In this week's newsletter: Rikers Island to potentially be transformed into Renewable Rikers, cities and car culture, submit your work to the DEP Water Resource Art & Poetry Contest and much more!
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Can Rikers Island Be Repurposed into Renewable Rikers?

Rikers Island, the short-term holding facility that has become notorious for prisoner abuses, will finally close for good in 2026. The 413 acre site, which has housed thousands of prisoners in often deplorable conditions, has not only been the scene of terrible treatment of human beings, it has also been an affront to the environment. As Astoria Council Member Costa Constantinides and chair of the Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform Jonathan Lippman note in this joint op-ed in the NY Daily News, the prison closing represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the historic injustices at the prison by reimagining Rikers as a renewable energy hub.

A solar power plant would improve air quality for Western Queens and South Bronx residents; a wastewater treatment plant would blunt the impact of Combined Sewer Overflows in local waterways. The Renewable Rikers Act, which is being considered in the City Council, would start by transferring control of the island from the city's Department of Corrections to the Department of Environmental Protection, the agency responsible for the quality of the city's water.

"As a city, we owe action to New Yorkers who breathe in toxic air; whose waterfronts are cut off and often fouled by waste; who have been incarcerated at Rikers, many of whom could potentially fill the good, green jobs generated." - Costa Costantinides and Jonathan Lippman

You can also read more about the closing of Rikers Island on the NY Times website here.

Did you know? Solar One's instructors already teach green job skills at Rikers Island!

                         

How Cities Worldwide Are Re-Evaluating Car Culture

So many people now live in cities that NYC, once the most populous metropolis on Earth, is now only the eighth largest. Population density is an environmental boon in many respects, but when it comes to transportation, that same density can quickly turn into an urban nightmare. No one wants to live with terrible air quality, poor respiratory health or constant traffic snarls. And over time, reducing traffic congestion can have a very profound positive effect on the changing climate.

So cities have begun offering both positive and negative incentives to get city dwellers to use cars differently...or not at all.

Strategies have worked differently in various places. In London, congestion pricing (coming to NYC in 2021) was instituted back in 2003, and the City even added an Ultra Low Emissions Zone fee on top of it, to discourage keeping older, less efficient and more polluting vehicles in operation. By October 2019, nitrogen dioxide levels in the air had declined by 36 percent compared to February 2017, according to an assessment by the city. There were nearly 13,500 fewer of the most polluting vehicles in the city center on an average day, compared to the month before the new rules came into effect.

In Beijing, which saw huge increases in the number of cars between 2000 and 2011, a license plate lottery was implemented, with more tags available for electric and hybrid vehicles and fewer for older, more polluting models. A United Nations report, relying on government data, found that between 1998 and 2018 levels of transportation-related pollution decreased markedly (nitrogen dioxide declined by 55 percent and the fine, lethal particulate matter known as PM 2.5 by 81 percent).

Other cities, like Madrid and New Delhi, are fighting uphill battles in their quests to improve air quality and lower transportation emissions. You can read more about the strategies in play and the success rates of other cities on the NY Times website here.

NYC DEP Water Resources Art & Poetry Contest

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is excited to announce the launch of the 34th annual Water Resources Art & Poetry Contest. Second through twelfth-grade students in New York City and East and West of Hudson Watersheds are invited to create original art and compose poetry that reflects an appreciation for our shared water resources.

The five central themes of the contest, incorporating STEM and humanities disciplines, include: Water, a Precious Resource; NYC’s Drinking Water;  NYC’s Wastewater Treatment; Harbor Water Quality and Healthy Marine Ecosystems; and Water Stewardship and Climate Change.

Entries will be accepted online through Friday, March 6, 2020. To learn more about the 34th annual Water Resources Art & Poetry Contest, please visit our 2020 Water Resources Art & Poetry Contest. For more information, click Flyer.  Good luck, and happy creating!
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Solar One Events

We currently have no upcoming events scheduled. See you in the Spring!

Upcoming Events

Through 12/15
Councilmember Keith Powers' & NY Cares' Coat & Sock Drive
211 East 43rd Street, Suite 1205, bet 2nd & 3rd Aves, Manhattan, 10am-5pm, free
Check link above for list of needed items.

12/16
Public Design Commission: Final Design for the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project
Exact location and time will be available on the PDC website starting December 14th (use link above).

12/17
WISE Holiday Party
Building Energy Exchange, 31 Chambers Street, Suite 609, bet Elk & Centre Sts, Manhattan, 5:30-7:30pm, $15 general admission/$10 partner organizations

Through 12/18
Councilmember Keith Powers' Holiday Toy Drive
211 East 43rd Street, Suite 1205, bet 2nd & 3rd Aves, Manhattan, 10am-5pm, free
Check link above for list of needed items.

12/19
New York’s Bridges as You Have Never Seen Them Before!
New York Public Library, 524 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, 6:30-8pm, free
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