Solar One replacement building breaks ground

City Council Dan Garodnick, Solar One Executive Director Chris Collins and Manhattan Borough Preident Gale Brewer hold hard hats at a ceremony for Solar 2 on Tuesday. (Brewer’s forehead bandage was due to a recent car collision, though she said it looked worse than it was.) (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

After 10 years of planning, environmental non-profit Solar One announced a timeline for the construction of the new, replacement educational center known as Solar 2 on Tuesday, ideally to be completed by the end of next year.

Dina Elkan, communications director for Solar One, said that the incentive to finish within that time frame is partially because city budget is fixed so the funding from elected officials needs to be used by then. One of the challenges will be the overlapping East Side Coastal Resiliency project but Elkan said that since it’s the same architectural firm working on both, the two projects will be coordinating throughout the process.

At a ceremonial groundbreaking on Tuesday, Solar One also acknowledged outgoing Councilmember Dan Garodnick’s commitment to the project from the beginning of his tenure at City Hall.

“When he was elected 12 years ago, he came here with his campaign manager and asked how he could help,” Solar One Executive Director Chris Collins said. “His vision and willingness to examine thorny problems makes him unique to the community.”

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Get to know your native plants, one streetside planter at a time

Boy Scout Baird Johnson, Epiphany Church custodian Fidel Rivera, and Solar One employees Diana Grueberg, Stuyvesant Cove Park gardener, and Liza Mindemann, park manager

Boy Scout Baird Johnson, Epiphany Church custodian Fidel Rivera, and Solar One employees Diana Grueberg, Stuyvesant Cove Park gardener, and Liza Mindemann, park manager

By Liza Mindemann, Stuyvesant Cove Park manager

In an effort to add some green to Second Avenue, Stuyvesant Cove Park, which is managed by Solar One, recently partnered with Epiphany Church to fill unclaimed street planters at the corner of Second Ave and 22nd Street.

Stuy Cove supplied the plants, carefully dug and potted by community volunteers from areas where the park’s plants were spreading too aggressively, while the church offered to take over the maintenance and watering of the planters going forward. The two parties jointly organized a volunteer event around planting day and with the help of Baird Johnson, a volunteer and also a member of the Boy Scouts, the soil in the planters was replenished with compost from Stuy Cove and filled with an array of native plants, curated to bloom throughout the season.

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The Soapbox: A plant is not just a plant

Regular park angel volunteers: Orlinda Calmeid, Tom Eccardt, Maria Pia Belloni and Barbara Bienenfeld (Photo by Liza Mindemann)

Regular park angel volunteers: Orlinda Calmeid, Tom Eccardt, Maria Pia Belloni and Barbara Bienenfeld (Photo by Liza Mindemann)

By Liza Mindemann, Stuyvesant Cove Park manager

As many of you already know, Stuyvesant Cove Park is a native species plant park. When we have school groups one of the first questions I ask is, “can anyone tell me what a native plant is?” It’s a harder question to answer than one might think, but the simple answer is that native plants are those species that naturally occur in a region and have evolved and adapted over many thousands of years to the specific conditions of that geographic area.

Many of us don’t think of gardens as having any purpose outside of providing beauty, or perhaps growing food to eat. But today, our gardens are actually one of the last chances we have to preserve the diverse species of plants, insects and wildlife that once prolifically populated our region. Due to urban development, NYC has already lost 30 percent of its native plant varieties. This brings me to the second question I usually ask school groups, “Does anyone know why native plants are important?” Native plants are important for many reasons, including the role they play in sustaining our ecosystems by reducing erosion and flooding, cleaning our water and air and by providing food and habitat for all the insects that our farms depend upon. Interestingly, native plants are not just food to any and all insects that pass by; often, they are food to only one particular insect.

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