Monthly Archives: December 2014

Food Security in Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill and NYC

by Paris Morales

Within the Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill neighborhood there are various great food sources available to the community. From the farmers markets to local bakeries, the community in Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill is fortunate to have several reliable sources of healthy foods, as well as numerous restaurants varying from high end to affordable. Along with several smaller scale/local business food sources, the neighborhood has several bigger business supermarkets like Union Market and Trader Joes providing organic foods to the neighborhood. Fortunately, each neighborhood has limited the building of fast-food style places showing its commitment to the more family-owned restaurants and local food resources like delis and other small food markets. The GrowNYC organization helps by organizing many farmers markets around New York City, and operates the Fresh Pantry Program, which contributes to local food pantries, homeless shelters, and community centers around the city. They also provide fresh and affordable produce delivery for wholesale purchases of sustainable goods to local businesses and restaurants. Having two Greenmarkets within a few blocks of my neighborhood allows for loads of fresh produce to flow throughout the local markets, restaurants, bakeries and my home.

With a large amount of natural resources moving through Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill, I am able to see how the vast majority of places in my neighborhood try to buy locally-grown and fresh goods from local businesses and farmers markets. This allows not only for a sense of strong community by allowing people to be more locally involved, it also helps by adding existing plans amongst the neighborhood to provide healthy food to its residents. I believe these farmers markets are a great way of connecting local businesses to local farmers who in turn help one-another keep fresh foods in our neighborhood to provide for healthy and happy residents. Not only does the GrowNYC provide the New York City area with locally grown fruit and vegetables, it provides youth education about the importance of agricultural goods, the environment, and health. They also help people learn how to grow fresh produce for themselves and how to maintain their own farms.

I believe my community is primarily a very healthy community. The Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill area is mainly comprised of locally owned establishments that use and sell organic produce and foods due to the higher income demographic that live in the neighborhood. However, with places like Trader Joes, people who live here who aren’t a part of the upper class can still enjoy organic and quality goods for an affordable price. The community has also done a good job of limiting fast food presence in the neighborhood. Food resources are abundant for all demographics that live in the area, and the abundant presence of restaurants allows for several different kinds of upscale or affordable food experiences.

Although there are many great food resources in the neighborhood, I believe there could be more community gardens throughout the area. I feel like this does not just go for my neighborhood, but all neighborhoods could use more community gardens and roof gardens. If more people were educated on how to grow their own agricultural produce they could contribute further to a more sustainable environmental. A Columbia University Lab Report regarding urban agriculture explained that, “urban agriculture can be a means of transforming underutilized or neglected space into a public resource, providing opportunities for social interaction, greater community cohesion and self-sufficiency…” (1). GrowNYC was even mentioned in the report as an important contributor to a program, Grow to Learn NYC, which has added gardens to schools all over New York so kids can learn about farming and how fresh grown produce helps them and their environment (1).

As shown in a map of the New York City area, there are tens of thousands of acres of unutilized land that can be used for community gardens and other forms of urban agriculture (1). Helping kids learn the importance of being more self-sufficient is also a great way to help spread further awareness about helping our food security and establishing more environmental friendly neighborhoods throughout New York with healthier residents.

Yet as a whole New York City can still do a lot more to better itself by expanding its environmental contributions. New York City clearly has a massive urban population and landscape, which can make it difficult for people to maintain a sustainable environment with a lack of natural environment. In New York City the poverty rate is high which also does not help the situation and in these lower income neighbor hoods, obesity is a public health issue. This is one aspect of food security that needs to be addressed further because it proves the main areas where fresh foods are lacking are the ones experiencing the most health problems. People of lower income bracket should not be subject to simply consuming foods that can clog their arteries and lead to such problematic obesity (4). When looking at health problems around the world with food security, people tend to be malnourished, rather than obese. But the State of New York has made efforts to try and bring more healthy foods to these lower income communities. Initiatives like the Green Carts Programs, allow for an“…increased the number of permits available to street vendors selling fresh produce in lower-income police precincts; this both increased access to fresh produce and provided employment opportunities…” (2). These programs as well as recent changes that allow people with food stamps to buy fresh foods at Farmers Markets are good steps in helping bring healthier foods to the poor communities in New York City.

With a large population such as New York’s, one must always wonder if the amount of growth within the population will begin to make food security issues a bigger problem for the city. However, one must not forget New York has a sizeable amount of land that isn’t being used. One company that took a big step in helping roof agriculture become a popular method of adding my fresh produce to the New York Area is the Brooklyn Grange. The Brooklyn Grange is located on a 2.5-acre roof, spanning two buildings, and providing over 50,000 pounds of organic produce every year for farmers markets, local restaurants, and even their own food stand (3). A 2009 study by The New York Department of City Planning found that there are over 8,000 acres of vacant land; over 3,500 acres are public land 1. This much land could provide massive amounts of potential for new agricultural developments, yet not all of this land can be used for food development, but this still does not account for the amount of open rooftop space in NYC. In New York City there are almost one million building, which could foster at least a few thousand rooftop gardens, even if they are just for personal use. Rooftop gardens like this can make the difference in providing more healthy foods for local communities or personal wellbeing.

As a neighborhood, the Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens area is not a neighborhood with much poverty. Although there is public housing nearby, and a Hispanic community which has lived in the neighborhood for over two decades that is not part of the upper demographics. We do have several sources of good quality affordable food from places like Trader Joes and the local Grow NYC Farmers Market, which allows for a healthier community even for the lower income residents.  Yet in New York City much still needs to be accomplished in the area of food scarcity. With high obesity rates and the ability to create more urban agricultural sites around the city, hopefully we can work to create a healthier and affordable food sources in the areas that need it most.

 

Works Cited

1. Ackerman, K. 2012. The potential for urban agriculture in New York City: Growing capacity, food security, and green infrastructure. New York City: Urban Design Lab at the Earth Institute Columbia University.

2.  McPhearson, Timon, Zoe A. Hamstead, and Peleg Kremer. “Urban Ecosystem Services for Resilience Planning and Management in New York City.” Ambio43.4 (2014): 502+. Academic OneFile. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

3. Wurwarg, Jessica. “Urbanization and hunger: food policies and programs, responding to urbanization, and benefiting the urban poor in three cities.” Journal of International Affairs 67.2 (2014): 75+. Academic OneFile. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.

4. Miller, Mark J. “A Farm Grows in Brooklyn—on the Roof.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 29 Apr. 2014. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.

Internet Freedom

by Harry J. Friedman

A free and uncensored Internet is an essential indicator of a nation’s commitment to free speech. The Internet has revolutionized the way we share and receive information, liberating us from centralized media and enabling us in unprecedented ways to organize in defense of issues we care about. The unregulated nature of the Internet with no regard for state boundaries is what has made it a network of networks, allowing information to flow to all parts of the world and connecting people from all walks of life. It’s an incredible thing when a child in Nigeria can watch the same Youtube video as a corporate CEO in the US. But of course, so much freedom was bound to be constrained and intruded upon. In We the Media, author Dan Gillmor calls it the clampdown. Cyber liberty is currently hanging in the balance, as governments, corporations, and the public struggle to deal with issues of net neutrality, communications surveillance, and web zoning.

The revolution of online expression over the past decade is now being followed by an explosion of communications surveillance. According to a report by Frank La Rue, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, as information and communications technologies have developed, so have the means by which states can monitor people’s’ activity on the web. Gillmor touches upon this in Chapter 11, pointing out how the Internet’s original architecture was designed in a way that no one could find out which pages you visited. The advent of Cookies, little files placed on users’ computers, have basically made people’s private data a commodity. The right to privacy is essential to the freedom to express oneself. Interfering with people’s’ privacy limits the free development and exchange of ideas. Governments are using these surveillance technologies in the name of national security. And many people give their support to that end. But what La Rue confirms is that states must make a commitment to protecting human rights in their communications surveillance framework (La Rue).

The issue that has perhaps sparked the biggest uproar about Internet freedom is net neutrality. In this case, the controversy is around maintaining fair, open, and equal access to information. After all, what’s the point of free speech if your words can’t be heard. When Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that “net neutrality is obamacare for the Internet,” the knuckleheads over at The Oatmeal responded with an article to educate Cruz about the actual meaning of net neutrality. It has much less to do with government regulation and more to do with telecommunications companies squeezing the Internet to fit their business needs. The Oatmeal provide a key example to illustrate what the effects would be if these companies discriminated against various types of web traffic. Comcast could create a search engine that only produces search results if you pay extra. Then they could force you to use that search engine by slowing your internet access, bombarding you with advertisements, or flat out blocking your access. As it turns out, Comcast already did this to Netflix, making them pay millions of dollars by slowing down the movie streaming speeds (Oatmeal). Again, it is a beautiful accomplishment for humanity that a child in a third world nation can be educated through accessing the Internet to lift himself out of poverty. And it was another great accomplishment to put SOPA back on the shelf. But it is imperative that we continue to raise our voices against any corporations or laws that intend to restrict the Internet only to those who can afford it.

The Internet is stateless. Information on the web, for the most part, flows freely without regard for state borders. However, as governments ramp up their surveillance efforts and countries struggle with questions of jurisdiction, the creation of a “Splinternet” becomes more and more realistic. According to Emma Llanso, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Free Expression Project, governments are calling for all of the data of their citizens to be stored locally, within the boundaries of the country. This would essentially create a world with country-specific Internets that don’t connect to form a global network. This relates to the two previous issues discussed. First, local data laws would give national governments much easier access to their citizens’ communications. Second, the cross-cultural dialogue that is a central tenet of the Internet would pretty much end (Llanso). Gillmor discusses the issues with zoning content on the Internet, explaining how what a person in one country sees on a given website would be different from what another person sees in a different country even when both type in the same web address. Gillmor’s argument deals with jurisdiction laws, where content accepted in one country may not be acceptable in another country. Regardless of the reasons, zoning the Internet would be a devastating step backwards in the march to global connectedness.

These issues pose a serious danger to free speech across the Internet. I’m concerned about people’s willingness to raise their voices. The scale of these issues seem so blatant. The people we elect to represent us are explicitly acting in opposition of what the people want. When I voice my opinions, I have to assume that I’m not the only one who feels this way. I don’t want my privacy invaded. I don’t want to be cut off from the rest of the world. I don’t want to have to pay extra to access different parts of the web. I don’t want to have the standards of the Internet set by the most restrictive jurisdictions. These are issues that affect billions of people. SOPA, which would have removed enormous amounts of non-infringing content from the web, was defeated by way too narrow a margin. Wake up people!

I remember in my sophomore year at Temple University, I read a book called Why it’s Kicking off EveryWhere, by Paul Mason. In it, Mason attributed the wave of revolutions and protests across the world to social media. News became news when someone posted an update on Twitter. Gillmor loves that. He loves that news is transforming from a 20th century mass media structured lecture where Big Media tells you what the story is, to a conversation where the communication network has become a medium for everyone’s voice. That is a shift to be inspired by. This brings to mind a quote from The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo: “the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything because it’s all written there.” Coehlo was talking about intuition and enlightenment. For those of us who are not yet in tune or enlightened, we have the Internet.


La Rue –http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session23/A.HRC.23.40_EN.pdf

http://theoatmeal.com/blog/net_neutrality

Llanso -http://edition.cnn.com/2014/09/05/business/opinion-internet-post-snowden/