Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund holds grand tour of North Brooklyn environmental remediation

Environmental Open House Displays Depth and Range of Fund’s Efforts

October 19, 2016 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The rooftop of Broadway Stages transformed into Newtown Creek Wildflower Roof and Community Space, with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s Digester Eggs in the background. Eagle photos by Andy Katz
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“So many aspects of New York City’s infrastructure are positively medieval,” Marni Majorelle, founder of Alive Structures, declared while standing on the roof of Greenpoint’s Broadway Stages building.

Dominating the nearby landscape, the eight Digester Eggs of the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant gleamed in the autumn sun, suggesting a futuristic vision of a colony on Mars. The air all around was filled with the rumble of tanker trucks laden with natural gas and the crash of cranes crunching tons of recyclable metals. A faint miasma from the nearby Newtown Creek reminded visitors of the heavy bacterial load that fills the waterway, an EPA Superfund site since 2001.

This past Saturday, stage three of Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund’s (GCEF) Open House Tour had brought visitors to the Newtown Creek Wildflower Roof and Community Space. The 21,711-square-foot intensive green roof covers the multi-level Broadway Stages building with an oasis of green and flowers cut through with flat rock paths to enable visitors to take in the entire scene without trampling the carefully planted garden.  “NYC Audobon is the nonprofit partner,” Kathryn Heintz, NYC Audubon executive director, said, describing the space’s financial evolution. “Marni’s the contractor, and Broadway Stages is the for-profit partner.”

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A $971,781.97 GCEF grant, which was voted for in the previous year by Greenpoint residents, helped to complete funding for the project, described on Alive Structure’s website as: “an accessible open green space, [which] will serve as an outdoor classroom, a space for workshops, festivals, summer film screenings and lectures, directly benefitting the Greenpoint community.”

“Since I’ve been here, some 20 years now,” Broadway Stages founder and owner Tony Argento said, “I’ve wanted to combine the industrial space with the residential space — for them to work together.”

Earlier that morning, media and community leaders, project managers and elected officials were invited to the Greenpoint branch of the Brooklyn Public Library to watch and listen as project manager Jason Roberts from Marble Fairbanks outlined plans for a new Greenpoint Library Environmental Education Center, to be constructed on the site of the current library. State Assemblymember for the 50th district Joe Lentol was among those who donned state-of-the-art goggles to inspect the proposed LEED Silver-rated building, while Roberts passed samples of eco-friendly building materials around for inspection.

“I’m blown away by what you guys have done,” Lentol said. “The greatest legacy we’re going to leave is to educate the children, who will be the stewards of the planet.”

Next up was Milton Puryear, director of project development for the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI). “The idea was to provide a way for people to ride their bikes across the Brooklyn waterfront where there are very few subway stations,” Puryear told the audience. “It has grown into much more than that.” Puryear showed completed proposals for BGI’s Flushing Avenue and Van Brunt Avenue spaces, both fully funded and awaiting execution. “Our ambitions now are to expand the way all around Brooklyn’s 26-mile waterfront,” he concluded.

Mike Smith, CEO of GreenSmith Public Affairs, which had arranged the day’s tour, could barely contain his excitement at the fourth stop: “This should be nothing but an ally, full of junk, right?” he asked, walking briskly from Ash Street to the bank of the Newtown Creek. Instead of barbed wire and attack dogs, the ally hummed with the activity of La Guardia College Professors Holly Porter-Morgan and Sarah E. Durand and their assistants as they worked in partnership with the North Brooklyn Boat Club and Newtown Creek Alliance to monitor bacterial counts and assess the quality and quantity of life sustained in the creek’s brackish water.

The Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund was formed to administer funds provided by Exxon in the wake of a consent decree with the New York  Attorney General’s Office after the company was found liable for decades of pollution into the Newtown Creek.

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