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Category Archives:

Pollution

West Coast Wildfire Smoke Spreads All the Way to NYC

Wildfire smoke from Canada and the Western United States stretched across the continent this week, covering skies in a thick haze and triggering health alerts from Toronto to Philadelphia. Air quality remained in the unhealthy range across much of the East Coast on Wednesday morning as the haze pushed southward.

In recent weeks, a series of near-relentless heat waves and deepening drought linked to climate change have helped to fuel exploding wildfires. In southern Oregon, the Bootleg Fire grew so large and hot that it created its own weather, triggering lightning and releasing enormous amounts of smoke. But more than 80 large fires are currently burning across 13 American states, and many more are active across Canada.

Now, the effects are being felt thousands of miles from the flames.

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Solar One Announces Retirement of Executive Director

Press Release

Founding Executive Director, Christopher J. Collins will retire December 2021 after 17 years leading the organization.

The organizational leadership team, the Board of Directors, and all staff are grateful for his leadership and hard work over the years and note that he leaves them and the organization well-positioned to carry his legacy and the charitable mission forward, building on the solid foundations he put in place.

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After 60+ Years, Cities Are Reconsidering Urban Highways

In the years after World War II, car ownership boomed in the United States, and so did the development of urban freeways. In many cases, making it easy for people to drive from suburban areas to downtown business districts came at a severe cost to low income neighborhoods, and especially to places with high concentrations of Black and brown residents.

Today, ambitious climate goals and new considerations of environmental justice are causing some cities to reconsider those long-ago decisions in urban planning, especially since many of those highways are deteriorating and nearing the end of their useful lives.

But plans to remove highways, while potentially offering benefits like cleaner air, less noise and more walkable neighborhoods, also raise new questions about development, open space and exactly who will benefit from these changes.

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NY City Council Passes Bill Limiting Single Use Plastic Straws

Straws Ban.  This bill will restrict food-service establishments from providing single-use plastic straws, stirrers, and splash sticks to customers, with the exception of straws upon request. Food-service establishments will be required to stock non-compostable plastic straws to fulfill customer requests and would have to post signs advertising the straws’ availability at self-serve stations.  Compostable plastic straws will be permitted to be given out upon request only for use on-premises, and only if the foodservice establishment properly separates and disposes of those straws through a commercial composting provider.

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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.

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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