boat tours. Sighting this type of marine wildlife in the Harbor is not anything new; however, it is the frequency, numbers, and diversity that’s so impressive.
Sarah Chasis, a staff blogger for the Natural Resource Defense Council, was quick to see the return of whales and other marine life as a huge development and a testament to how far the water quality in New York’s surrounding bays and oceans has come over the past few decades (Chasis, 2011). Water quality is becoming an even more important issue to the city of New York.
PlaNYC has even stated that mitigating new threats to our watershed and enhancing water quality will be one of their highest priorities. Looking into the future, the proposed 2011-2012 budget by Governor Cuomo puts aside $5 million for ocean conservation in an effort to improve marine life and protect the waters around New York. These two governmental plans will provide much need attention to the growing marine life around the harbor. A long with the public’s growing interest in marine life, the New York government has the opportunity to improve and develop the waterfront and activities around the harbor.
Closing in on our second to last summer intern meeting, Rich, Ben, and I gathered around the conference table to enjoy some mango and rabbit-shaped graham crackers, with our fearless leader, Vanessa. These weekly rendezvous have been a chance for interns and staff to discuss goals and successes, obstacles and setbacks – to celebrate and troubleshoot together. Sadly, David Krieger’s last day in the office was Wednesday. But soon we should have a new Community Director to spearhead our community initiatives.
Vanessa is actively searching for fall interns to help spearhead our working groups around resource efficiency and building improvements, green infrastructure and stormwater, innovative and sustainable economic development, and urban agriculture and local food. We are also looking for people interested in working on public art and space projects. Fall is looking to be a very busy time – and part of the adventure is meeting and working with new people.
Summer has been an amazing time as we get to understand the history and present-day context of Gowanus and South Brooklyn, brainstorm with our neighbors and experts during the community innovation workshop, and begin building coalitions around community priorities. We have accomplished quite a bit in the past few months, but there is still much to do to make our vision a reality. Our next steps include forming working groups, building up relationships with businesses and residents of Gowanus, and going after sponsorship and financial support for longer-term operations in the neighborhood. We are confident that with the continued support from the community we’ll be able to see this vision through, creating a livable city one block at a time.
All cities are not created equal. Each is designed, developed, and actually constructed at different points in time. This affects architecture, building stock, and even the people who live there. Urban transformation is inevitable because people have evolving needs. We are challenged with maintaining a balanced ecosystem through every urban development (new or old). The video I’ve decided to post this week is by Lilium Urbanus, a collaborative senior thesis project by Anca Risca and Joji Tsuruga, recent graduates of the School of Visual Arts. These two individuals may not be urban planners or environmentalists, but have chosen to use their digital talents in urban design and animation. The video envisions “the city of the future” starting as a seed growing into a sprout transforming into a village and finally becoming the metropolis of the future. However, each metropolis of the future cannot be created from one seed because then you we just have an overgrown forest that could not sustain itself. In your minds, what does this seed represent? Furthermore, we have so many existing urban areas that building new cities would be a tremendous waste of resources compared to redeveloping existing cities to be more environmentally friendly.
So what exactly is Lillum Urbanus exactly saying? Do current cities have no future? Will the growth of cities eventually create a life where people are connected by trains, cars, and tunnels without seeing the light of day?
You have to admit that, although beautifully animated, there is something strangely creepy about the idea of a city morphing into a flower, giving off the only form of light in the world. Risca and Joli allow your mind to wander in this video. There is definitely a transformation, but is this transformation good or bad? This video shows a very extreme example of what is currently happening with new concepts of urban design and what can be expected for the future. We like to believe that since all takes root from the seed, that the seed still has a place (the environment is not forgotten) as we continue expanding our communities and our cities limits.
It is with great sadness that we share that our good friend Luc Vrilojks passed away on Monday, August 1st while on vacation in Brazil. Luc was the founder and principal of Urban Progress Design, an urban planning and advisory company based out of New York and Amsterdam. With over 20 years of experience in the field, Luc worked in urban sustainability, development planning and city regeneration in Europe, the US and around the world. He recently worked with Living City Brooklyn Gowanus at our Community Innovation Workshop. Luc served as a facilitator and presenter on urban regeneration, with a focus on Community Planning and Green Infrastructure. More importantly, Luc has been an advisor and champion of the LCB project since its early days. Loosing his spirit, guidance, wisdom and friendship on LCBG leaves a hole in our work and a bigger hole in our hearts.
All of us at Living City Block will miss Luc and his thoughtful and passionate love of design, of planning and of all things urban and human.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Luc’s family and friends at this time.
As we say goodbye to several summer interns over the next couple of weeks, Living City Brooklyn Gowanus is anticipating an exciting autumn. Although seven interns will be moving on from LCB, we are excited to welcome our fall academic partnerships with NYU and Columbia. Learning that we would work with the talented faculty and students of both the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School for Public Service and the Columbia Business School Master Class on Sustainability and Business was great news!
Image Taken From NYU Website
These capstone projects will work with Living City Block to examine, question and refine its business methods and model and look more broadly at ways non‐profits can thrive in the sustainability sector. They will also examine ways to finance the actual projects in Gowanus. The projects are mainly focused on the fields of finance, management, non-profits, and policy and urban planning – many things we need to consider in order make our project a reality. While this research begins in earnest this September, we are organizing the larger LCB project around the outcomes and findings of our Community Innovation Workshop now. There’s lots of work to do before David Krieger and the summer interns depart to start a new academic year. David will be starting at NYU’s School of Business later this month and has been busy interviewing in search of a new Community Director for Living City Block to work with Vanessa as she continues to keep the project on track. The remainder of August is going to be a whirlwind of welcoming new faces and saying goodbye to our “golden oldies” from the beginning of our work.
If Gowanus were a superhero, who would it be? Would it have the quiet charm of Peter Parker, the mysterious nature of Bat Man, or would it be something completely original? Maybe its all the hype about this summer’s blockbuster, but perhaps a parallel to Marvel Comic’s Captain America is appropriate.
Captain America was the alter ego of Steve Rogers, a young man who was enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum in order to aid the United States war effort during WW2. Captain America changes from a scrawny kid to a powerful and unstoppable force through the use of new technology.
What if we isolated that last thought? Could Gowanus be transformed by technology to be a more livable community, with its own unique identity and innovative economic opportunities that help both people and the environment? Could Gowanus be transformed by new solar technology? Geothermal? Stormwater management? Urban design techniques?
Transformation makes a normal guy into our superhero Captain America. Can it do the same in Gowanus?
Image Take From GraphicDirt.com
As a post-industrial neighborhood, Gowanus has the ability to completely reinvent itself into the city of the future. In my opinion it’s not childish to associate Gowanus with a superhero or some imaginary character since that is exactly what we are doing- imagining. Living City Brooklyn Gowanus is envisioning, developing, and creating a plan with the help of local building owners, business owners, and residents that is going to change the way Gowanus functions. To that extent we are forming an environmentally aware, sustainably driven community that will help pave the way to the livable city of the future. Now that sounds like a great comic book idea…
On Saturday, Living City DC 14th & U and dc greenworks launched a project on the grounds of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Apartments and created a community garden. The garden creates a welcoming space for residents and the community to meet and will give the Paul Laurence Dunbar residents access to fresh flowers and produce. Many residents came out to participate and make the gardens a success.
When we left all of you on Monday, the interns were busy researching and writing their individual reports. Since we dedicated Monday’s post to talking about the research of Alexia, Eliza, Kristin, and myself, today we’d like to focus on the other half of our team. Rich, our newest intern, is currently reviewing plaNYC and the Gowanus Community Plan to understand what development proposals and priorities are for the Gowanus neighborhood. This directly relates to Rich’s academic curriculum at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in Urban Policy and Management, where Rich is approaching his second year.
Across the conference table sits Ben, whose NYU School of Law education has prepared him to take on almost anything. He often camps in the NYU library, a mecca for law students, to research whatever legal questions come his way (current focus: how the wholesale electricity market in NY works). Meanwhile, Anna has turned her attention to writing the Living City Brooklyn Energy Report. If you think that sounds like a fete, you wouldn’t be wrong; this energy report examines the feasibility of everything from wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric power in Gowanus. This past week, Anna finished her section on On-Site Energy Generation. We’re all excited to hear about that at our intern meeting!
Important Update:Sefaira will be helping Living City Brooklyn Gowanus model energy consumption of buildings in Gowanus! This is a huge leap forward for our work and we could not be happier to partner with such a great firm.
On July 30, Living City DC 14th & U launches a project on the grounds of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Apartments to create a community garden. The garden will create a welcoming space for residents and the community to meet and will give the Paul Laurence Dunbar residents access to fresh flowers and produce. To do this, Living City DC has partnered with dc greenworks.
This community garden serves many purposes concurrently. At face value, as a garden, it is a convenient source of interaction with nature and plants for the seniors living in the apartments, as well as a source of fresh produce. It also allows for young people in the community to build something of value within their own neighborhood, and provides a space for people from all parts of the LCDC 14th & U community to meet with the residents of the Dunbar Apartments.
In order to make this project a success, we need your help!
dc greenworks is providing garden planning and install expertise. dc greenworks is a non-profit social enterprise that serves the Washington, D.C. community by providing training, tools, and technologies that utilize, advance, and protect the environment. They have partnered with LCDC 14th & U and designed the gardens for the Paul Laurence Dunbar Apartments, which will be contained in raised planters to allow residents to grow and maintain the gardens while sitting, rather than bending down. dc greenworks is also a leading DC resource for green roofs and rain gardens, which serve to reduce hard surfaces around homes and other buildings.
JAIR LYNCH Development Partners and the Paul Laurence Dunbar Residents Association, Inc. are jointly redeveloping the Paul Laurence Dunbar Apartments. The two organizations jointly purchased the property in June of 2010 and refinanced it in June of 2011 with low-income housing tax credits and tax-exempt bonds in order to maintain it as affordable senior housing. JAIR LYNCH Development Partners is an urban regeneration company that specializes in the responsible transformation of urban markets.
As New York battled a scorcher last week, Living City Brooklyn Gowanus interns cranked our fans on high and kept working diligently on individual research projects. Since the workshop, Vanessa Meer, David Krieger, and rest of the LCB staff have been working on the Community Innovation Workshop Report, a document that will be released to the community in the next few weeks. This report compiles all of the suggestions, comments, and information that came out of the two-day Community Innovation Workshop last month. As David and Vanessa continue to polish that document, interns are researching areas that are of particular importance to the community and LCBG’s work.
Urban Agriculture interns, Alexia and Eliza, are spending their last weeks with LCBG working on two reports for the Gowanus area, Community Gardens and Green Roofs. These two reports will document what changes might occur in the neighborhood in order to maximize rooftop space for farming and gardening purposes. Their research took them to the S.W.I.M. Coalition meeting this morning where they were able to listen to representatives from Seeing Green, Design Trust, Five Borough Farm, and the Department of Environmental Protection. This rooftop farm gathering not only talked about the benefits of rooftop farming, but also possible tax incentives that could make the investment just a bit more attractive.
After returning to the office, Alexia and Eliza shared their excitement with Kristen and myself who have been working on ways to reduce CSOs and stormwater runoff into the canal. (We are just starting to collaborate on LCBG’s water quality report.) Kristin, who spent most of her time these past couple of weeks working on community outreach work is now switching gears to more scientific research. As we create a first draft for Vanessa and David to review this week, we’re also beginning to visualize different remediation efforts that could possibly become a reality in the neighborhood. Bioswales? Silt Fence? Sediment Trap? The sky is the limit when it comes to water.
Stay tuned tomorrow for Anna, Ben, and our newest intern Rich, explaining their research. We’ve got some great stuff coming out of 511 Court!
Carroll Street Station Image, Taken From Brooklyn Theory
Through the sweltering heat, the female members of the Living City Brooklyn team embarked on a journey to 22 2nd Street in Carroll Gardens. When we approached the brownstone the construction and NY Department of Buildings signage that was plastered on the front door made us realize we were in the right place. We received a warm greeting from the Eco Brooklyn team and were given a top to bottom house tour. Gennaro Brooks-Church described his motivation for green building, and provided step-by-step detail on the construction process. He even elaborated on inventions that he made specifically for this house such as a personalized graywater system, green roof, and natural swimming pool. The use of glass on the staircase leading up to the green roof, on the patio, as well as on the third floor allowed for sunlight to pour through the entire house. One small downfall was that Javier, the sweet-hearted dog that stays in the house (and one of the interns), was petrified of stepping on the clear, shiny surface.
The view from the green roof was absolutely amazing! We were able to see the sunflowers and herbs that have grown there as well as the bees that have just recently been moved in. The roof might have been my favorite part of the tour because you completely identified with what Genarro and his team are trying to accomplish. Looking around at the Verrazano Bridge with a glimpse of Manhattan from the other direction I was completely taken to a small Garden of Eden on the roof of a Brooklyn brownstone.
As part of my internship with Living City DC 14th & U, I’m looking at the potential for bringing large-scale green roofing to the neighborhood. “Green roofing” is a broad term that can take many different forms, but it simply means installing plants on a building’s roof. Depending on how the plants are set up, the green roof could provide a host of benefits, from improving air quality and helping to deal with storm water, to energy savings and even the potential for growing food.
In my work, I am creating a comprehensive analysis of green roofing and what it takes to bring green roofs to buildings at Living City DC 14th & U. My study involves all aspects of the process and the environmental and cost impacts of green roof systems.
The major benefit of a green roof system is that it brings the attributes of nature back into a developed space. Green roofing will be beneficial both for the immediate 14th & U Street neighborhood and the city as a whole. Locally, a green roof would act as a layer of insulation on top of the buildings, preventing heat loss during the winter and acting as a buffer against solar radiation in the summer. This translates to significant energy savings over the course of the life of the building. Green roofs also help to improve air quality by removing prominent air pollutants, such as ozone and nitrogen dioxide.
The District as a whole will benefit from green roofing as part of its strategy to address the issue of storm water runoff. When rain falls in urban areas, concrete and buildings prevent the water from being absorbed in to the soil, as it would in a forest. As a result the water moves along the street and through the storm water system. During periods of high rainfall, this untreated water overflows into local waterways. Green roofs allow for water retention, reducing the burden on the District’s combined storm water and sewer system and reducing overflow into the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. Green roofing will have a direct positive impact on the water quality of the District.
If you haven’t already realized that there is a completely green brownstone within our midst, then you probably wouldn’t be the first. Gennaro Brooks-Church, Director of Eco Brooklyn, has developed this show house as a way to highlight all the possibilities of creating an environmentally friendly house. His passion for green building techniques is quite obvious if you have ever been to Eco Brooklyn’s website or set foot in the green show house, located in Carroll Gardens. Living City Brooklyn will actually be meeting Gennaro and taking a tour of this house on Wednesday to better understand his process and to talk about potential projects that will take place in Gowanus. I, for example, was thrilled to find a Brooklynite who knew about and had previously installed a graywater system in the show house.
The green investments in this home are unbelievable. Everything from a green roof that grows strawberries to clay walls and solar panels are represented here. To rattle off the improvements would take all day so I’m limiting myself (and my excitement) to elaborating on the concepts of Zero Waste and Zero Consumption.These two concepts are broken down into the time during construction and post construction. Eco Brooklyn then measured to make sure everything in relation to waste and consumption balanced out in order to create a Net Zero home. For example, on site energy production allows for the house to consume more energy one day, but less another, thus creating a net balance of zero. To learn more about the entire process of creating a Net Zero home go to Eco Brooklyn’s website, where they have documented everything about the process.
Everyone at Living City Brooklyn is thrilled to have the chance to see these improvements first hand. Eco Brooklyn welcomes individuals and organizations six days a week, by appointment, to tour the home and ask questions. So make your appointment today and lets transforms Brooklyn’s brownstones to ‘greenstones’.