Thursday, June 24, 2010

Council Member Lander Weighs in on Fifth Avenue, Sustainability, and Local Green Initiatives

Here is our third and final installment of All About Fifth's interview with Council Member Lander. To see the first two interviews, check out here (district digs) and here (small business challenges), respectively.

AAF: There are a number of groups looking at Park Slope's 5th and 4th Avenues as possible venues for a variety of sustainability initiatives. What is your definition of a "livable street" and what role do you see 5th Avenue playing in your vision for a "greener" Brooklyn?

CM Lander: It’s a real credit to the 5th Avenue BID that they are already playing a significant role in promoting a more sustainable neighborhood – they understand that sustainability isn’t just an abstract do-gooder concept (though it is certainly important that we act to reduce our carbon footprint, and soon) … but that it is all about the quality-of-life and our local economy. If we can get more people walking and biking, there’s a lot better chance they will support local businesses on the commercial strips. And we’ve already seen many examples in which the new “green economy” means more local jobs. I’m really sorry that 3R Living did not make it here, but over time I believe there will be many opportunities. Reducing, reusing, and recycling promotes more economic activity close to home, rather than requiring manufacturing of new products half-a-world away.

I am very committed to the “livable streets” effort. Although I’m in my car a lot, and appreciate the very real and practical need to keep traffic moving, we live in a neighborhood where our quality-of-life is very directly related to the quality of our life-on-the-street. My kids have started to do more walking and biking on their own, and it has given me a new appreciation of how much difference it makes to have safe intersections, so I love the many places where we have new “bulb-outs” or “neck-downs.” While there has certainly been some controversy around them, I value and appreciate the new bike lanes. While I still drive more than I cycle, I think the trade-off is well worth it. I’m also hoping we can do even more to improve our streets: wider sidewalks, more trash cans and recycle bins, drinking fountains, healthier street trees. Our neighborhood has come a long way since the days people were scared to walk down the street – but we could do even more to make people want to.

I’m excited about the 5th Avenue BID’s idea to make the piece of 4th Street between MS 51 and Washington Park into a safer, more community-friendly, greener place. Since it is not needed for traffic (since it doesn’t go anywhere), it’s the perfect place for a public plaza (either permanently, or at least on weekends). And it would help build on the fantastic partnership between the BID, MS 51, and the great programs at the Old Stone House. I’m also very encouraged by the many ideas people have (thanks to the great leadership of the Park Slope Civic Council and Community Board 6) to make Fourth Avenue safer, more pedestrian-friendly, and more active -- although Fifth Avenue will always be my favorite local commercial street to walk and shop!

Finally, on the sustainability front, I hope people will consider participating in our “Reduce Your Use!” Green Homes Challenge, which my office is co-sponsoring with NYSERDA and Con Ed. I am challenging residents of the 39th district to take simple steps toward greening their homes by reducing their energy consumption (unplugging phone and computer chargers, replacing light bulbs, etc). And since my family and I will be taking part in the challenge as well, I will be making these changes right along with you. Together, we can both lower our carbon footprint and save money on our home energy bills. The competition will begin August 1st. To participate, simply fill out this short online application.

Again, thanks so much for this opportunity to talk a bit about the challenges and opportunities facing our community … and much more for all your great work to strengthen Fifth Avenue. It really does make an enormous difference.

Interview conducted by Rebeccah Welch

* image taken from NYCLeaves: Project LeafDrop:

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