An environmentally friendly education center at the Greenpoint public library, an initiative to curb litter in the neighborhood, and a watershed storm water project are among six projects awarded funding through the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, overseen by the Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office and the State Department of Environmental Conservation.
A total of $11 million in funding was awarded to the selected large and legacy grant projects, from monies obtained by the state from a settlement with ExxonMobil over the oil spill in Greenpoint. The $11 million in grant money is in addition to $24 million in matching funds pledged by the winning proposals, for a total of $35 million in environmental benefits for the community.
“Through the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, New York State and Greenpoint residents are working together to lift the cloud of environmental abuse and neglect that has long shadowed this proud community,” said Schneiderman. “With these projects, we are investing a total of $35 million in the community’s environmental priorities, priorities that include restoring Greenpoint’s waterfront and fostering a new generation of environmental stewards.”
In July, the state received 24 proposals for the large and legacy grants. An independent review panel then shortlisted 13 projects based on several environmental and social benefit criteria. These were submitted to Greenpoint residents to vote upon in three sessions set over two days in November. Residents could vote for up to six projects.
“We were initially worried that area immediately surrounding the spill would not be benefitted by the projects awarded funding,” said Marcy Boyle, a member of the McGolrick Park Neighborhood Alliance (MPNA), and a longtime Greenpoint resident. “But I’m happy that at least some of the projects we endorsed were selected, and the awareness it has raised means that more people living directly around the oil spill can now apply for the next round of grants.”
A total of 525 votes were cast through the process. The six projects with the most votes secured funding. The creation of a Greenpoint Environmental Education Center on the second floor of the Greenpoint Library secured its $5,000,000 ask amount and scored the most number of votes with 334 or 64 percent of the votes.
In addition to the projects identified above, environmental education programs in four Greenpoint schools: PS 31, PS 34, PS 110, and MS 126, all of which serve close to 2,000 neighborhood kids, are being overseen and implemented by the Eco-Schools USA program operated by the National Wildlife Federation, were also funded.
“We’re completely thrilled and excited beyond belief,” said Emily Fano, the NYC outreach manager at Eco-Schools USA. “We’re really looking to support these schools on sustainability on all levels and develop student leaders, and now they have the power to change their community for the better.”
An initiative to plant 500 trees in the neighborhood led by the City Parks Foundation, and an initiative to restore the Greenpoint waterfront led by a research team at the City University of New York, were the other two projects funded.
“Reversing the long history of environmental abuse in Greenpoint is no easy task, but I am confident that the projects announced today are a leap in the right direction,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol. “The residents of Greenpoint have waited long enough for the positive environmental change they deserve. The variety of these projects illustrates the serious dedication this community has in improving our neighborhood.”
The projects that were not funded will get a chance to apply again next year with the balance of the $19.5 million GCEF funds – $5.5 million – still up for grabs.