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.

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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
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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

 

 

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What Happens to NYC When California’s Central Valley Shuts Down?

California drought with dried up canal

Yesterday California Governor Jerry Brown announced an executive order mandating cities and towns in the drought-ravaged state to reduce water usage by 25%.  Unaffected by this order were the state’s farms, which consume 80% of the state’s water.  Why did farms get a pass on these reductions?  How much longer can they get away with it?
Check out this article in the Daily Beast about the politics of water in California.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the state in 2013 exported the following amounts of food key to our nation’s food supply:
Milk — $7.6 billion
Almonds — $5.8 billion
Grapes — $5.6 billion
Cattle, Calves — $3.05 billion
Strawberries — $2.2 billion
Walnuts — $1.8 billion
Lettuce — $1.7 billion
Hay — $1.6 billion
Tomatoes — $1.2 billion
Nursery plants— $1.2 billion

How will the rest of nation’s food supply be effected by California’s worsening drought?  What happens when the state’s farms are forced to reduce water consumption?
Wouldn’t it make sense for NYC residents to think about these questions now, before there’s a crisis.  Community gardens certainly provide at least part of the answer.  In January, Mayor DiBlasio’s Housing Dept. announced that 17 gardens were to be developed as affordable housing.  Let Mayor DiBlasio know that you want the 17 gardens saved from development so they can continue to provide residents with a secure and healthy source for fresh produce.  You can reach his Brooklyn liaison Kicy Motley at kmotley@cityhall.nyc.gov.  Send her a note today to express your concern.

Greg Todd with bike cart and food scraps in front of Imani Garden
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Rally at City Hall to Stop Taking of Community Gardens

Rally to save public gardens Feb. 2015

On a cold February 10th morning about 100 intrepid gardeners gathered on the steps of City Hall to express their outrage.  It seems that Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the housing arm of New York City, had decided on its own authority to confiscate 17 community gardeners for “affordable housing”.  Without any advance warning to the Parks Department that administers community gardens on City land, the affected City Council members or the community boards, on January 14th HPD issued a Request for Proposals asking developers to express interest in developing housing on 181 City-owned lots.  Buried among these 181 lots, among over 1,000 owned by the City, were 17 community gardens.
The response was swift and furious.  Within 24 hours, Antonio Reynoso, a Council Member from Williamsburgh, issued a letter to the mayor asking that all 17 of the gardens be removed from the list.  By the date of the rally, CMs Robert Cornegie, Rosie Mendez and Stephen Levin had also voiced their concern about the manner in which HPD conducted itself.
The question we have to ask ourselves: what role do gardens play in our communities?  Are communities more than just affordable housing?  In fact, the housing being offered by HPD is not even affordable.  Using something called the Area Median Income (AMI), under the RFP terms, only 1/3 of the units need to be affordable, meaning 2/3 of the units won’t be affordable.  And HPD’s definition of affordable is 80% of the AMI for a family of four.  Given that the AMI (based on regional statistics that include suburban counties) is $88,600, than means that one out of three units must be affordable to a family earning $70,880.  Hello, HPD.  That does not reflect the actual incomes of families in these communities.  These units will be affordable in name only.
Don’t let this mindless land grab go unnoticed.  Sign our petition at Stop the land grab.
For more information on this situation, check out New York City Community Garden Coalition website.
Stay tuned for more developments!

Group shot – pond Imani I
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Imani Under Threat of Demolition

Monica and Tawhid with kids working to clean up Imani II

When we discovered that the vacant lot near Imani I was actually owned by the people, we were overjoyed.  We’d been trying to garden at Imani I for several years but due to a large willow tree, the garden got little light.  By contrast, the vacant lot at 1680 Pacific was just a few feet from Imani I and had no trees at all!
We asked the elected officials who represent us if we could garden there and were initially told no because it was under the jurisdiction of Housing Preservation and Development.  But to our surprise, they offered us a license revokable at will, to use the lot for gardening.
Of course, our mistake was to accept this Faustian bargain, and sure enough just a few short years later, after we had invested over $5,000 in adding planting beds, a water storage tank and a beautiful greenhouse, our 60 plus past or present members are about to be evicted.  Why this lot was given to HPD, and not Parks, is a mystery.  It’s a small corner lot just 30 ‘ x 87 ‘, across from the Weeksville Houses, down the street from a large Sanitation garage and a block from the LIRR elevated train line.  It’s the only garden in a 20 block radius so if you want to garden in the area, we’re it.  It’s noisy and has been vacant for over 30 years.  If there was ever a house on the site, it was a long time ago, and it’s probably been vacant for good reasons.
But rather than fight City Hall, we took the bait and ran.
Now, we have no choice but to fight the decision to turn our garden into housing.  After a meeting of garden members last night, we will be producing a video featuring garden members and inviting local elementary schools to come by for a visit.  If you’e like to find out how you can help, send us an email at “imanigreg@gmail.com”.
The deadline for developers to respond to the City’s request for proposals is February 19th.  We have up until then to pursuade the City to remove our garden from the list.
Any help would be appreciated.

Planting seedlings during work day at Imani II greenhouse
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Climate Battery Completed At Imani II

Climate battery in formation. Imani II

As the darkness of December descends on Imani, a group of volunteers completed work on the climate battery in the greenhouse at Imani II.  Just to recapitulate, the climate  battery concept was introduced by Jerome Osentowsky at the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute to extend the growing season in their greenhouses.  Located in Basalt Colorado, CRMRI has been able to achieve remarkably warm temperatures in their greenhouses during cold winter weather using what Jerome calls a “climate battery“.  At 7,200 feet above sea level, the greenhouses suffer very low winter temperatures, but also enjoy lots of sunlight.  CRMPI was able to capture the heat generated by the sun and keep it in the greenhouses using a climate battery. The climate battery consists of ducts located at the top of the greenhouse which connect to similar ducts in the ground under the greenhouse.  Using small fans, the heat available during the hot sunny days is blown into the ground where it warms the soil.  Jerome grows a number subtropical and tropical plants in the greenhouses.  When the cold is too intense for even the climate battery to overcome, the staff fires up the adjacent hot tub and lets the heat warm the greenhouse.  Now that’s not just sustainable, that’s a great permaculture lifestyle!

Climate battery under construction showing buried tubing
Solar panel powering climate battery

At Imani II. we’ve run 4″ aluminium duct commonly used to exhaust household dryers along the top of the greenhouse.  We’ve connected this to 4″ drainage pipe buried a few inches below the ground on each side of the greenhouse floor.  At the front of the upper duct is a 12 volt fan repurposed from a discarded computer.  The fan is controlled by a thermostat commonly used for attic fans.  When the temperature at the top of the greenhouse reaches 60 degrees, the fan comes on and blows hot air into the buried drainage pipes.

55 gallon barrels filled with water will store heat gained from the sun.  Barrels are reused, water was captured from a nearby roof.

To enhance the solar gain, we’ve placed six donated 55 gallon plastic drums filled with water along the sides of the greenhouse.  The water will capture the heat during the days and use it to warm the greenhouse at night.  We’re also using the tops of the drums as platforms for our planting beds.

The fan is powered by two 6 volt deep-cycle batteries connected in series to create 12 volts.  The batteries are charged by a single 100 watt PV panel mounted on the south side of the greenhouse.
We installed an inexpensive ($12) electronic indoor/outdoor thermometer to measure the indoor and outdoor.  Because it has been raining here in Brooklyn for the past week, the differential has only been averaging a couple of degrees between indoor and outdoor.  I’m waiting on some sunny weather to see how much the sun raises the indoor temperature.
Today, Roman Yavich, Corey Hopp, Tommy and myself spread about 700 pounds of sand and gravel on the floor of the greenhouse on top of a layer of heavy plastic.  The plastic will prevent moisture from coming up into the greenhouse house and the sand and gravel will help retain heat.
Finally we painted the drums black to increase their heat absorption.
Total cost: $172.  The solar panel and batteries are not included as they were borrowed from our aquaponics system which doesn’t work in the winter.
Below is the story in pictures.

Sand is placed top of plastic on the floor of the greenhouse.
Tommy and Cory spreading gravel on top of the sand
Roman painting the water-filled drums with black paint
Some trays of micro greens on top of the black drums.

We will be monitoring the climate battery’s performance over the winter months and will fine tune and adjust the system based on its performance.  As an old boss once told me, “all good big systems are based on good small ones”.  As we learn about climate batteries in our little 10′ x 12′ greenhouse, we hope to apply our experience to larger greenhouses.  The goal: help feed ourselves year round, not just in the warm summer months.  After all, I do eat 12 months a year, and I suppose you do the same.  Let’s learn how grow locally 12 months a year as well.

Roman Javier painting water barrels in greenhouse with climate battery

 

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