Volume 78 / Number 15 - September 3 - 9, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower
East Side, Since 1933

Eco ideas include commuter ferries, cool streets

Gabriel Zucker

East River ferries used as public transportation, a state-of-the-future eco-village at the Seward Park Urban Reneweal Area, tax breaks for green roofs and vertical agriculture and cooling, permeable sidewalks are just a few of the ideas that could soon be implemented for the East Village and Lower East Side if Community Board 3’s Environmental Subcommittee is successful in making its opinions known.

Paul Bartlett, the subcommittee’s chairperson, said C.B. 3 must take the initiative to be a part of Mayor Bloomberg’s greening initiative.

“For PlaNYC to be successful,” he said, “we have to pursue a participatory model of environmental development.” For the subcommittee, this participation has taken the form of a series of town hall-style meetings to “bring planning back into the community,” as Bartlett put it.

Earlier this summer, the subcommittee held the second of two meetings to brainstorm with the community about how the East Village and Lower East Side can become greener, and how C.B. 3 can help. Bartlett said the ideas that came out of the meetings would help set an agenda for the subcommittee’s first year in existence and would be incorporated into the 2010 “district needs” statement that C.B. 3 sends to the city.

An environmental scientist, Bartlett had high hopes for the program.

“We think we’re going to have results,” he said.

Bartlett mentioned a plan to redirect storm runoff to wells under the sidewalk or into planters, where the water could absorb heat from the street. Bartlett also highlighted ways to encourage heat-absorbing green roofs and plantings along building terraces. Bonnie Hulkower, another subcommittee member, was enthusiastic about a proposal to bring public transportation to the subway-starved areas of the Lower East Side and East Village by establishing a ferry service along the East River that would connect to improved bus service at major cross-town streets like Grand and E. Houston Sts.

Others at the meetings stressed the need for an expanded and safe bike-lane network with secure bike-parking areas. Bartlett felt that such concerns were important, because, he said, C.B. 3 has “huge transportation problems and they’re tied in with the environment.”

Hulkower said that the second meeting, which focused on ways to implement the community’s big ideas, was “more sobering.” But Bartlett felt certain that the community-generated plans would indeed take shape, unlike congestion pricing, which, he said, failed in C.B. 3 because it was a “top-down” environmental policy.

“The elected officials said they have open ears,” Bartlett said. “Instead of guessing what their constituency wants, we can see what they want.”

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