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New York City

NYC Sunset Image

Solar One Statement on the 2020 Election

NYC Sunset ImageIt seemed like it would go on forever, but the 2020 U.S. election is finally over. However the work of restoring and repairing our democracy for the future is just beginning.

Many of us had hoped for a more decisive end to the division that has roiled our body politic for the last few years. We hoped that the face that we would show to the world would be one of reconciliation, healing and a recommitment to our oft-stated values of peace, justice and equality. But after four years of bitter disagreement, we are perhaps even more bitter and divided towards those who see the world differently than ever before. The damage caused by deceit, authoritarianism, racism and cruelty, especially toward immigrants, women, and BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people, along with the disproportionate effects of the coronavirus on our communities, over the past four years will not be fixed or disappear in an instant.

At the same time, these election results show that the future is not bleak. On Inauguration Day, women will be closer to the highest office in the land than ever before. Kamala Harris will take her place as the first Black woman, as well as the first person of South Asian descent, to serve as Vice President in our government’s 244-year history. And BIPOC and LGBTQ+ candidates made record gains in Congress and in state legislatures, winning elections where no one thought they could compete. Even more interestingly, these gains were made on both sides of the aisle, proving that groups of U.S. citizens are not as monolithic as we used to believe. That brings us one step closer to the Enlightenment ideal of truly seeing every single person as an independent individual regardless of race, creed, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other personal characteristic.

The heart of the work we do at Solar One, across every single program and activity that we are involved in, is education. Oftentimes we may imagine that education just means memorization and getting the right answer. But education encompasses far more than that. It means expanding our worldview in directions we never conceived before. It means opening up to the possibility that we may be mistaken in the ways that we have approached the problems inherent in just existing as humans in a complex world. It means using our imaginations to the fullest to find the best answers, not just the ones we’d prefer to be the best, and it means finding ways to communicate those answers that make people feel respected and seen, instead of insulted and ignored. That is what Solar One has been doing for the past 15+ years, and that is what we will continue to do for as long as it takes to get it done.

No matter who you may have supported in this election, our hope at Solar One is that we can all move forward by listening, learning and pushing each other toward more understanding, more shared values and more opportunity than ever before to prosper and thrive in a world that we all have to share. There is no other way.

Got questions about the incoming administration’s plans for climate action? The NY Times has the answers!

“I Was an Urban Goatherd in Stuyvesant Cove Park”

Last month, thanks to an anonymous West Indian woman who put the idea in our heads, we undertook an experiment in urban goatscaping in Stuyvesant Cove Park. It was a resounding success- the goats did a great job and everyone loved them- and also a unique experience for Candace Thompson, the new Park Manager. Here’s her description of what it was like to spend three days and two nights as an onsite goatherd in Stuy Cove Park:

For 3 straight days, 20 goats and I did heavy “goatscaping”, and for 2 nights we slept together… under the FDR… in lower Manhattan…during a global pandemic.

It was a week for the bucket list, to be sure.

If you’re unfamiliar, goatscaping is an ancient land clearing practice in which humans allow goats to do what they do best: eat. When they’re done you’re left with a weed free, well fertilized growing space with no gas-powered machines or herbicides needed. So, last month Caramelo, Chloe, Cheech and co were let loose inside SCP’s teaching garden and given carte blanche, and while they munched, volunteers pulled weeds from other areas of the park and carried them over to their enclosure. One little girl accurately described it as “goat room service”.

When I awoke in the middle of the night to check on them they’d still be standing there, chewing away. They, too, knew this was the city that never sleeps.

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NYC Traffic

Will Post-COVID Congestion Threaten Decades of Air Quality Improvements in NYC?

NYC TrafficAs we ease out of the COVID-19 PAUSE in NYC, one thing is making a comeback that nobody wants: traffic congestion. While businesses continue to reopen and more workers returning to their job sites, most people are leery of using mass transit, which can mean only one thing: More driving…which is putting decades of air quality improvements in jeopardy.

“We avoid 17 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year because of the MTA,” said Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “If we’re swapping that with cars, which are less efficient to begin with, we are going to have a problem.”

Traffic on bridges and tunnels is down only 18 percent on average from its pre-pandemic levels. The number of vehicles entering Manhattan’s central business district is only 15 percent below the volume seen ahead of the public health crisis, according to the city’s Department of Transportation. In early April, traffic was down roughly 60 percent from normal levels.

While subway ridership has rebounded from an all-time low, it’s still down roughly 78 percent from 2019 levels — with just more than one million riders using the system on weekdays. Buses have recovered more quickly, but ridership is still down 50 percent.

While environmental advocates have focused their efforts in recent years on targeting the largest source of emissions — city buildings — they acknowledge transit could become a greater concern in the Covid-19 era.

You can read more about this on Politico.com here.

Social Justice NYC

New York Announces More than $10.6 Million in New Grants for Environmental Justice

Social Justice NYCAgainst the backdrop of renewed calls for racial justice nationwide in the aftermath of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the state of New York announced on Tuesday a slate of grants totaling more than $10.6 million to help underserved residents access affordable solar energy. The grants will help offset predevelopment costs to address resource barriers that typically prevent low-income residents — particularly communities of color — from installing clean energy or energy storage in their homes.

The Empire State is set to provide individual grants of up to $200,000 each to affordable housing providers, community organizations, and technical service providers to assist low-income households and install solar and energy storage systems meant to benefit entire communities. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the government agency administering the program, will be hosting a webinar on July 14 to launch the grant opportunities and provide more information on the application process. The state will accept applications on a quarterly basis through the end of 2024.

This initiative is the result of New York’s landmark environmental justice legislation, which helped bring the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) to life in January. The CLCPA made headlines for being the most ambitious emissions-reduction legislation in the country, thanks to its promise that the state will reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and 100 percent renewable electricity by 2040. The CLCPA and the accompanying environmental justice bill require the state to make good on its commitments to address environmental injustice and invest in underserved and pollution-burdened communities. Tuesday’s announcement is part of that follow-through.

Manahatta photo

When Manhattan Was Mannahatta

Manahatta photoBefore the first Dutch colonists sailed through the Narrows into New York Harbor, Manhattan was still what the Lenape, who had already lived here for centuries, called Mannahatta. Times Square was a forest with a beaver pond. The Jacob K. Javits Federal Building, at Foley Square, was the site of an ancient mound of oyster middens.

Eric W. Sanderson is a senior conservation ecologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, based at the Bronx Zoo. In 2009 he published “Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City.” The book geolocated old maps onto the modern city to reimagine a cornucopia of hills, beaches, fields and ponds.

In this virtual tour, NY Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman goes on a virtual tour with Mr., Sanderson, starting at the Staten Island Ferry terminal and imagining a September afternoon in 1609, around the time Henry Hudson sailed into NY Harbor.

Michael Kimmelman Aside from Hudson’s ship, what do we see?

Eric W. Sanderson Whales and porpoises. One of the earliest sketches we have of Manhattan shows a whale in the Hudson River. The charter of Trinity Church includes a provision specifically saying dead whales found on beaches in the province of New York are property of the church, which could use them to make oil and whale bone. So whales were clearly a meaningful part of the local economy and ecosystem.

What was the ecosystem?

Ecosystems, actually. Manhattan is something like one percent the size of Yellowstone. Yellowstone is 2.2 million acres and it has 66 ecosystems. Mannahatta had 55.

It’s an interesting thought exercise to imagine what might have happened had the United States been colonized from the West, instead of from the East. We might have decided to make Manhattan a national park. We would be coming to New York for an entirely different sort of wildlife.

You can read the rest of the interview/tour on the NY Times website here.

Phytoremediation, Park Intern Hannah Schanzer’s Summer Project

Hannah Schanzer is a Park Intern at Solar One this summer, working in Stuyvesant Cove Park. She is a rising junior at Washington University in St. Louis, studying Environmental Policy and Urban Studies. She has come to the Park this summer to learn more about urban park stewardship and urban ecology.

For my summer research project, I really wanted to focus on studying how the urban setting impacts the biodiversity of the park. Stuyvesant Cove Park is situated between a gas station, a power plant, and the highway. Additionally, it is located on the former site of a cement mixing factory.

Preliminary testing revealed that the soil in some beds of the park have slightly elevated levels of lead, although not enough to cause concern with park operations (highest lead concentration in a bed was 80 ppm (parts per million), anything less than 100 ppm is considered safe for children to play in). I was curious to find out whether there was a way to “clean” the soil with the highest lead concentration without treating it with chemicals or replacing it with imported soil.

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