Oil spill settlement funds to help make Greenpoint greener

A greener Greenpoint is on its way, thanks to the creative vision of Greenpointers and the first round of grant funding being approved through the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF).

Eighteen environmentally-focused projects have been selected to receive $395,000 in small grants—between $5,000 and $25,000 each—through the GCEF, created in 2011 as part of the $19.5 million settlement between ExxonMobil and New York State following the discovery that between 17 and 30 million gallons of crude oil had leaked into Newtown Creek over decades.

These grants “are a much-needed first step in reversing the long history of environmental abuse that the Greenpoint community has suffered,” said Assemblymember Joseph Lentol. “The excitement this fund has created only goes to show the serious dedication that this community has in making a better Greenpoint.”

Among the grant-winning projects are $5,000 to construct a green roof atop the Greenpoint Reformed Church at 136 Milton Street; $24,980 for the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) to design and build a biological “living dock” for environmental education and preservation at the ‘No Name’ tributary of Newtown Creek; $24,871 for the creation of an Urban Oasis of native wildflowers and bird study in McGolrick Park; and a combined $44,178 for the 61 Franklin Street Garden and the Java Street Community Garden.

Eight of the projects focused on educational programs to benefit students at local schools, including M.S. 126, P.S. 110, St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy, Northside Charter High School, and Citizens of the World Charter School.

At M.S. 126—a magnet school for environmental engineering—three separate grants have been approved for projects that will “allow us to continue our work in the area of environmental education and STEM career training” even after state funding ends, said Michael Mena, grant site coordinator.

The grant through La Casita Verde will assist students setting up a composting program, while funds through Solar One will provide for a Green Design Lab inside the school, and funds through the Center for Educational Innovation and Public Education Association will allow students to add native plants, shrubs and shade trees while improving research space and storm water filtering studies at the school’s existing garden.

Funds for the composting program and Green Design Lab will also benefit students at P.S. 110.

Other opportunities await local high schoolers through the ongoing collaboration between the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce (GCC) and Groundswell, a nonprofit that teaches art and teamwork to students while employing them to create community art projects.

“In Greenpoint, we could easily just reach out to a world class artist living here, but we know this is so positive for the teams that get involved in the Groundswell program,” said Jeff Mann, executive director of the GCC. “Every one of the kids working on this project will be hand-selected from Greenpoint schools.”

The design for one mural is already being finalized, said Mann, and the grant will allow for a second one—focused on telling the history of environmental justice in Greenpoint—to be developed and installed either opposite the Newtown Creek Visitor’s Center or at the base of the Pulaski Bridge.

“The people that have lived here generationally are very rare, whether it’s people who have contracted illnesses or lost relatives or seen the environmental damage,” noted Mann. “And some of the new people moving in were very surprised to learn that they were living on one of the largest oil spills in American history. So it’s going to reaffirm and open up info for everyone.”

The proposal process for large and legacy GCEF grants will begin in late March, 2014.

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