Recap: “Adapting to Change” Lower East Side Cycling Tour

Posted on: December 6th, 2012 at 10:10 am by and

[Center: Wendy Brawer of the Green Map System, addressing the crowd. Photo: David Bergman]

In the immediate post-Sandydays, bicycles were the best means of transportation, and so it was appropriate that the Green Map System’s “Adapting to Change” tour of the Lower East Side, held this past Sunday, traveled by bike. The mostly helmeted participants gathered at Tompkins Square Park for a two-plus hour guided ride of gardens, green buildings and composting as well as storm damage.

Organized by Wendy Brawer, long-time LES resident and founder of the Green Map System, the tour’s intent was to “explore responses to the challenges faced by Lower East Side residents and visit innovative and sustainable solutions that reduce energy consumption and increase climate awareness.” Before the ride began, Dan Miner of Beyond Oil NYC discussed some of the environmental issues underlying climate change, referring to the rapid buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a factor that almost certainly contributed to the strength of Superstorm Sandy.

First stop on the tour was Cooper Union’s new eco-certified building at Astor Place, where David Bergman, author/blogger, architect and occasional contributor to Bowery Boogie, described the green aspects of the building as well as general ecodesign responses to climate change. The tour then proceeded through Fourth Arts Block where the community-based organization has painted white roofs and is pursuing solar power installations.

Next stops were First Park, a culture park recently created out of neglected city-owned spaces, and M’Finda Kalunga Garden (in Sara D. Roosevelt Park), a community garden where the chickens were either hiding or had been taken to warmer winter digs.

[Photo: David Bergman]

After meandering through the Delancey Street area, observing recent traffic-calming installations and discussing the Lowline as well as the planned redevelopment of the area, we headed to the East River Park where some of the worst damage occurred. Along the way, JK Canepa of the New York Climate Action Group talked about some of the community efforts underway.

At the river, we saw the Lower East Side Ecology Center’s compost operation where their steel bins had been lifted by the storm surge and shoved along a fence by the highway. The water level there had reportedly peaked at 9.5’ above the ground level (which was already several feet above sea level).

[Photo: David Bergman]

Perhaps the saddest sites were the mountains of wood and branches from age-old trees that succumbed to Sandy’s devastation. Though not as horrific as the destruction and ongoing hardships to be found at coastal areas of the city and New Jersey, the backdrop emphasized the scale of existing and potential issues the LES faces from climate change. Balancing that were the examples of solutions such as pervious pavement and green roofs encountered in the tour.

Watch Peter Shapiro’s video of David Bergman speaking:

Watch Peter Shapiro’s video of Dan Miner speaking:

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