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Growing and Greening New York Explores Greater Sustainability for NYC and City's Role in Global Efforts
Image from the exhibition’s “sustainable” living room.
NEW YORK, NY.- Growing and Greening New York: PlaNYC and the Future of the City, on view at the Museum of the City of New York December 11, 2008, through April 12, 2009, will make the complexities of greater environmental sustainability in New York City vivid, compelling, and understandable by bringing environmental concerns to life on an individual, human scale. Organized in terms of a typical day in the life of a New Yorker, the exhibition will explore six essential areas addressed by the Bloomberg Administration’s ambitious five-borough plan for sustainability by 2030: water; transportation; energy; open space; land; and climate change. The exhibition will feature architectural models, interactive displays, diagrams, renderings, photographs, hands-on examples of new materials, videos, and more, many of which have been created expressly for the exhibition.

A symposium, From Faucet To Flush: The Future of New York’s Water System, will take place on Monday, December 15, at 6:30 p.m. Emily Lloyd, former commissioner of New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, will discuss what the agency is doing to clean up New York’s waterways and upgrade the water system. Joining Lloyd will be Paul Mankiewicz, expert on wastewater and president of the Gaia Institute; Alex Matthiessen, Hudson Riverkeeper and president of Riverkeeper; and Christine Holowacz, co-chair, Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning.

“Our future is at stake,” commented Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York. “This important exhibition will reveal how each of us can work with business and government to address the challenges posed by climate change, population growth, and other environmental issues. Growing and Greening New York promises to not only be informative, but empowering.”

Growing and Greening New York will consider issues, problems, and challenges facing New York while also documenting solutions proposed by architects, urban planners, scientists, industrial designers, engineers, as well as by non-profit organizations, advocacy groups, and other entities involved in the process. The exhibition will take the visitor through the course of a day—7 a.m. through 2 a.m.—and link routine activities with information documenting their collective impact on the environment, while also offering alternatives for making these actions less harmful to our world and highlighting innovations that will lead to greater sustainability by 2030. The complexities of the water system and strategies for reducing the impact of water use on the environment, for example, will be documented in the section of the exhibition that corresponds to 7 a.m., when many New Yorkers shower, prepare breakfast, and brush their teeth. Mass transit and traffic congestion will be addressed in the “8 a.m.” area of the exhibition, in which the city’s extensive subway system and its role in reducing vehicular traffic will be highlighted as an inherent urban advantage in the struggle to achieve greater sustainability. The massive environmental impact of the city’s commercial buildings will be documented in a section of Growing and Greening New York that will correspond to the 11 a.m. hour, in which forward-looking “building green” projects will be explored. Here, plans for new construction will be spotlighted as will innovative and beneficial solutions for existing structures. Further along—and later in the imaginary day, at 3 p.m.—the exhibition will focus on parks and the importance of open space, not only as a source of respite, but because of its healthful impact on water and air quality. Consumption will be spotlighted in the 6 p.m. section, where the advantages of buying local and buying green will be illustrated, as will strategies for reducing the city’s waste. The 8 p.m. hour (in the context of the exhibition) will return the visitor to the home, where individual choices such as how to furnish a home, what type of lighting to use, and which appliances to buy will be linked to such global issues as solid waste, water quality, and climate change. The nighttime hour of the exhibition, 2 a.m., will showcase—while the city sleeps—an overview of environmental issues facing cities around the world. At any given “moment” in the exhibition, selected PlaNYC initiatives will be discussed and linked to larger environmental issues, updating visitors on the advantages and challenges of the proposals as well as on their current status.

Highlights of the exhibition will be:

• Architectural renderings of Via Verde—a proposed green, affordable housing plan and the winner of the New Housing New York design

•A living room designed and built to demonstrate greener living

•An architectural model of the Queens Botanical Garden Visitor and Administration Center, the first public building in New York City to receive Platinum certification through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) program. The $15 million facility makes innovative use of stormwater among other major resource-conserving features

•A demonstration of Rain Water Hog’s innovative Rainwater Harvest System

•Ideas and materials for paving, a critical area of concern for urban areas in managing stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows

•Available and soon-to-be available consumer products

•An installation that enables visitors to experience projected subway crowding and subway improvements in the year 2030, and a video documenting the Paris Velib, the bike sharing program, in which any registered user can “borrow” a bicycle from one station and return it to another for a nominal fee, which debuted in 2007

•An exploration of the economic advantages of sustainability and “green collar” jobs

•A model of the Bank of America Tower, rising at One Bryant Park, the first skyscraper in the country to strive for LEED Platinum certification, with documentation of the groundbreaking energy systems and onsite water management, all of which are transforming the way to build at scale

New Yorkers face both advantages and challenges as they face the question of the environmental sustainability of the city. In many ways, the city's density and existing infrastructure, particularly its mass transportation system and gravity-fed water supply, mean that urban life is inherently green; New Yorkers use less energy and generate less greenhouse gas than the average American. But the sheer size of New York—the largest city in the United States—results in a collective impact on the environment that is all but unimaginable. People across the boroughs tap into 1.1 billion gallons of water daily. City streets are already congested and the vast acres of paved surfaces throughout the five boroughs reduce vegetation while compounding stormwater runoff. Rooftops contribute to water waste, and urban buildings consume and waste vast amounts of energy. Accessibility to parks is limited in parts of the city, and in addition to the respite they offer, open spaces are important contributors to clean and cool city air. Some 64,000 tons of residential waste produced by New Yorkers each week is a costly problem, and by 2030, 85% of urban energy demands will come from buildings currently in use. Retrofitting and creating green and affordable homes for New Yorkers will be especially challenging, as will rehabilitating former industrial sites.

Growing and Greening New York and PlaNYC will pose vital questions: How must New Yorkers change to make a sustainable future possible? How will the daily lives of all New Yorkers, and those who visit New York, be affected by sustainability initiatives at home, in the workplace, and in many of our public and recreational spaces? What might a more sustainable city actually look like?





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