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NYCHA Board Member Margarita López and Department of City Planning Director Amanda M. Burden (back center) with SpeakingGreen Lecture Series Attendees (Photo by Pete Mikoleski).
SpeakingGreen Lecture Series Seeks Expansion to National Conference

Nearly 200 residents, employees and community members filled the plant-decorated gymnasium of P.S. 126 near Smith Houses in Lower Manhattan on November 17, 2010 to attend what was later announced to be the final discussion in the pioneering quarterly New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) SpeakingGreen Lecture Series.

Initiated in August 2008 by NYCHA and the Clinton Climate Initiative, the series was designed to facilitate the exchange of ideas between diverse experts and the community to heighten awareness of the Authority’s environmental impact and the pressing need to reduce energy consumption through sophisticated technology and simple changes in our daily habits.

“We have fulfilled our objective,” declared NYCHA Board Member and Environmental Coordinator, Margarita López. “We are now ready for the next level, which is to call for a national conference on the greening of public housing.” NYCHA is in the early stages of exploring a conference that would bring together all public housing authorities in New York to discuss how best to preserve our housing stock and our environment. “We want to send a message that public housing will change by becoming green to preserve our environment and also to conserve NYCHA’s limited fiscal resources,” said Board Member López.

Amanda M. Burden, Director of the Department of City Planning.
SpeakingGreen guest speaker and Director of the Department of City Planning, Amanda M. Burden addresses the audience. Photo by Pete Mikoleski

SpeakingGreen guest speaker, Amanda M. Burden who is Chair of the City’s Planning Commission and Director of the Department of City Planning, is well aware of how significant a role public housing facilities play when it comes to energy consumption in New York City. “New York is already the greenest city in the country,” Ms. Burden said, due to its population density and public transportation networks that reduce reliance on cars.  However, she added, “Eighty percent of energy consumption comes from buildings, so making them more efficient and even capable of creating their own energy with solar panels and other means is our next challenge.”

Generating energy either by harnessing wind or solar energy is a challenge that NYCHA is willing to take on to mitigate rising utility costs, according to Board Member López. “Last year, NYCHA expended $518 million on utilities. By reducing energy consumption, the funds we save will help public housing survive.”

Creative solutions include, “working with CUNY and other organizations to explore the possibility of putting solar panels on development roofs or grounds when appropriate, and creating alternate energy jobs for residents,” Board Member López added.

Residents are engaged in the conversation when it comes to greening public housing and the lectures have helped to put their role in environmental conservation into context.

“I came to the lecture because I want to know more about what to do for greening in our building,” said Ms. Helen Marshall, Manhattanville Houses Green Committee Member.  And Ms. Marshall is sharing the knowledge with fellow residents.

“My neighbor convinced me to attend the Green Committee meetings,” said Ms. Margaret Wells, also of Manhattanville Houses. “I agree that we have to get on board with trying to do something. We all live in NYCHA and are interested in our environment.”

Howard Silver
November 18, 2010