The Sims Municipal Recycling Facility will open soon on the Brooklyn waterfront, providing countless environmental benefits. The large in-city recycling center will be able to process 20,000 tons of recyclables a month; for comparison, at its peak Freshkills received 29,000 tons of trash every day. While it might seem like a drop in the bucket, having a recycling center on the Brooklyn waterfront where loads can come in by barge will save the Department of Sanitation 260,000 miles of truck route every year. That’s equivalent to a sanitation truck driving over ten times around the earth. Reduced truck miles will help with traffic congestion, improve air quality, and decrease fossil fuel emissions.
Beyond the environmental benefits of constructing a new recycling center, the design of the building reflects a focus on sustainability derived from a practice what you preach attitude. The building is constructed using over 90% recycled steel. The roof boasts the current largest solar array in the city, generating 500kW of energy (enough to power about 150 homes). The design firm, Selldorf Architects, even included a spot of green space in their design by incorporating trees and bioswales to capture storm water runoff.
The buildings purpose and design coalesce to make it an incredible opportunity for environmental education. The facility “include[s] an education center that wasn’t just a repurposed closet with an instructional video to torture captive schoolchildren.” With classroom space and cat walks through the plant, students will have the opportunity to experience the process of recycling first hand. Hopefully, some of these students will become champions of recycling and help us build a more sustainable New York City.
The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its cleanup plan for Gowanus Canal. The Brooklyn Canal, bound by Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, was declared a Superfund site in 2010 and communities have long been pushing for its cleanup.
Judith A. Enck, the EPA Regional Administrator, said:
“The cleanup plan announced today by the EPA will reverse the legacy of water pollution in the Gowanus. The plan is a comprehensive, scientifically-sound roadmap to turn this urban waterway into a community asset once more.”
One-hundred and fifty years of industrial activity has left the waterway filled with PCBs, PAHs, coal tar waste, heavy metals and volatile organics, and poisoned both the water and fish. The cleanup will take 8 to 10 years and, even then, swimming and fishing would be ill-advised. However, the effort initiates a process of ecological revitalization and sets a precedent that holds companies accountable for their actions.
If this federal decision pulls through, its long term benefits, in terms of residential health and re-investment in the NY Harbor area, are immense.
The comprehensive 438-page report, unveiled last week, represents the most significant series of forward-thinking initiatives and concrete proposals since Sandy. It builds on new data, also released recently by the Mayor’s office, which warns that New Yorkers will face even hotter summers, more rainfall, and more frequent major storm events. The plan, A Stronger More Resilient New York, will dictate how NYC prepares for flooding and storm surges moving forward, including challenges related to buildings, economic recovery, community preparedness, insurance, utilities, telecommunications, healthcare, transportation, and parks (pdf).
The parks chapter omits Freshkills Park specifically (Freshkills is not yet mapped as parkland), though the site’s protective attributes – its mounds and wetlands – were well recorded post-Sandy. Wetlands in particular are thoroughly extolled for their flood mitigation capabilities. Building on the critical importance of areas like Jamaica Bay, the report outlines new initiatives to support coastal ecosystems and reintroduce improved natural barriers to many sections of the 520-mile NYC coastline.
“Wetlands, streams, forests and other natural areas offer substantial sustainability and resiliency benefits. The protection and restoration of these natural areas is, therefore, of critical importance.”
Within the 16 schemes in the parks chapter, wetland restoration complements other proposals that will design new bulkheads, fortify existing piers, and relocate vulnerable infrastructure, among many other initiatives.
Freshkills Park bids a fond farewell to the herd of goats who have spent the past few weeks “mowing” the invasive phragmites at the North Park Wetlands Restoration Site. This quirky group of goats, with names like Mozart, Haydyn and Van Goat, not only did a fantastic job of removing the vegetation from the site, but also seemed to thoroughly enjoy their pleasant surroundings at Freshkills Park. The herd even welcomed a new member during their stay, with the birth of an adorable baby goat a few weeks ago (see our previous post about this new “kid” on the block). For more photos of all the goats in action, be sure to look back at all of our Facebook and Flickr albums.
Although the goat crew will be missed, we are thrilled to be able to welcome them back to Freshkills Park for our annual Sneak Peak event on Sunday, September 23rd, where the herd will be featured at the Petting Zoo. Stay tuned to our blog and Facebook pages for more exciting Sneak Peak updates!
An interesting experiment in water pollution management is taking place in the Bronx River estuary near Hunts Point in New York City. Scientists are testing the use of a ‘Mussel Raft’ for addressing nitrogen pollution from treated sewage that ends up in the water from a nearby treatment facility.
Mussels are known for their filtration properties and are being tied to lines on the raft to assist in water filtration. Non-edible ribbed mussels were chosen in the hope they would not be harvested to be eaten. The mussels filter about 1.6 liters of water (0.4 gallons) every hour. Find the full story in The New York Times.