Friday, July 29, 2011

July S.W.I.M. Meeting

Monday morning was cool, overcast and a little windy. After the sweltering soup we waded through last weekend, this was beautiful weather. I was thrilled to be out in it, and excited to attend the Storm Water Infrastructure Matters Coalition meeting. S.W.I.M. is a group of New Yorkers dedicated to improving water quality in the city's rivers and estuaries through equitable distribution of green infrastructure.

The chickens and Annie Novak, Eagle Street's head farmer. Via The Atlantic.

The July meeting was held at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We sat on a small platform in the midst of a lovingly farmed green roof. Behind our group, chickens scratched in their coop and troops of city kids toured the farm. In front of us, midtown towered gray and reflective. The meeting opened with a presentation by Tyler Caruso and Erik Facteau about their research project, Seeing Green: The Value of Urban Farms, recently funded on Kickstarter. If they hadn't already raised the amount they were looking for I'd tell you to go donate; the project hopes to determine whether rooftop farms are equivalently efficient at capturing stormwater as traditional green roofs. This research could be used to make New York's green roof tax credit applicable for rooftop agriculture, which it currently isn't.

A still from the Seeing Green Kickstarter video showing Tyler and Erik on the roof at Brooklyn Grange farm.

The rest of the meeting centered around the previous week's combined sewer overflows, discussed in our last post. S.W.I.M.'s members were not happy.
The July meeting, from the S.W.I.M. blog.

They had reason. Notification of the CSOs was insufficient, and many of the boaters were either out on the water themselves or had groups of people (including high schoolers) in the water while sewage was being released nearby. The NYC DEP sent some representatives, though if they were trying to do damage control they weren't very successful. The unlucky, besuited bureaucrat who took questions was evasive and non-commital. The scene could easily be caricatured: clean-cut government employee yelled at by environmentalists over inadequate response to emergency. But the passion exhibited by the members of S.W.I.M. wasn't amusing, it was awesome. I left thinking that New York is lucky to have such people looking out for our waters and our health.

For in-depth notes on the points covered in the meeting, head over to the S.W.I.M. blog.

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