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Environmental

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Yesterday a group of volunteers from Bike New York, the New York Restoration Project, and other organizations planted over 60 trees in Astoria Park in honor of Earth Day. They picked the location because it will be a rest area for the upcoming Five Boro Bike Tour, happening on Sunday, May 4th. The Greening Western Queens Fund sponsored this effort in “greening” the tour. The trees planted include a mix of tuliptree, red maples, eastern white pine and other species. You can see a few more photos of the planting event right after the jump.

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This past Saturday, 250 volunteers gathered at NYCHA’s Woodside Houses to plant 112 trees in honor of Earth Day weekend. It was part of the New York Restoration Project and JetBlue’s seventh annual “One Thing That’s Green” volunteer event. Over the course of the day, local residents, volunteers, JetBlue and NYRP planted dogwood, crabapple, willow oak trees, and fruit trees like Whitegold cherry, Kieffer pear, and apple. Check out more pictures from the planting event, right after the jump!

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The American Littoral Society and the Broad Channel middle school P.S. 47 are holding a fundraiser to help restore New York City’s milkweed habitat for the monarch butterfly. According to the Society, “Once numbering in the tens of millions, the monarch’s numbers have been severely reduced due to habitat loss in North America. Their life cycle depends on one family of plants – the milkweeds.” The milkweed will be planted in open fields and vacant lots throughout New York and New Jersey. The fundraiser, with a goal of $1,500, is to purchase the milkweed plants in time for the first planting at the end of April at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. The American Littoral Society and P.S. 47 already met their funding goal, but the groups are still accepting donations. And for just today, the National Parks Conservation Association will match every individual donation up to $50 until 11:59 pm. If you are interested in donating, go here.

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This week, the Parks Department will begin rebuilding the Rockaway boardwalk from Beach 86th to Beach 97th Streets — as everybody knows, Hurricane Sandy badly ripped up the boardwalk back in 2012. And over the summer, Parks hopes to take on another damaged stretch from Beach 97th Street to Beach 106th Street. According to the Daily News, “Crews will fence off the area and start demolishing some of the concrete piles as early as Monday, and the first section could be completed by Memorial Day 2015.” Work begins with pile driving, which will last two months, followed by the placement of the concrete boardwalk. Some concrete will show a wavy pattern; there’s another design with blue stones placed throughout. During construction all access points to the beach will remain open.

The city delayed this $20,000,000 project time and time again. Although the initial hope was to finish the entire reconstruction by 2016, it likely won’t happen until 2017.

Construction of new Rockaway Boardwalk Slated to Start This Week [NY Daily News]
All Rockaway Boardwalk coverage [Q’Stoner]

Rendering by the Parks Department

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Yesterday Mayor de Blasio pledged to overhaul the city’s Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, announcing a number of reforms to jumpstart the process. You can see the entire PDF report here or read more details from the Mayor’s office here. The reforms include ways to improve the experience of homeowners navigating the pre-construction process, expanding eligibility for acquisition and reimbursement, establishing better coordination among city, state, and federal partners, and working closely with local communities in the rebuilding efforts.

According to the Times, the Mayor hopes that the city will have started construction on 500 new homes and mailed out 500 reimbursement checks for previously performed repairs by the end of the summer. Only 30 residents received their payments so far. As Brad Gair — who worked on rebuilding efforts during Bloomberg’s term — told the Times, “Anything that helps expedite the assistance to the homeowners who are still in need, I think is very positive. The challenge really becomes how you implement and process that.”

Photo via Twitter

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The future remains unclear for the Madelaine Chocolate Company, a Rockaways business that sustained $50,000,000 in damage after Hurricane Sandy. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company seeks $10,000,000 in federal Sandy recovery funds from the city to replace and repair machinery. City officials do not think they can grant the full amount, as there’s only about $42,000,000 in federal dollars for the Sandy loan and grant program. As the WSJ says, “The chocolate company has tested the limits of the city’s Sandy recovery programs, which were designed to help much smaller businesses, and its plight has raised hard questions about how New York should distribute the rebuilding dollars.”

Madelaine’s declined emergency fund money from the city — a $25,000 emergency loan, $10,000 grant and an emergency sales-tax deferment — due to a long application process. The business has, however, secured a $12,900,000 low-interest loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration as well as $3,000,000 from a flood insurance settlement. They also applied for a $1,000,000 loan from the city, despite seeking the full $10,000,000. Back in February, Madelaine’s put its 200,000-square-foot factory up for sale. The company is considering relocating outside New York, despite hopes to remain in the Rockaways. Madelaine’s has been in the neighborhood since 1967.

Madelaine Chocolate Co. Seeks Cash to Stay in Rockaways [WSJ]
Madelaine Chocolate Company Factory is up for Sale in the Rockaways [Q’Stoner]

Photo via Facebook

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NY1 got the check out proposals for Rebuild by Design, a competition responding to Hurricane Sandy by asking design professionals to envision solutions that increase resilience across the Sandy-affected region. Proposals span from Lower Manhattan to Hunt’s Point in the Bronx to Red Hook, Brooklyn. In Queens, designers proposed an elevated subway platform and commercial strip in Rockaway Park, rendered above.

The winners of the competition will be picked later this month. The winning design solutions may be able to be implemented with disaster recovery grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as other sources of public and private- sector funding.

First Look at Proposed Storm Barriers [NY1]

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A big part of being involved with the Newtown Creek story is attending an endless series of meetings.

There’s a Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee over in Greenpoint that provides community input and problems to DEP about the sewer plant, the Newtown Creek Alliance which spans and advocates for both sides of the Creek, and a Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Committee as well. There’s a bunch of other groups and organizations, but these are the three which I always pay attention to and publicly identify myself with. The good thing about these meetings is that I get to know what’s happening, and get my camera pointed in the right direction at the right times.

Today’s big news is that a dredging project, which is anticipated to last around six weeks, is beginning on Newtown Creek. I’m afraid that I was unable to locate a live link to the pdf hosted at nyc.gov, but this is the official story as received. Here’s the text of the NYC DEP announcement.

From NYC Department of Environmental Protection:
OFFICE OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS, BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

NEWTOWN CREEK DREDGING UPDATE MARCH, 2014

Beginning the week of March 17, 2014 and continuing for approximately 6 weeks, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will be dredging Newtown Creek. The following is a brief overview of the work scheduled and potential community impacts and mitigation measures.

WHY IS THIS WORK NECESSARY? The Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is the largest in the City and operates, like most plants, through an activated sludge process. In order for this treatment process to work, waste sludge must be removed every day. Presently, waste sludge is piped to a storage tank near the East River in Greenpoint and then transferred to a sludge vessel (boat) for delivery to Wards Island for further processing. DEP needs to demolish the sludge storage tank to make way for new affordable housing. A new sludge dock has been built at Whale Creek, adjacent to the Newtown Creek plant, and sludge vessels will soon receive waste sludge there instead of the existing East River tank and dock. However, to navigate to the new dock, maintenance dredging must be done along Newtown Creek to remove sediment and debris which accumulates in the waterway.

HOW WILL THE WORK BE PERFORMED? Dredge operations are expected to start in Whale Creek and then move west along Newtown Creek towards the Pulaski Bridge to the mouth of Newtown Creek. Operations will be performed initially in 12-hour shifts, 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. As operations move into Newtown Creek, work will run 24 hours per day in order to minimize impacts to marine traffic. All work will be performed from barges located on the water with all required Coast Guard lighting and signage for safe boating.

COMMUNITY IMPACTS During the dredging operations, hydrogen sulfide gas trapped in the sediment may be released. This gas has a strong odor of rotten eggs. DEP will monitor for odor and take preventive measures to control the releases.

FOR MORE INFORMATION Please contact Shane Ojar, Director of Community Affairs at 718-595-4148 or via e-mail at sojar@dep.nyc.gov.

This is a shot of dredging equipment at work over on Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull, another industrial waterway found across the harbor, just to give you an idea what to expect. I can tell you that sound and smell are going to be a common complaint over the next six weeks, based on personal experience. The NYC DEP told us that anyone experiencing discomfort due to this necessary activity should report it to 311, so that they can take steps to alleviate the odors.

If you smell something, say something, and call 311.

Word has also reached me that a tree removal process will shortly be starting up in West Maspeth and Blissville, as well as parts of Brooklyn, in anticipation of the forthcoming reconstruction of the Kosciuszko Bridge.

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A winner has been announced for Urban Green Council’s R3build contest, which asked architects to design a single-family home for a post-Sandy Breezy Point, one that could be constructed for $150,000 or less. The winning design, rendered above, is by the Australian architects Rayne Fouche and Larissa Searle. New York Daily News reports that it’s a prefab, solar-powered home with debris-proof windows dubbed the “Bayside Bunker.” NYC-based architects came in second and third place, proposing trellises and decks to help protect against future storms. The contest applicants designed for an actual Breezy Point property in which the home was totally destroyed by the storm — the property owners have promised to consider using some of the winning designs for the rebuilt house.

New Proposed Design for Breezy Point Homes is Affordable and Storm-Proof [NY Daily News]

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Tonight at 6:30 pm, the Beach 116th Street Partnership is hosting a forum on innovations for a more resilient Rockaways. The Rebuild by Design team from HR&A Advisors plans to present a final proposal for small business resilience in the area, including ideas on how small businesses can fund these types of environmental improvements. The Partnership cleaned up the old diner at 231 Beach 116th for the presentation, which will include snacks and refreshments. You can see all the event details right over here.