Working for a Greener Slope

Park Slope should be a model community for sustainability and responsible stewardship. Meaningful action on climate change and other global issues will have to be taken at the state, national, and international levels, of course, but as concerned citizens, every action we take is important as a message to others. And we can influence our elected leaders’ decisions as well.

To this end, the Civic Council focused its 2008 annual forum on sustainability. The Sustainability Committee was formed some two years later. We advocate for responsible use of natural resources in our community and promote better practices for the environment. Our goals are to provide information on sustainability issues, such as reducing energy usage and practical “green” building techniques; encourage practices that reduce waste and increase recycling; raise awareness of sustainability and carbon-footprint issues in our selection of food and other goods; and work with other groups, and provide them with publicity and assistance.

One of our largest activities is the Civic Sweep, held in the fall and spring. This year’s Fall Civic Sweep took place on Sun., Oct. 16. Volunteers focused on Seventh Avenue, picking up litter, mulching trees, and weeding tree pits. We gave away daffodil bulbs and a limited supply of block clean-up kits. The Lower East Side Ecology Center collected electronics for recycling, Transportation Alternatives offered bicycle light sets for $5, and we all enjoyed bluegrass by Vincent Cross and Good Company. We thank this year’s sponsors — supersponsor New York Methodist Hospital; Astoria Federal Savings; Brooklyn Properties of Seventh Avenue; Brown Harris Stevens; Brownstone Real Estate LLC; Garfield Realty; Leopoldi Hardware; Orrichio Anderson Realty; Park Slope Copy Center; Park Slope Food Coop; Slope Realty Co.; Tarzian Hardware; Universal Mortgage, Inc.; and Warren Lewis Realty — and invite more local businesses to help us by sponsoring future Sweeps. (The next Civic Sweep will be in April.)

To help reduce use of plastic bags, we have produced a tote bag as a substitute, paid for by funds from New York Methodist Hospital, to be offered at events and to new members. We are interested in how other cities have introduced a plastic-bag fee, which reduces use and funds municipal projects, with the intent of doing something similar in New York City.

The committee also keeps an eye on the new trees recently planted on Seventh Avenue by MillionTreesNYC, following a Civic Council request two years ago. Over the summer, we enlisted volunteers to water these new trees in times of drought. Seven merchants and one church have signed up thus far. Sustainability Committee members have participated in MillionTreesNYC Tree Care workshops at a 10th Street block party and in Manhattan earlier this summer.

Also, in January, the Civic Council cosponsors the local Mulchfest Christmas tree recycling program with the Prospect Park Alliance.

Another Sustainability initiative involves the lot at Fourth Avenue and Sackett Street. For many years now, GreenSpace, Community Board 6, and the Department of Environmental Protection, supported by the Civic Council, have worked to create a public garden on this long-vacant lot, which provides access to the city’s Third Water Tunnel. We hope that this garden will soon become a reality. GreenSpace envisions a native-plantings garden and a site for community events. Judy Janda, a founding member of GreenSpace and a member of the Sustainability Committee, is our liaison on this project.

The committee would also like to get the word out regarding hydrofracking, a serious environmental threat to our drinking water. Last year, the committee composed a letter for Civic Council trustees opposing the practice to send to the governor, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and elected officials. We are now finalizing a fact sheet on hydrofracking, as well as an updated letter on its dangers to be sent to other Brooklyn Brownstone civic associations for distribution to their membership.

Next year, we hope to help promote the new Bike Share Program, educate our community about solar voltaic panels, and help reduce energy consumption through energy audits and installation of energy-efficiency measures.

We are always seeking new members who want to get involved and help the community live more sustainable lives. E-mail us at

— Bob Gilbert and Chandru Murthi founded and currently cochair the Sustainability Committee.

Photo: David Herman

from the Fall 2011 Civic News