Tag Archives: NYC

Final Project: Water Glass

Working on an environmental issue close to home has shown me the importance of cleaning up our world. Now.

I first came across the pollution at Astoria Park, Queens earlier this semester. As I walked along the shoreline I noticed the rocks gleaming in the light in an unnatural manner. With a closer look I realized that shards of glass littered every inch of the land. It shocked me to see the severe contrast between nature and man-made trash. I knew something had to be done, and people needed to be informed.

The East River is a salt water tidal estuary. It serves as a receptacle for the city’s sewage and garbage, thus making it extremely unclean. Hell’s Gate Bridge was also a major cause for pollution as it was the route for numerous industrial shipments. Fortunately, over the years, it has been preserved to now be safe for fishing, boating, and swimming. To shed light on this corruption, I decided to collect shards of glass and create a collage. By doing so, I would be able to share it with residents and strangers and start a conversation about the water that surrounds us.

When I went to the shoreline to collect the materials, I was greeted with an abundance of trash. Every step I took was met with the crunch of broken beer bottles washed up on the shore. I ended up taking 1.75 gallons worth of glass and had to stop because my bucket became too heavy. As I was leaving, I talked to a girl named Tahia who was at the nearby bus station. I showed her what I collected and explained the project I was working on. She responded, “You’d think the government would do something, but everyone just ignores it. It’s disgusting.” She is currently a junior at Pace University studying mathematics, and was very grateful for my research. Seeing her passion and gratitude for an issue such as this reminded me that my generation is ready to make a difference, and has the power to do so.

Most of the beer bottle pieces I collected were green and brown, so I thought of creating a collage of the Earth. But I decided to stick to a river, because that’s what I researched and where the pieces had come from. On the back of my art piece I posted three pictures of the site for reference. I had also scooped up some of the East River in a container to show what the trash looks like in real life. I’m not a professional visual artist, but I’m pleased with how my final project came out. The image is clear, the patterns are neat, and it showcases exactly what I wanted to bring light to. In our final Green World class, one of the students brought it to my attention how insane it is that I was able to gather so many large pieces of glass. When she had heard what I was planning to do she assumed it would be a bunch of small pieces. But seeing the final collage was impactful by the sheer largeness and amount of glass I was able to get so easily.

So, what can we do to stop this? Riverkeeper is an incredible organization that fights to defend NYC’S waterways. You can help clean up the shores, donate, or take part in any of their numerous events to protect our water. And although NYC is is striving to invest in cleaning up the water over the next ten years, it is our responsibility to be conscious of our own actions. For example, disposing excess fats and greases, diapers, condoms, and personal hygiene products in the garbage can; using the drain can cause raw sewage to overflow. And as shown through the washed-up glass bottles in Astoria Park, recycle responsibly and consistently. The health of our world matters and affects everyone. Pollution is a man-made problem and now, more than ever, it needs a man-made solution.



“There’s No Honor In Waste” -Samara Swanston

Last Wednesday, October 12th, I was invited to join Peter and the core engine exhaust group for lunch. The group included George Pakenham, Isabella B. Silverman, Samara Swanston, Karl Storchmann, Peter, and myself. The afternoon comprised of an extremely productive and informative anti-idling campaign meeting, vigorous note taking on my end for my midterm and final project, and the icing on the cake was Peter covering my meal. Thank you again Peter!

In order to get a clearer idea of who all these people are that Peter and I met with, here is what they all do. George  is the notorious man-on-emissions; an environmental activist who focuses on idling and who made the film, Idle Threat (website: http://www.verdantvigilante.com/about/george.html). Isabella B. Silverman is also an environmental activist who starred in George’s film Idle Threat. Samara Swanston “is currently the legislative counsel to the Environmental Protection Committee of the New York City Council and an Adjunct Professor at the Pratt Institute Graduate School for Urban Planning and the Environment” (https://www.linkedin.com/in/swanston-samara-80923356). Lastly, Karl Storchmann is an NYU professor of Urban Economics who’s found a great response rate from his students when offering extra credit to report idling in NYC.

Samara Swanston built off this idea to give extra credit to students but in greater detail. She said it is imperative to write an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) to a government agency with the focus being on an environmental and public issue, as these issues impact everyone breathing the air in New York City. Samara ended her input with a new quote; “There is no honor in waste.”

Additional information I was given during lunch was that Karl has a youtube channel called “Idle NYC,” which closely resembles our first blog post assignment when Peter asked us to go notice idling and post some pictures or videos. Also, summer months such as June and July appear to be the peak times of year for idling due to higher demand for comfort and stronger air conditioning. What is more interesting is that idling in the summer heat and keeping the air conditioning on actually puts out even more heat into the atmosphere than the colder months of the year because the tailpipes get much hotter in the summer sun.

To wrap up our meeting, Samara and Isabella gave me two very important names to keep in mind and to share with friends, colleagues, and environmental activists. Thomas M Chan is the Chief of Transportation for the NYPD and Inspector Michael Pilecki, a commanding officer of traffic enforcement for the NYPD. Samara and Isabella told me to pass on these names to my peers and cohorts because these are the guys to write complaints to in order for something to be done in terms of law enforcement for idling in NYC. I imagine it is more productive to approach this from the top down than the other way around so that our voices have a greater chance of being noticed and heard. The most important factor in all of this is to vigorously stay on these guys and overwhelm them with complaints until something is done. Otherwise, they’re more likely to not take notice that people actually care about this crucial law and the detrimental impact it has on our environment.

Photo credit goes to our awesome waiter who’s name I did not get but I wish I had!

Me and Isabella B. Silverman, environmental activist and star of Idle Threat.
Me and the man-on-emission himself, George Pakenham.
Me and the man-on-emission himself, George (of the *concrete* jungle) Pakenham. 

A Many More Idlers Idly Idling By

It appears that what our professor, Peter Terezakis, said the first week of class was true. At least it was true for me. Ever since Peter discussed how frequently he notices cars illegally idling on the streets throughout New York City, I have had difficulty not noticing the same thing. Often times, I cannot top to take a photo as I am running to my next destination, but the amount of photos I have do not nearly do this crime justice. Of course, this happens in other areas around the country, but for me, New York feels large enough to take in as it is. Over the past week, I’ve felt like I’ve had eagle vision. Even when I don’t pay attention to cars idling, I will still notice and it feels like the number of cars are increasing everyday. How comforting ignorance of this crime must be… I have also been telling friends and family about the new bill proposed by George Packenham as well as his documentary, Idle Threat. It is nothing short of imperative that this bill be passed. 13491 521283155952128

Love me some black Mercedes lung (just kidding…)

On my walk to class this morning, I made a quick stop at Liquiteria for my favorite smoothie, Bulldozer with added strawberries and blueberries.  While waiting for my order, I looked out the window and instead of the usual dog walkers and cabs flying down 6th Ave, I saw a beautiful black C 700 Mercedes Benz waiting out front. I remembered this assignment and decided to go outside to get a closer look to see whether or not the driver was idling. Sure enough, she was texting on her phone with the AC on.  I snapped the photo above and got her license plate number and she was sitting on the corner of W 8th and 6th Ave.  It made me feel like a detective (a secret dream of mine since I was a kid) so I think I’m gonna keep this up.  Unfortunately, idling is destructive and in no way do I hope to see more of it occur. However if it does, I plan on staying aware and taking action.


City Seed – Greenery for the Concrete Jungle

Just because you don’t have a lawn or garden doesn’t mean you have to live separate from plant life!  I’m working with Skyye James to launch a company called City Seed, which brings plant life and all its benefits to dorms and apartments across big cities like New York.

Skyye mentioned in her blog post that plants filter out our air through photosynthesis.  Now imagine the impact of placing one medium sized plant in every dorm and apartment in New York!  We could begin the process of reducing CO2 emissions just by surrounding ourselves with luscious greenery!

City Seed Advertisement Logo
City Seed Advertisement Logo

What makes City Seed unique?  We are using 100% up-cycled containers to package our seeds.  This means our plants can live comfortably in the containers they sprout in, and when they get bigger, the customers can choose to transplant them to a larger containers for the plants to thrive longer!

The first product we plan on testing in our up-cycled containers on sunny windowsills is lavender.  Lavender has a lot of health benefits, including decreasing stress through aromatherapy and healing minor burns.  I grow lavender at home in a large pot by my window, and the distinct aroma travels all over the house!  Best of all, it’s proven to relieve headaches, burns, insomnia, stress, and much more!

Lavender in small container
Lavender in small container

Imagine if college freshmen had a natural stress reliever in their dorm rooms!  And it doesn’t end with lavender.  We are hoping to trial various other plants with stress-reducing and ailment-relieving benefits, like peppermint and chamomile!

Lastly, City Seed teaches young adults about small scale agriculture, a very important skill to have.  We live in an age where much of our food is imported and/or genetically modified for color, shape, and a longer shelf life.  By learning how to grow your own plants with help from our instructions, up-cycled containers and awesome soil mix, you can understand what natural agriculture looks like.  Believe me when I say it’s rewarding to see the organism that you tend to, thriving!

My biggest task going forward will be the media for our company!  I’m planning on creating a short video advertisement and how-to video for growing our seeds at home!  I would also like to create a Twitter and Instagram account for our company to reach out to young people living in small spaces within big cities.

I’m beginning to take a look at a bunch of short videos about planting lavender so I can decide what is most important to show customers as well as decide the best way to show it!

We can’t wait to bring #CitySeed to your windowsill.

Water Is Everything

When our team (Daniela, Eva and I) created the project Water Journey, the original thought was come up to reflect the relationship between nature and human being. The water issue has been discuss a lot since we are all aware of the fresh water is a finite, non-renewable resources. In the video The Sky Is Pink by Josh Fox, it is said, “With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of waste-water that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium.” After seeing too much data or report from the social media like this, people are easier to become numb when facing the environmental problems.



Resources: U.S. Geological Surbey

So it is interesting to assume that we are the water and see how is “our daily life” looks like. If we consider the water as a human, we probably respect him more about his life, soul, joy even the troubles he met. However, people still obtain water, use, and then waste, just like other resources. There are several categories of water use in this country, public supply, domestic, irrigation, thermoelectric power, industrial, mining, livestock and aquaculture.

The majority of people in this country used water provided by public suppliers. The estimated use of water report in the United States in 2010 indicates that domestic deliveries by public water suppliers totaled 23,800 Mgal/d in 2010 and represented water provided to 268 million people at single-family and multifamily dwellings. It also shows that self-supplied withdrawals for domestic use were estimated at 3,600 Mgal/d, or about 1 percent of total withdrawals for all uses in 2010, supplying an estimated 44.5 million people. Nearly all (98 percent) of these self-supplied withdrawals were from fresh groundwater sources. [1]

In fact, these numbers are growing every year. The real thing that is shock and hit people in panic is the life without supplied water. During hurricane sandy (October 22, 2012 – October 31, 2012), I live in Lower Manhattan at that time.




photo by Zhi Yang October, 2012

It seems like good news that high-quality drinking water continued to flow uninterrupted to New York City during and after Sandy. However, in areas with power outages, the pumping systems in high-rise buildings ceased to function, leaving residents on upper floors with empty taps and no way to flush toilets. Meanwhile, a fire in Breezy Point in Queens caused significant disruption to that neighborhood’s private water distribution system. By contrast, Sandy’s storm surge had a major impact on the city’s wastewater treatment system. Ten of 14 wastewater treatment plants operated by the Department of Environmental Protection released partially treated or untreated sewage into local waterways (though water quality samples showed impacts to be minimal due to dilution from the enormous volume of water flowing through the Harbor from the surge). [2]

In addition, 42 of 96 pumping stations that keep storm water, wastewater, or combined sewage moving through the system were temporarily out of service because they were damaged or lost power. Hurricane Sandy impacted many public drinking water systems, and many of these drinking water systems had notified their customers that they should boil water to ensure that it is safe to drink. Most of the boil water notices following Hurricane Sandy have since been rescinded.[3]

I never really felt hopeless and depressed after living in a modern apartment without water and electricity. I use drinking water carefully to brush my teeth and I cannot flush the toilet. All drinking water in the supermarket or deli was sold out before they shut down. Facing the revenge from the nature, we are so tiny and powerless at all. That was also the first time I really noticed, I would die if not save water.

Our survival depends on an environment that is full of water. It can directly affect every detail of our live. When doing the creative research project, “The Journey of Water”, we found a depressing fact – the water can be easily despised and waste in any aspect. It could be throw away when it is not finished for thousand of different reason. There is no living body and sense of bottle water. Water cannot choose their destiny. But we can save their “life”. To save water resources is to save us.


Illustration by Zhi Yang

[1] Molly A. Maupin, Joan F. Kenny, Susan S. Hutson, John K. Lovelace, Nancy L. Barber, and Kristin S. Linsey, “Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2010”, p56. http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1405

[2] NYC gov, “Sandy and Its Impact”, p17.

[3] New York State Department of Health, “Drinking Water Advisories Following Hurricane Sandy”, December 2012. https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/boilwater/sandy/