They got the juice: Red Hook rec center goes solar-powered one year after Sandy

They got the juice: Red Hook rec center goes solar-powered one year after Sandy
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A Hurricane Sandy–ravaged Red Hook community center is going solar-powered in case another superstorm strikes the waterfront neighborhood and knocks out the power.

The city-run Red Hook Recreation Center will soon be fitted with massive solar panels on the roof that will keep the electricity flowing at the facility year-round and allow it to serve as an area emergency center in the case of another prolonged blackout. The project comes thanks to environmental group Global Green USA and the people who helped make it happen say that it will put the public gym on the cutting edge of disaster preparedness.

“[The solar system] will provide the Red Hook Recreation Center with renewable energy, it will increase the center’s capacity to educate New Yorkers about climate change, and it will enable the center to provide potential relief to the public in the wake of severe weather events,” said Deputy Parks Commissioner Robert Garafola at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday.

The sun-fueled set-up comes nearly one year after the Oct. 29 storm ripped through the neighborhood, wiping out a swath of area businesses and homes. The solar project was primarily funded by the retail giant Ikea and is Global Green’s first finished job of five planned throughout the city.

Bay Street’s rec center, which is equipped with pools, weight rooms, basketball courts, dance and art studios, and a library, was out of commission for about two months after Sandy flooded the facility with harbor water, leaving it and the rest of the neighborhood shrouded in darkness for weeks.

Next time the lights go out, with the back-up power source in place, the center will offer place to charge up cell phones and laptops, and will be able to provide services like refrigeration for food, emergency medicine, and basic heating and cooling officials said.

“It’s very significant,” said Carolina Salguero, the director of PortSide NewYork, a maritime education group that is headquartered on a historic oil tanker docked off of Red Hook.

After protecting the old ship during the tempest, Salguero and her crew came ashore to help the Red Hook community by setting up a pop-up aid station on Van Brunt Street inside a donated space that managed to keep electricity. There they offered residents a place to charge up cellphones and other electronic devices while much of the neighborhood was without power.

“I know what a big issue it was not to have electricity,” said Salguero, adding that the recreation center is centrally located. “So this solves a big problem.”

Red Hookers were thrilled to find out that there will an energy-efficient place in the neighborhood to turn to in case of a power outage.

“When Sandy hit, the neighborhood didn’t have many places to charge important items like a cellphone, or portable TV or radio,” said Desmond Hill of Hicks Street, who went without power for months after Sandy.

The battery pack that gets fed energy from the solar panels will be installed above the flood level reached during Sandy, a Global Green spokesman said.

Red Hook Recreation Center [155 Bay Street between Clinton and Henry streets in Red Hook, (718)-722-3211].

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.
Going solar: City officials, representatives from Ikea, and officials from Global Green USA celebrated the Red Hook Recreation Center as Global Green’s first “Solar for Sandy” location on Oct. 23.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini