Money grows trees: Plans to plant across Greenpoint, redo library get oil $

Greenpoint spill 3 times larger than the Exxon Valdez!
Oily sheen on the Newtown Creek in Greenpoint.
Office of the Attorney General

It’s a green sweep.

The Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, created to fund projects to spruce up the heavily polluted neighborhood, announced the winners of its biggest set of grants on Tuesday.

The six winners include an overhaul of the Greenpoint library branch, a plan to plant trees throughout the area, and an anti-litter program. Here is a rundown of the projects that hit the eco-friendly jackpot.

• Environmental education at Greenpoint library: $5 million to remodel the Greenpoint library branch on Norman Avenue. The proposal calls for improving energy and water efficiency using recyclable and non-toxic materials, and adding an environmental education center on the second floor and an outdoor classroom on the roof.

• Greening Greenpoint: $2 million for a “re-foresting” of Greenpoint by planting 500 trees throughout the neighborhood and funding maintenance for existing street and park trees. It was not immediately clear where the maintenance money would go or how it relates to the parks department’s existing responsibility to maintain street and park trees.

• West Street watershed storm water project: $1.9 million for a system to capture, store, and treat storm water, in order to reduce flooding and sewage backups.

• Greenpoint eco-schools: $1.4 million to develop environmental education programs for four Greenpoint schools. The schools are PS 31, PS 34, PS 110, and MS 126.

• Curb your litter: $569,000 to develop a plan to decrease litter and improve waste management.

• Newtown Creek study: $130,000 for a study of the Greenpoint shoreline and eroded bulkheads along Newtown Creek, with an eye to improving natural habitats.

For the eco-schools project, each of the four schools is set to get its own full-time sustainability coach for two years. The coaches are supposed to help the schools’ administration, staff, and students craft programs to improve water, waste, and energy efficiency. These programs can help a school reduce its landfill-bound waste output by up to 85 percent, according to an organizer.

“They can get very close to zero percent waste by creating a culture where the kids understand their behaviors and learn how to reduce output,” said Emily Fano, New York City outreach manager for the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools project.

A Greenpoint teacher is ecstatic the program got picked, saying it will fit right in with its ongoing science, technology, engineering, and math push.

“We are extremely excited,” said Sheri Sankner, a science and social studies teacher at PS 31. “We have been really trying to gear up with a lot more science and STEM projects as a school, and this will do a lot to extend environmental initiatives.”

The City Parks Foundation is one of a handful of organizations behind the Greening Greenpoint project. For that, the organizations plan to create a board of local residents to figure out exactly where the 500 trees should go.

“We want to have really good community input about how to better the neighborhood,” said James Kaechele, development manager of the City Parks Foundation’s Tree Trust. “We have to holistically look at all the urban forests in the neighborhood by empowering the people.”

The money for the fund was set aside as part of a court settlement from Big Oil for the neighborhood that suffered through an oil spill three times the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster. The six projects will get $11 million of the $19.5 million in the fund, which dispersed money for smaller undertakings earlier this year.

A nifty proposal to crowd-source air-quality data by deputizing Greenpointers with air sensors hanging from necklaces did not make the cut in this final round.

There is still $5 million left un-allocated in the fund. The administrators plan to pick worthy recipients for the rest next year.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurf‌[email protected]‌ngloc‌al.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitt‌er.com/‌Danie‌lleFu‌rfaro.