WNP takes on a new co-living project

Dab smack in the middle of Imani Garden now stands a new building! Built on the site of a derelict 1920s frame house, the new three-story home is designed to be a co-living space with up to 8 bedrooms. It will feature 3 1/2 baths, a shared living/dining room, 16 foot high first floor, 3rd floor kitchenette, a community room in the basement and shared roof deck. Designed to appeal to environmentalists, it is was built to Passive House standards with triple glazed windows, super-insulated and sealed roof and walls and an energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system incorporated into the design. Greg, the executive director of WNP, has started a Gofundme campaign to help assist in the completion of the house which is now about 60% completed. We are now seeking people interested in living or investing in the house. If you are such a person, please reach out to us at nestforenviros@gmail.com Hope to be hearing from you soon. We are now in the midst of a visioning process to help us decide key features of the Nest, like how it is governed, how it is owned and how it is laid out. The sooner you email us, the sooner you can be in on the ground floor of this exciting project. See more information about this project under the “co-living project” in the banner.


GoFundMe campaign wraps up for The Nest

The GoFundMe campaign for The Nest wrapped up in November, raising $4,000 for the project. Proceeds from the campaign helped to create two sessions to promote The Nest.

The first was conducted at the house and featured architect Ibrahim Greenidge who designed The Nest. Ibrahim gave the 15 attendees a tour of the house noting the interesting design details and talking about the Passive House features it incorporates. Ibrahim completed Passive House training in 2017 and The Nest is his first project to incorporate the green design features of this protocol. He practices architecture in the Prospect Lefferts Garden section of Brooklyn. He can be reached at boltarchitecture@gmail.com. Here is a link to a video about his journey to architecture.

The second session was conducted at the Brooklyn Commons. It featured Howard Brandstein of the Sixth Street Community Center who is an expert on communal living structure and practices. He helped found the first community land trust in New York in the East Village of New York in the early 70s. He discussed the possibility of The Nest being established as part of a community land trust. Howard can best be reached at howard@sixstreetcenter.org for more information about community land trusts.


Oppose the proposed recycling of Styrofoam in NYC

Beached whale with a recent meal of plastics from ocean.

It was with great pride that I was able to testify on behalf of Brooklyn Solid Waste Advisory Board (BSWAB) at a hearing on May 12th about proposed legislation (Intro 1480) that would declare Styrofoam (expanded polystyrene or EPS) to be recyclable in New York City. I have testified previously at other City Council hearings but this was by far the most lengthy and well-attended hearing I’ve attended. The attendees filled at least two over-flow rooms in addition to the main room that seated perhaps 50 people.

At least 15 industry experts testified in support of the legislation, including the chief recycling officer for Dart Industries, a billion dollar manufacturer of EPS, the owner of the PRI plant in Indiana that would recycle the dirty EPS from DSNY, an economist, a scientist, several plastics producers who use recycled polystyrene, the owner of the company from Mexico City that designed the recycling plant in Indiana and several others.

Opposing the legislation were the current and former Sanitation commissioners, the former head of DSNY’s Recycling program, Ron Gonan, Eric Goldstein from NRDC, a large collection of environmentalists including Riverkeepers and several kayaking and boating groups, NY Lawyers For The Public Interest, a resident of Los Angeles talking about LA’s negative experiences with recycling EPS and me.

Council members attending included CM’s Reynoso, Lander and Rosenthal, opposing, and Cabrera and Constantinides who supported. Lander in particular grilled the industry spokespersons, questioning the promise that the EPS would actually be recycled and wondering if this effort was not a desperate attempt by Dart to protect its sales. Rosenthal asked the owner of PRI if he’d be willing to donate his profits to the City of New York. Of course he claimed that he could not make that commitment. Cabrera, who supported the legislation, had in fact visited that PRI plant in Indiana and begged other CM’s also do so.  Reynoso said he was not interested in visiting the PRI plant because he disliked plastics and felt the City should move to less harmful materials.

I was in the 5th panel of testifiers, appearing after some 3 hours of testimony. By the time I spoke, much of what was in the BSWAB prepared statement had been covered many times. So I submitted 25 copies to the Council staff person and read instead from a report stating that by 2050, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean, by weight. The report also states that less than 5% of the plastic packaging is actually recycled and that up to 1/3 ends up in the oceans. I felt this particularly important given than all of the industry testimony focused on the recyclability of EPS, yet none of it addressed the fact that 95% of plastic packaging is never reused.  I also pointed out, that unlike other materials such as paper, metal and glass, plastic never breaks down which is why so much accumulates in the oceans.  My testimony appears at the 3:01:49 mark in this video of the hearing.

In fact, CM Reynoso asked the scientist supporting EPS what the “half-life” of EPS was. The scientist said he had no idea, to which Reynoso responded “precisely”.

All in all, a great time was had by all and yet the outcome is still uncertain. Brad Lander after the hearing was over said he was pleased to see such a strong showing against EPS and felt we had slowed the considerable momentum the bill had been gathering.

We will see!

I would encourage you all to contact your NYC Council Member and ask they vote no on Intro #1480.

Greg Todd, Co-Director

Waste Not Permaculture



Will The Oil Glut Continue?


What if the current cheap oil is replaced with expensive oil?  Will what is happening now in Venezuela be happening in Brooklyn?  Will we be ready?  Will community gardens help ease the transition?

While we may be able to use wind and solar power to replace fossil fuels in our electrical grid, the transportation sector will prove much more difficult.   Forget about the Teslas, Leafs and Volts.  It’s moving freight, not people, that will be the problem.  Ships, airplanes and trucks are not going to be battery powered.  The numbers just don’t work.  And these are the backbones of modern industrialized society, the means by which we get our cheap imported food, cars, shoes, clothes, electronics and just about everything else we consume.

Read this analysis of what’s going on now in the oil industry.  It’s a long article but worth the read.  Thanks to Dan Miner for bringing this to my attention.


Talk on Selva Negra, Nicaraguan Permaculture Paradise

View of Selva Negra hotel in March 2016 Nicaragua

Come to the Brooklyn Permaculture Meetup Friday May 20th 2016 at 7:00 at the Brooklyn Commons, 388 Atlantic Avenue. We’ll be talking about Greg Todd’s visit to Selva Negra, a permaculture paradise in northern Nicaragua and Andrew’s upcoming Permaculture Design Course.

Hugel culture applied to Selva Negra coffee field

Seaweed being raked out of pond at Selva Negra for use as fertilizer











Source: green-phoenix-rss


Is Cover Cropping Going Mainstream?

Cover crop in commercial farm

I was astonished to find, in the Business Section of all places, a story about cover cropping in the NY Times today.  Just as permaculturists and organic farmers have known for decades, monocrop farmers are now discovering that cover crops increase yield, improve soil health and reduce loss of topsoil.  The article recounts how the Anson family, and Doug Anson in partiucular, attended an unspecified “seminar” (was it a permaculture talk?!?!) about cover cropping and returned home with “his hair on fire”.  Sound familiar, those of you who have attended a permaculture talk?
He insisted that the family plant at least a small percentage of their acreage with a cover crop that fall.  So in part to humor him and in part out of curiousity, his two brothers agreed to let him plant a cover crop on 1,200 acres, a fraction of the 20,000 acres on the “family farm”.   Incredibly, as predicted,  yields increased by 20-25 bushels per acre!   And less quantitatively but more satisfyingly, the soil felt better, less sandy more granular and lumpy, the way good soil should feel.
The article goes on to note that none other Monsanto is now investing in studies to determine if in fact cover cropping actually has the benefits its promoters say it has.
I’ll never forget one of the opening observations made by Geoff Lawton when I took his 72 hour permaculture in 2007 (sponsored by Green Phoenix Permaculture).  He stated that America’s number one export was not corn, soy or Boeing airliners, but rather top soil.  I’ve often repeated this quote in gatherings and it never fails to draw astonished looks.
Now it seems that commercial agriculture as reported in the Business Section of Americas newspaper of record, is beginning to feel the heat.
Will this new awareness trigger a revolution in agricultural practices?  And more interestingly how will Monsanto and other big ag companies figure out how to subvert cover cropping for their own fun and profit?   Let’s all pay careful attention over the months and years ahead.

Source: green-phoenix-rss


Will You Let Herman Stark Commit Arborside?


Willow at Imani in mid-summer.

On September 18th, the City Register published the name of the gentleman who purchased 89 Schenectady Avenue, the middle of three lots that comprise Imani I Garden.  His name is Herman Stark and his address is listed as 199 Lee Avenue Suite 308 Brooklyn NY 11211.  He paid $365,000 for this single 20×100 lot.
As far we can tell, the only reason someone would spend $365,000 for a 2,000 square foot lot would be to build a residential building.  Of course building such a structure would entail cutting down one of the tallest and most beautiful weeping willow trees in Brooklyn.  Is this really what the community wants to happen?  Is it really that important that we have more unaffordable housing in a borough already rated as one of the least affordable in the United States?
Or would we rather have a community garden with a towering willow tree, surrounded by chickens, an aquaponics project, fruit trees and a cob oven?
Let your electeds know your preference.  Scott Stringer, the Comptroller, can be reached at 212-669-2156.  Robert Cornegy the local council member, can be reached at 212-788-7354.  Let them know you’d prefer a willow tree over a housing project!
On September 28th, garden members put up the sign you see in the photo.  We are asking for anyone who knows and cares for Imani Garden to send us an email telling of their experiences there and what they like most about the garden.  We’re asking that you send your comments to “saveimanitree@gmail.com”.  With your permission, we will publish your responses on this website.

Diverse community residents sitting at picnic table in Imani I


Workshop on Fall Crops and Cover Cropping Oct. 17th

Guy D’Angelo, Wenting Chen plus one other in Imani II with hoop house

On Saturday October 17th at 1 PM, Guy D’Angelo, an organic farmer with 20 years experience growing on a 1/4 acre garden in Center Moriches Long Island, will be discussing fall crops and cover cropping at Imani II. Find out what plants you can grow in the fall in this zone and how to prepare your planting beds. Also learn about the advantages of putting a crop on your planting beds that will protect and enhance the soil over the winter. We will provide a demonstration of how to start your crop, how to cultivate and harvest it. Learn how you can extend the growing season even further with hoop houses over your growing beds.
Imani Garden II is located at 1680 Pacific Street in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. It has 13 raised beds, a 350 gallon water storage tank and a year around polycarbonate greenhouse.
To get there by mass transit, take the A/C or 3/4 trains to Utica Avenue. Walk Utica to Pacific Street and then walk west to Schenectady Avenue. Imani is located at the corner of Schenectady and Pacific Street.

Source: green-phoenix-rss


Does NYC Sustainability Include Community Gardens?

Willow at Imani in mid-summer.

Since at least the Bloomberg administration, NYC has been aggressivlely trying to paint itself as being “green”.  The building codes are now requiring many green features and incentivising builders to add even more.  Builders get additional buildable square feet for adding water storage tanks on site and get tax credits for adding solar panels.  Bloomberg launched the “Million Tree” initialive and much progress has been made towards that goal.  PlanNYC initiated by Bloomberg and recently updated by DeBlasio calls for every NYer to be within a ten minute walk of green space.
Yet when the sustainability agenda collides that of real estate developers, guess who get thrown under the bus?  As you may already know, Imani Garden II at 1680 Pacfic Street, an established community garden with 13 raised beds, water storage system and greenhouse was put on a list along with 18 other gardens sent to developers as sites for “affordable” housing.
Now we learned that, in a process still unclear to us, on June 18th, 89 Schenectady Avenue, the middle of three lots that comprise Imani I Garden, was sold to a private investor for the sum of $365,000.  In conducting a difficult referee sale, the community was overlooked and is now paying the price! Let us bring this great error to Comptroller Scott Stringer’s attention. Let him know that Crown Heights is who is suffering most from this dispute.  The other side lots in Imani are owned by the New York Restoration Project.  If this sale goes forward on August 3rd, Imani will be effectively cut into two pieces, and the 60 foot willow pictured above, an icon in Weeksville for a very long time, will be cut down.

To allow time for our elected officials to save the tree and the lot, please ask Comptroller Scott Stringer to halt the closing.   Scott’s hot line number is 212-669-3916.  Ask him to stop the sale so that the erroneous liens can be rescinded.
Also contact Stephanie Zimmerman, Council member Robert Cornegy’s Chief of Staff at 718-919-0740 x 106.  Ask her to have the Council set aside money to reimburse the City for the sale price of 89 Schenectady.
If you want more information about how you can help, send an email to imanigreg@gmail.com.
We are working on an on-line petition and Facebook page to address this injustice.  Stay tuned for further developments.

Youth in Imani I garden

Diverse community residents sitting at picnic table in Imani I




Are you contributing to Cali’s water crisis?

California drought with dried up canal

Are you part of the California drought problem?  Every time you buy a bunch of grapes from California, your contributing not only to some grower’s bottom line, you’re also consuming 24 gallons of California’s water.  For details, check out this recent article in the New York Times about the Cali Drought.
Long before Napa and Central Valley become the nation’s number one producer of grapes, New York had an established vineyard colony in the Finger Lake region.   While not reaching the levels of fame achieved by Napa, the the Finger Lake region still produces a passable riesling, and the climate is often compared to that of the riesling producing areas of the Rhine valley in Germany.  According to a 2005 study conducted about wine production in New York State, we have 31,000 wine bearing acres in New York and 1,384 farms producing grapes.
So as the drought bears down, and California’s water restrictions start to effect grape prices, you might want to look for a more local source.  We’ve actually got a nice grape vine growing along the fence at Imani Garden, which will be bearing grapes shortly, that is if Mayor De Blasio doesn’t turn the garden into unafforable housing instead.
IF this upsets, you might consider letting the Mayor know by writing him a letter.  Send us a copy at imanigreg@gmail.com.  Every little bit helps.  According to Paula Segal at 596 Acres, the City should be releasing in June the list of developers who’ve been awarded sites.  Stay tuned to find out if Imani has been awarded to anyone.
In the meanwhile, see you at the local wine bar!

Group shot – pond Imani I