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A Greener Williamsburg & Newtown Nature Walk

A Greener Williamsburg

By Carolina Worrell

In a very urban area of Brooklyn where more stores line the streets than trees, it is comforting to know that some of Williamsburg’s residents are building a green and sustainable future through social networking clubs built on individual passion.

Amongst those involved in the “greening” of Williamsburg is Tymberly Harris, a Pittsburgh native in her thirties, mother—and Master Composter.

Tymberly first moved to a building in Williamsburg on Wythe and South 1st Sts. called the Esquire Building, touted as one of the first green residential conversions for its use of a geothermal system, back in 2001. It was then that she started to think about garbage and where it goes.

“It’s in the city’s best interest not to throw waste away, because it is really valuable,” said Tymberly. Tymberly then decided to propose a composting system, writing a grant through Neighbors Against Garbage (NAG) and getting a monetary award from the Department of Sanitation to implement her program.

Tymberly originally began with worm composting, or vermicomposting, which many people opt for because it can be done in the home in plastic bins. Eventually, she decided to get involved with both indoor and outdoor composting. Tymberly got a bunch of rodent-proof pickle barrels to hold the organic waste, which is basically made up of fruit and vegetable scraps, and some type of browns, which can be anything from dried leaves, sawdust from carpenters and paper animal bedding, and began the process of composting.

There are 72 units in the Esquire and 25 of them originally signed up to be a part of Tymberly’s program. However, only 15 units are currently involved. It seems to be more than enough. For the first three years, they created approximately 1,300 pounds.

The compost is mainly used for the trees surrounding the Esquire and for the flower pots on the residents’ roof decks—but there is so much that an idea was floated to sell it for the same purposes.
“I have a six-year-old, so you start to think about trees and air quality,” says Tymberly.

Tymberly believes her composting program is due for an expansion, however. And as a result, Tymberly is linked to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, where she has become certified to teach others how to compost, as well as the Greenpoint-Williamsburg Community Supported Agriculture (GWCSA), an organization run by volunteers that put together weekly green markets at McCarren Park, located on Bedford and Lorimer and open year-round from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The green markets allow farmers from New York, New Jersey and Long Island to set up stands and sell their food. The GWCSA has a direct partnership with organic farmers, Chris and Eve Kaplan-Walbracht of the Garden of Eve in Aquebogue on the East end of Long Island, about 80 miles from New York City.
Another organization that creates community connections by aiming to build a greener future through like-minded businesses is Green Edge NYC, lead by director Carolyn Gilles. Green Edge is also a social network that puts together film showings, eco-eatery tours and community supper clubs run by coordinator Erika Rumbley.

The supper clubs are in-home events that are mostly advertised by word of mouth where using local ingredients is always encouraged. There are no supper clubs is Williamsburg yet, but there is one in Greenpoint that just began this summer. The Greenpoint Supper Club was started by a household that harvested greens from their rooftop garden and initiated the first potluck gathering.

It was that simple.


A Walk to Remember

How the Shabby Newtown Creek Nature Walk Prevented Greenpoint’s Next Environmental Disaster.

By Adam Klasfeld

Until a year ago, few people would have pictured a park at the end of Paidge Ave., a street filled with commercial and industrial landmarks such as the Time Warner Cable headquarters, the Greenpoint Fire Department, a power plant and a noisy construction site. Few live near there, and those who work in the area usually step out for cigarette breaks rather than scenic views—because the street ends at one of New York’s most polluted waterways.

On a given day, a visitor can walk past the cigarette-strewn entrance, down a metallic pathway overlooking rusted Caterpillar cranes, and around a bend to a space where many of the grasses, weeds, imported flowers have overgrown to the point where they trespass well into the walkway. The scenery would not attract your average tourist. Barges transporting garbage to New York landfills pass through the creek regularly, and the water still has an oily sheen from over a century of petroleum companies’ neglect, abuse and corruption.

In fact, one might even say that the slick serves as a raft for all of the other garbage it carries on its way, including assorted plastics, bottles and cigarette butts that wash up upon the shore regularly.

Last September, this depressed location became the site of the Newtown Creek Nature Walk. It may not look like much, but its existence may have prevented an environmental disaster this past August—and countless others in the future.

At the time of its opening, Environmental Commissioner Emily Lloyd claimed in an interview with the New York Times that the Nature Walk could put a spotlight on the degradations of the creek and help urge ExxonMobil and other polluters to clean up the toxic mess the Newtown Creek has become. “Having this nature walk creates a tremendous amount of pressure to keep these things moving,” Lloyd was quoted as saying.

While she was referring to ExxonMobil’s oil spill, she could have been talking about a different environmental disaster that hit the creek early this August. According to the Nature Walk’s community liaison Christine Holowacz, local activist Mike Hoffman was recently walking on the creek when he noticed a barge sinking halfway, dumping wire coils and other garbage into the water. He called the Department of Environmental Conservation, and they rescued it before it fell completely.

“There was a clean-up,” said Assemblyman Lentol’s spokeswoman Amy Cleary about the D.E.C.’s efforts. “Whether it was a satisfactory cleanup is a matter of debate.”

Cleary stated that the Lentol office has been urging the environmental body to finish the job in Whale Creek, where large amounts of trash from the barge were said to have floated. She also revealed that the company that owned the barge, the Pile Foundation, had a history of violations for abandoning barges and letting them sink. The reason for that, she says, is that a legislative loophole makes the fine for the violation much cheaper than the cost of maintenance.

Since the Nature Walk allowed Hoffman to see the incident and bring it to the city’s attention, two new pieces of legislation may prevent the already ailing creek from getting regular doses of garbage. According to Cleary, the first bill that the Lentol office will introduce plans to raise the fine for a barge violation from $500 to $5,000. The second, which will be proposed by City Council member David Yassky, requires companies to register barges and display company information on their vessels.

For all of its flaws, the walk serves the Greenpoint community with access to an ailing water body, citizen surveillance over corporate polluters and much needed public space.

It has been nearly a year since the Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Department of Cultural Affairs and the D.E.P. opened Greenpoint’s peculiar park to mixed reviews, and now they may be tempted to just let it deteriorate. If that were to happen, it would be another blow to the already embattled Newtown Creek.

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