Note: I recently received an award from The City Gardens Club for my work as an educator. I'm posting these remarks I made at the award ceremony here because they show the collaborative nature of community gardeners and the individuals and organizations that support community gardens. I've added links where appropriate.
City Gardens Club Remarks, November 13, 2017
Thank you Susan. I’m proud to be receiving this award as you did several years ago. Thank you City Gardens Club for this MelvilleAward.
I don't think I would have been able to accomplish what I have without the support of my wife, Kathy. She has been my one-woman support team. If I listed all the ways she has supported me this speech would go on forever.
Thanks to GrowNYC for employing me all these years and supporting the accomplishments for which I am being rewarded today.
31 years ago I was hired to be the Grow Truck Driver. Support for this position has come almost every year since from the City Gardens Club. Thank you City Gardens Club for that funding. The Grow Truck has been invaluable in getting the materials and supplies - often donated by organizations led by Melville Award honorees, the Green Guerillas led by Steve Frillman and Battery Parks City Parks Conservancy led by Tessa Huxley - to all of the Greening projects at GrowNYC like school gardening projects led by Melville recipients; Alison Godshall, Nate Wight and GrowNYC’s Mike Zamm.
I’ve recently retired as Director of Green Infrastructure at GrowNYC. In all of the projects Gerard and I have worked on, a key component has been educating city residents and youth in particular, about all aspects of Open Space – how to find spaces to grow plants in our city where open space is so scarce, how to grow those plants and all of the benefits we receive as individuals and as a city from those plants.
You might say Gerard Lordahl and I complement each other in the sense of enhancing each other’s work. I can thank Gerard more than anyone for the many successes I’ve had. Particularly because he did things I didn't care much about and I was the nerdy statistics guy that measures and counted things so I could tell you:
how many community gardens are in NYC - 600,
or how much space they encompass - 32 acres,
or how many community gardeners - 20,000 in all 5 boroughs
and that there are 200 gardens with rainwater harvesting systems capturing 2 million gallons of rainwater each year.
The last 15 years or so of my career I spent the bulk of my time on storm water management and rainwater harvesting because I felt that rainwater harvesting has an environmental triple bottom line.
It saves water.
It prevents pollution.
It educates the public.
These rainwater systems are educational just by there existence. They provoke conversation and learning particularly in lower income communities and communities of color. This is very important to me to help insure that we have an educated public and that we don't have a Flint Water crisis in our city and that our city has an intelligent plan for dealing with storms like Sandy, Harvey, Irma and Maria.
We created a Stormwater Management Toolkit that can be found at GrowNYC.org to give everyone the tools they need to know the issues and do something about it.
I trained hundreds of teens, young adults and homeowners about rainwater systems and how to install them. I also taught many rainwater workshops for GrowNYC, GreenThumb, the Queens Botanical Garden led by Susan Lacerte, a former Melville award recipient and with Mary Leou at Steinhardt NYU, another Melville honoree, and in partnership with other community groups.
I want to point out one partnership in particular, The Brotherhood/ Sister Sol (BHSS), because that partnership highlights the work that we do but also because it gives me hope. At BHSS I worked very closely with teen program leader Nando Rodriguez and the BHSS youth to build 3 rainwater systems in their community. I first met Nando about 20 years ago as one of the youth working on the CommunityGarden Mapping Project. Now he is doing great work with youth in Harlem.
Over the years I have taught elementary school children, teens and adults how to measure, identify, assess and map the street trees and community gardens in NYC in the aforementioned Community Garden Mapping Project and Street Tree Mapping Project.
Gerard and I have both taught the Street Tree Pruner Class to hundred of adults. In fact one of my students, Pam Ito was another Melville honoree.
I am most proud of the Learn It Grow It Eat It program created with my colleague David Saphire. We taught hundreds of Bronx teens where their food comes from, how to grow food and how to be community leaders in their community that has few healthy food choices.
Thanks again to the City Gardens Club, for your generous support that has allowed the Grow Truck to continued to assist community gardens and now GrowNYC’s Governors Island Teaching Garden. The wonderful video you will now see visually captures how GrowNYC staff has transformed an unused space on Governors Island into an outdoor classroom for children and families that allows them to experience first hand all of the aspects of environmental education I've taught and more.
Thank you again to the City Gardens Club for the Melville Award.