by Kristine Franklin
I live in Greenpoint, in a neighborhood that has a combination of young professionals in their mid-thirties and the larger portion of the community being Polish families that have lived here for generations, hence the neighborhood having the nickname “Little Poland”. Research on the internet concludes that the community primarily consists of working class people averaging about $40k to $60k annually with the poverty level around 17%. Crime is very low, most of the crime being robbery, theft and assault, but not at a significant level. According to Zillow, the average property value is about $736 thousand.
As I approached my neighbor, Jack, a Photographer in his mid-thirties who has been living in the neighborhood for a few years, he told me he sees potential in the area and has purchased property for this reason. When I asked him about how he felt about food security in the neighborhood, however, he answered that he does not feel secure about food in this community or anywhere, for that matter. He mentioned that we do have two community farms nearby, but a lot of the food at the local stores seems to be imported from Poland. He is even curious as to whether they are also shipping the meat in as well. As far as pressing community concerns, he worries about the education system as well as awareness of the youngsters of our role as an organism living as part of this universe. To him, sustainability means progress, but in a way that will secure our future and the future of our planet. In short, to sustain life on the planet.
Irene, a lady in her mid 50’s who runs a Holistic Apothecary in the neighborhood, has her own ideas, as she has been residing in Greenpoint for quite a long time. She is pleased to see a lot of new stores, restaurants, and markets pop up that offer good organic choices, so she does not have to go to the markets in Manhattan for her groceries when looking for something healthier. She was not too familiar with the rooftop farms close by, but is glad to learn of them and will certainly be checking them out. Changes in the neighborhood have been good for businesses and more businesses continue to be successfully moving in, so she is glad for the people filling in the nearby apartments. She does, however, hope that it will keep the good qualities of a family neighborhood. Sustainability to Irene is for everyone to do their part, whether it’s recycling or using eco friendly products or helping the neighbors out. She, herself has a large selection of eco friendly, animal friendly, organic products at her store and will continue to learn about and promote these products.
As I walk around my neighborhood, I observe that part of it feels really clean and fresh with some beautiful old trees and a few nicely taken care of parks—the farmer’s market is in one nearby park on Saturdays and another even closer park on Sundays. Families take care of their houses and plant flowers in front at the first sign of Spring. There are plenty of trash bins around and people in the area seem to show respect and responsibility by using them. When looking from my rooftop, I can see a long row of rectangular plots belonging to the neighbors on my street and the street behind me. The plots are well cared for with lush green grass, gardens, plant covered gazebos. It is clear that they take pride in their property and gardening is a common nice weather activity. Eagle Street Farms, a rather large rooftop garden in the neighborhood, sells its produce to stores, restaurants as well as directly to the community.
Had I taken a different route however, I would have crossed paths with factories and warehouses, loud noises and toxic odors, the especially loud sounds from large cargo trucks driving through the small neighborhoods. From my living space, I hear the distant continuous hum that comes from the constant traffic commuting on the BQE and lately I have been smelling, each morning, the intoxicating scent of fresh tar, and I am certain this can only be a terribly bad thing for a person’s health. I do also worry about the safety of the drinking water, with so many factories and warehouses nearby. I am not convinced the water straight from the tap is okay for drinking. Walking through these streets, there are puddles I avoid stepping in as it is obvious there is some sort of chemical as rain from the sky certainly does not have such an array of swirling colors.
All in all, the community that surrounds me, and likely most communities in an urban area, has a lot of the good with the bad. It would prove helpful for more people to be educated, about sustainability and about how they can do their part in helping continuously improve the state of the neighborhood and the well-being of the people living in it.