BY REY MASHAYEHI | About $1 million is left in a fund controlled by Community Board 3 earmarked specifically for environmentally beneficial projects within the board district.
C.B. 3’s Con Edison Task Force met last month to discuss the progress on East Village and Lower East Side environmental projects that are provided funding by the Con Edison Settlement Fund, and review potential future applicants for funding.
Con Ed established the settlement fund in 2002, in an effort to offset the environmental cost — and, specifically, the impact on air quality — of increasing generation capacity at its E. 14th St. generation facility. Con Ed contributed $3.75 million to create the fund, which is allocated to various community-based environmental projects by the C.B. 3 task force.
At its June 19 meeting, the task force received updates on initiatives by the Cooper Square Committee, the Lower East Side Ecology Center and the New York City Tree Trust. The group also vetted a preliminary inquiry for funds by La Plaza Cultural, at the southwest corner of E. Ninth St. and Avenue C. William LoSasso, La Plaza’s executive director, sought the task force’s help in restoring the community green space after it sustained extensive damage during Hurricane Sandy in October.
Susan Stetzer, the C.B. 3 district manager, told The Villager that about $1 million remains in the fund to allocate to projects that would environmentally benefit the district, which comprises much of the Lower East Side and the East Village. The task force has allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to initiatives currently underway. The Lower East Side Ecology Center, for example, has received roughly $102,000 for its EcoBizNYC and Street Tree Stewardship projects. The New York City Tree Trust’s Accelerated Greening Program has received $150,000 from the fund. Both initiatives are designed to bolster the community’s environmental health — the L.E.S. Ecology Center’s programs through reducing commercial energy needs and limiting air pollution and waste, and the NYC Tree Trust through the widespread planting and revitalization of trees within a half-mile radius of the Con Ed generation facility.
One program to receive funding from the settlement fund that has yet to fully get underway is the Ryan-NENA Community Health Center’s Asthma Care Team. According to Carol Kostik, the task force’s chairperson, the East Village health center received around $225,000 from the fund, which it planned to dedicate to asthma screening and treatment in the community. At the task force’s June 19 meeting, however, Ryan-NENA Executive Director Kathy Gruber described how the program had yet to be implemented and expressed the health center’s hope of “catching up for for the lost months” since it received the funding.
La Plaza’s LoSasso, meanwhile, brought a letter of inquiry to the task force that described the damage sustained by the popular community space during Superstorm Sandy last October. Not only did the garden suffer significant loss of trees and other plant life, but soil testing detected high levels of heavy metals in the ground, which now prevents the garden’s members from growing produce. LoSasso said he hoped to return with a proposal to receive funding from the task force for a replanting and soil remediation program. He described La Plaza as an “asset worth keeping” in the community, “not only culturally but environmentally.”
However, Kostik, the task force chairperson, while saying she would be open to a proposal by the community garden, emphasized the “slippery slope” that would emerge from assisting La Plaza Cultural when numerous other gardens in the neighborhood also sustained damage from the hurricane.