A fish grows in Cleveland


Last week I visited the Cleveland-based RidAll Green Partnership's urban farming project, an inspirational example of inner-city revitalization through environmental infrastructure.   Located in the 'forgotten triangle', the RidAll Green Partnership incorporates aquaponics, soil-based urban farming, composting, and public education.    


RidAll founder Damien Forshe was well aware of the need for access to healthy food given his work as an exterminator in Cleveland communities.   Forshe responded by founding the RidAll Foundation in 2011 and began building the RidAll partnership, located in Cleveland's Urban Innovation Zone.  The Ridall partnership grows fresh produce and fish that it sells to local residents and institutions.  The partnership also re-used demolition debris that was on-site to create educational space.  The site generates revenues from twenty-two sources, including selling tilapia from the farm's aquaponics tanks and compost of food scraps donated by the local food bank.  The St. Vincent's Hospital committed to purchasing produce from the facility for its first two years of existence, providing a consistent source of income during the project's most fledgling stage.  Thousands of local residents have visited the site for educational purposes, while many purchase fresh produce -- especially kale -- from the farm.

Rooftop Farm on Wholefoods

A Wholefoods store outside of Boston has installed a rooftop farm atop its new store in Lynnfield, Massachusetts.  Wholefoods will sell the grown goods in its store directly as produce or as an input for prepared foods.  Green City Growers and Recover Green Roofs expect around 10,000 pounds of produce will be grown each year.  Although the project will not pay for itself in terms of goods sold, Wholefoods anticipates the marketing of the project may increase overall sales.  The infographic below illustrates plans for the project.  For more information, see the Boston Globe article here.


Source: http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/06/02/haute-cuisine-whole-foods-store-sell-produce-grown-its-roof/ixhp7WDaCF4sHseaQ07DHJ/igraphic.html

Sandy Regional Assembly: Immediate Recommendations for Rebuilding

The Sandy Regional Assembly released a report recommending how post-Sandy redevelopment can build from and support community-based planning efforts.  

The Sandy Regional Assembly's three goals are to: 

 1: Integrate regional rebuilding efforts with local resiliency priorities

 2: Address public health impacts on vulnerable communities

 3: Expand community-based climate change planning  

Through the lens of environmental and social justice, the Regional Assembly acknowledges the SIRR's strengths, critiques shortcomings and provides recommendations in moving forwards.  The Regional Assembly recommends that public agencies responsible for rebuilding: 

1. Demonstrate that recovery and resiliency planning efforts integrate community priorities and use transparent and democratic decision-making processes

2. Guarantee that NYC Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) integrate regional rebuilding efforts with local resiliency priorities

3. Require future New York City recovery and resiliency planning efforts to address the needs of the most vulnerable communities.

The full report can be found here .




New Report: How Our Next Mayor Should Tackle Sandy Rebuilding

The Alliance for a Just Rebuilding published a report today recommending how New York's next mayor should integrate community and economic justice into  post-Sandy rebuilding efforts.  They prioritized the following four points: 

 1. Our Next Mayor Should Ensure that Sandy Recovery and Rebuilding Dollars Create Thousands of Good Local Jobs

2. Our Next Mayor Should Restore Lost Affordable Housing, and Create New Affordable Housing for Displaced Residents to Preserve Community Ties

3. Our Next Mayor Should Invest in Clean, Sustainable Energy Infrastructure that Values Communities and is Accountable to the Public

4. Our Next Mayor Should Include and Engage Communities in Sandy Recovery –and in Planning NYC’s Future.

This paper adds an important perspective to rebuilding efforts, as the billions of rebuilding dollars present our city with a tremendous opportunity to address systemic inequalities while protecting all New Yorkers from future extreme weather events.  You can learn more about the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding here.



SBA Loans in Flood Zones

A recent analysis by WNYC & ProPublic concluded that nearly 1/2 of the $1.5 Billion in Federal loans approved by the Small Business Administration (SBA) are to business and home owners located in areas identified as "flood prone" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).   The SBA is not requiring alternative designs (e.g. raising properties on stilts) for the properties impacted by their loans; it only is assessing the traditional financial viability of loan recipients, assuming no future extreme weather event will occur.  The SBA would benefit from seriously considering the potential financial and community risks of their loans in the context of future extreme weather events, educating potential loan recipients of these risks, and identifying ways to advance smarter building and community designs in a timeframe consistent with immediate and longer-term redevelopment efforts.

 Location of SBA post-disaster loans to date.  Source: http://projects.propublica.org/sandy-sba/

Location of SBA post-disaster loans to date.  Source: http://projects.propublica.org/sandy-sba/

National Report: Greening Vacant Lots to Manage Stormwater

A recent report by the NYC Soil & Water Conservation District identifies planning and implementation strategies for greening vacant lots to manage storm water.  As lead researcher of the project, I directed our efforts to assess how leading cities plan, administer and implement programs that convert vacant lots to green space, in the context of regulatory requirements and broader redevelopment goals.   We used ten case studies, ranging from New Orleans, LA to Chicago, IL, to identify how cities can plan, administer, design, own, maintain, and finance the greening of vacant lots to manage stormwater.  Key findings are applied to the City of Philadelphia, informing its ambitious storm water management planning efforts.  Our study was prepared for The Nature Conservancy as part of the NatLab collaboration, and was made possible by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Feds, Forbes: Smart Communities will Build Green Infrastructure

According to Federal policymaker Annie Donovan, "The wheels of innovation have begun to spin in stormwater management.  It’s time to scale this promising solution."  Donovan provides numerous examples of growing green infrastructure market nationwide.  She highlights the work of NatLab, a collaboration of the Natural Resources Defence CouncilThe Nature Conservancy, and Eko Asset Management Partners, in developing financing mechanisms for GI.  I joined this collaboration with colleagues from the NYC Soil & Water Conservation District.  We served as advisers to the City of Philadelphia's water department to identify effective practices for green infrastructure, resulting in the report, Greening Vacant Lots: Planning and Implementation Strategies.  Read the full article here.