Building A Better Tomorrow?

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by Aaron McGruder, The Boondocks

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Solar Power Prepares Southern Brooklyn For the Future

The realization that clean energy, namely solar, can save the city in a crisis such as Hurricane Sandy, is sweeping through neighborhoods. Solar, which is renewable, efficient, and off-the-grid, provides energy which was needed throughout the damaged areas of the boroughs lacking in emergency preparation.

A press release in November 2016 announced that the Office of Storm Recovery, funded by Governor Cuomo, appointed 26 facilities and 19 service providers under the New York Rising Community Center Program to create a network of neighborhood-based recovery centers for extreme weather events.

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Caesar Nash, a Solar One employee from Yonkers, pulls apart the summer stage in preparation for fall.

In 2014 the reconstruction plan for Canarsie was set in motion, which was directly inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Two of the hubs are in the Canarsie area, having been identified by the community center program committee as necessary. They will be fitted with solar power and sustainable batteries.

The Canarsie planning committee members include established local organizations such as the Canarsie Disaster Recovery Coalition, Flatlands 108th Block Association, Fresh Creek Civic Association, and the Jewish Community Council of Canarsie. Major non-profits, such as Solar One, the largest weatherization organization in New York State, help connect these local residents with the program’s renewable services.

Kristin Devoe of the Division of Emergency Services for New York City said, “Through our stockpiles, we can provide generators, light towers, etc. to local emergency managers for local use to power essential buildings such as gathering centers, warming centers, critical infrastructure public buildings. However, none of these items are fueled by renewable energy.”

Solar energy is a powerful resource. The lithium ion batteries, its non-toxic counterpart device, stay charged with the sun’s energy for when it is needed, while the excess is sent back into the city’s electrical grid. The Energy Association reports that, “Today’s electricity grid is increasingly vulnerable to threats from nature, terrorists, and accidents. Power outages cost as much as $130 billion annually, while hitting the job-creating commercial and industrial sectors the hardest.”

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The rebuilt Stuyvesant park nature trail behind the Solar One facility at sunset.

The Solar One site at Stuyvesant Park Cove on The East River was pummeled when Hurricane Sandy hit on October 29, 2012. According to their program report that year, they were able to quickly adapt their solar panel system into a crucial charging station for people nearby during the city’s recovery. Without alternative methods for powering electronics, and in one case a child’s nebulizer for asthma, people’s communications and safety would have suffered.

“You have to be prepared,” said Elba O. Melendez and Community Emergency Response Team volunteer from Canarsie.

Melendez and the committee have dedicated their time to readying their neighborhoods for natural disasters. The idea is to transfer Solar One’s adapted crisis methods into full-blown emergency and environmental education centers. “Many sources encourage the use of solar chargers by the general public in the event of a power outage for small items such as personal cell phones, rechargeable or crank operated lanterns, flashlights, and weather radios and these are considered effective in these instances,” said Devoe.

The organizations determined that solar powered devices, panels, and storage batteries would be the most helpful to maintain communications and basic comforts during a crisis recovery in Canarsie. Even suggesting in the reconstruction plan that resilient street lights powered by solar energy would improve safety during an emergency.

Angelica Ramdhari, Solar One Project Director of NYRCR Solar and Battery Backup Program for Community Facilities, hopes to create backup power for neighborhoods in need with elderly or local residents that have less access to charging, resources, and transportation.

 

 

 

Canarsie Dog Owners Skeptical of Local Animal Shelter

The Canarsie Kennel Club meet every first Saturday in Canarsie Park at Seaview Ave. and 88th St for their monthly Meet and Greet event, at which two dogs, lost and dirty, were found wandering around and taken in by members. The dog owners in the club, as well as pet owners in the Canarsie community, are reluctant to send stray or rescue animals to the only available animal shelter that is three miles away.

The dogs, a young black female Patterdale terrier and a blonde Pitbull, were found around 8 a.m. by three of the members in the kennel club. With the help of experienced dog trainer, Marquise Berry, and pet owner, Richard Want, the dogs were coaxed out of hiding and given food and water. Their ears were fly bitten and they smelled strongly of urine. According to Berry, they were soiled enough to indicate they’d both been in cages for a long time. It is still unclear if both of the dogs had the same unknown owner.

Canarsie Kennel Club and Canarsie Improvement Association Co-Founder, Leanne Desvignes said “I don’t know what we’re going to do. We can’t leave them here. This has never happened at a meeting before.”

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(Left) Marquise Berry, local dog trainer and owner of New Era Dog Training company, and (right) Richard Want helps rescue a blonde Pitbull and a Patterdale in Canarsie Park.

In the Canarsie neighborhood, there are currently three animal clinics but does not have its own animal shelter. The closest one is the Animal Care Center of NYC located on Linden Blvd in East New York, but pet owners are reluctant about it because of its kill policy.

“If we call that’s where she’s going to end up,” said Berry, on how to handle the dogs. The members opted to keep the dogs at their houses instead of calling the authorities or taking them to the shelter.

Dr. Peter Gusmorino of the Animal Clinic of Canarsie, that sometimes partners with the Linden Shelter, has been working in Canarsie for 30 years. He said the population has gone up in the neighborhood and there have been a few trends that he’s noticed. “I’ve seen less of the puppy mill dogs. Used to see a lot more of those. Now it’s more from shelters,” said Dr. Gusmorino. He remained neutral about the kill policy at the Linden shelter.

An Animal Care Open-Admissions Center, or commonly referred to as kill shelter, “accepts any animal that comes through its doors, no matter its medical or behavioral condition. As a result, decisions about placements are often based on resources and space availability, the health and the temperament of the animals at the given time.” It also means that there is regrettably a time limit on how long animals can stay in the shelter with overcrowding being a main issue.

Pet owners in Canarsie find the center’s policy to be understandable, but definitely an uncomfortable topic among animal lovers, many of which hoped to use the shelter as a last possible option.

“They’re a kill shelter but I can understand,” said Greg Hassett, a shopkeeper at Pete’s Pet Supplies, “There’s only one in the area. They could open one in the many abandoned buildings like on 95th and Glenwood. Been empty for I don’t know how long.”

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New blonde Pitbull found that morning

The Canarsie Kennel Club members kept the dogs in their homes for about two weeks while  advertising their photos and contact info for the strays on their Facebook page. The Patterdale was found a good home with an elderly couple who had recently lost their dog. The Pitbull is still temporarily at a member’s home until she can be placed.

11th Annual Honk NYC Music Fest Kickoff At The City Reliquary Museum

When’s the last time you heard an all brass brand play The Game of Thrones theme song and then seamlessly shift into the polka version of Britney Spears’s Toxic? No? Shame on you.

The 11th annual Honk New York City marching band festival officially kicked off with a packed yard and an explosion of music, food, and dancing, at the legendary City Reliquary Museum in Bushwick.

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The City Reliquary Museum yard and the Nevermind Orchestra starting the show at the Honk NYC festival.

Honk NYC is the gathering of street and marching bands locally and nationally, and in some cases internationally, to perform instrumental music for diversified audiences. Shows will be from October 10th to the 15th, spanning the city from Staten Island to Harlem with a guest spot in New Jersey. The bands playing at the event were The Nevermind Orchestra, The L Train Brass Band, and the New Creations Band.

According to Sara Valentine, Honk NYC Festival Steward and Co-Founder, the festival started out as an accident. It was a dinner party and a subsequent after party between rather talented friends, namely the Hungry March Band, that snowballed into three years’ worth of musical bashes before it became official. It is now the festival’s 11th year visiting the city from its original point in Boston.

“It’s accessible,” said Valentine on why she thinks marching band music in particular is so successful, “Can happen anywhere. It’s history. And it’s likely you’ve played that instrument as a kid.”

As of May 2016, the U.S Department of Labor reported that New York is the second highest employer of musicians and singers that play one or more musical instruments or sing; perform on a stage; and that perform for on-air broadcasting, or for sound or video recording.

Emily Smith, of the Seattle-based Filthy Femcorps band, said, “Marching bands, we’re a community.” She as well as several of the members of the performing bands actively participate in multiple or each other’s bands, fostering a real sense of unity among the musicians.

The bands certainly kept up the playful atmosphere among the functional tree house and bar located in the wide, ornate yard behind the museum. The New Creations Band that closed out the celebrations had a saxophonist that literally lit his instrument on fire as a final shocking note

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New Creations saxophonist that lit his instrument on fire as a final performance act.

Musical selections ranged from comical Friday the 13th songs to traditional New Orleans big band classics. There was even an original composition such as L Train Brass Band member Ryan Hall’s Bushwick, which encompasses the groove, people, and general weirdness of his favorite neighborhood.

“You see who’s here. White, Black, Asian people. Every culture has a grass band tradition,” said Valentine. More than anything she expressed that the festival’s mission is about making connections, not through social media or cell phones, but in real life with music across all backgrounds.

Community Joins Forces to #GetBKOrganized Against Racism in Brooklyn

Senior Rabbi Rachel Timoner and the Racial Justice Subgroup of Get Organized Brooklyn have banded together on Wednesday to assist with their community in self organizing efforts to confront racism in Brooklyn in response to the white nationalist rally and attack in Charlotte, Virginia.

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Senior Rabbi Rachel Timoner shown before her opening remarks for the GOBK meeting

The Charlottesville incident last month concluded when several people were fatally injured after a man ran his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators at a white nationalist gathering.

In response, the Brooklyn organization decided that it was important for white and non-white members to reflect on root causes of white nationalism that affect their borough. Since last year the massive bi-monthly meetings brought together a “multi-racial, multi faith” group focused on breaking down systematic racism. About 300 people were in attendance in the large auditorium, quietly murmuring amongst themselves until the beginning of the meeting.

Councilman Lander, who was present and in full support of the group, and Rabbi Timoner gave brief introductions and updates on the agenda. Dara Silverman, director of Powerlabs, which is a network that backs other independently run organizations took the floor.

“Racism isn’t just what happens in the south, or in Charlottesville, or in other places, but it also happens here in Brooklyn,” said Silverman. She spoke briefly on different forms of oppression.

The other prominent speaker and group member, Eric Ward, advocated for positive and creative responses to bigotry or racism rather than violence, such as marching or artistic expressions.

“The best defense is unity,” said Ward, “unapologetic unity.”

A panel of community leaders spoke on diverse subjects such as the criminal justice system, segregated schools in New York city, passing meaningful legislation, and intergenerational incarceration.

As part of the non-hierarchal philosophy, the closing “break out groups,” small sections of attendees that are interested in specific panel discussions or activist subgroups, convened afterwards. They even took to separate floors or rooms in the building with self-appointed leaders to hyper focus on their interrelated agendas.

“We have these mass gatherings,” Timoner said, “to build democracy. I do think that’s the answer.” She said that they are committed to holding an open space for people to continue to organize themselves and make an impact.

Renowned Legal Activist Stands By Michael Bennett Civil Rights Lawsuit

The President of the NAACP Legal Defense and essayist Sherrilyn Ifill backs a civil rights lawsuit filed by NFL player Michael Bennett, a Seattle Seahawks Defensive End, against the Las Vegas police department after police targeted and abusively detained him.

According to a letter he posted on his Twitter account, on August 26th after the Mayweather-McGregor boxing match, Bennett was targeted for being a black man, arrested, thrown to the ground, and threatened immediately following a shooting in the area.

Held at the Open Society Foundations headquarters near Columbus Circle, Ifill and legal scholar Angela J. Davis were discussing their new book, “Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment,” before a crowded room and overflow room packed with fans of their work.

“We have a democracy problem. Not a black people problem, you know, and not a race problem,” Ifill stated as the panel began.

The book, a collection of essays edited by Davis, focuses on policing and racial discrimination in the U.S and the impact of the criminal justice system on African American boys and men. Ifill and Davis, delved into why prosecutors, local public officials, and police often create racial disparities in the legal system because they hold all the control with no real transparency.

Bennett announced his intent to file the lawsuit hours prior to the start of the panel. During the Q&A portion, an attendee asked if civil rights lawsuits against police officials affect the progress towards a solution to routine racial discrimination.

Ifill said, “It does matter very, very powerfully. It’s part of the equation.” She expressed a hope that individual claims, new patterns and practices of the justice department, and prosecutors willing to take action would raise consciousness. “I was thrilled. He [Michael Bennett] was willing and he wasn’t just going to suck it up.”

She closed the discussion saying that the civil rights lawsuit is just a small stepping stone in a bunch of processes designed to pressure the criminal justice system into change, but a necessary one.

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From left Speaker Sherrilyn Ifill, Moderator Chris Stone, Speaker Angela J. Davis