Greening A Block Community Forum – 7/21/05
Village East Towers
170 Avenue C
Download the slides from the presentation:
In English (PDF, 218 kb)
In Spanish (PDF, 223 kb)
Notables in Attendance (all of whom spoke/contributed to the discussion):
Margarita López – Council Member, 2nd District (includes Lower East Side)
Mary Spink – Lower East Side People’s Mutual Housing Association
Cary Hirschstein – HR&A (contractors to NYSERDA “AMP” weatherization program)
Claudia Flanagan – municipal bond specialist, Candidate for City Council 2nd
Carol Kostik – East River Environmental Coalition; Community Board 3 Con Ed
East River Environmental Coalition (EREC) members – Susan Steinberg, Carol
Kostik (see above), Kenny Petricig, Pat DeAngelis, Lois Sturm
Nando Rodriguez – Open Road (Lower East Side youth environmental education
John Nettleton – Cornell University Cooperative Extension
A Report from the Event:
Some 50 people, most of them residents of the Lower East Side, packed the
community room at Village East Towers on Avenue C and stayed for a 2-hour
presentation and discussion of Greening A Block. The audience was attentive,
enthusiastic and energetic. Probably half of those attendees spoke up with
questions or comments, all of which were terrifically on point and made valuable
contributions to the discussion.
The evening kicked off at 6:15, when Lois Sturm of the Neighborhood Energy
Network introduced Council Member (and Borough President candidate) Margarita
López. Margarita praised Greening A Block as a potential path for improving the
environment in the community and decreasing the impact of the ConEd plant. She
urged the community to keep an open mind about the project and pay close
attention to the feasibility study now in progress.
After the Councilwoman spoke, Lois introduced Charles Komanoff (Charles) &
Jeff Perlman (Jeff), who then launched into the presentation, which consisted of
explanation and commentary on two dozen PowerPoint slides. (The slides are
posted here in both Spanish and English.) Charles and Jeff
sought and received comments and questions from the community throughout, most
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
- many audience members use and like them
- one woman said that she had trouble with some CFLs not lasting as long as
- Pat DeAngelis from EREC expressed concern that CFLs don’t fit into many
fixtures. Mary Spink and others commented that there are now many varieties of
shapes and sizes of CFLs, though not all are commonly available in stores. Jeff
emphasized that Greening a Block will deliver a wide choice of CFLs to
residents’ apartments and enable them to try out different models to their
- Charles & Jeff, when asked, confirmed that they use CFLs in their own
homes. Charles has “one incandescent bulb – in my fridge,” all the others being
CFLs. Jeff has a roommate who still uses incandescents in his own bedroom,
despite prodding, but all of the lights in the common areas are CFLs.
Rent Increases for Tenants
- There is great concern about landlords making building improvements through
Greening A Block, and then citing the investments as an occasion to raise rents
as Major Capital Improvements (MCI). Mary Spink and others emphasized that we
need ironclad legal defense against this tactic.
- Cary Hirschstein from HR&A, contractor to NYSERDA’s AMP (energy efficiency
in multifamily buildings) program, made an impromptu explanation of the language
within the NYSERDA contracts that expressly prohibits landlords from qualifying
any subsidized improvements as MCIs.
- Jeff explained our intent to set aside some of the Con Ed settlement fund
as a legal defense fund against rent gouging.
- Claudia Flanagan suggested that there be a template and process in place
from the start, which tenants can use as defense against landlords who default
- Susan Steinberg of EREC recommended that tenants be notified before the
work begins that this work does not entitle landlords to MCIs.
- Mary Spink reminded us that we need to stay neutral and include protections
for landlords, too.
- SUGGESTION: include improvements and explanation of non-MCI status into
apartment leases, to be signed by both tenant & landlord. Ensure that language
remains in the lease even when tenant changes.
- BEWARE: Non-profit landlords are often no better.
- Create a structure and system to keep track of tenants – many tenants have
language barriers or just don’t know the rules. An organization/structure/system
should inform them when they move in. And perhaps remind them annually.
Carol Kostik gave an overview of the Con Ed settlement and the role of
Community Board 3 in dispensing settlement funds.
- The Community Board 3 Con Ed Subcommittee is recommending that only
$200,000 of the $2,750,000 fuel-switching fund be allocated to buy gas for the
coming winter. (The minimum per year is $200,000, the maximum is $600,000.)
- It is possible that little or none of this money will actually be spent,
since the current price premium of natural gas over oil exceeds the maximum
price differential specified in the settlement agreement. In fact, had fuel
switching been permitted in the previous winters, Con Ed could have switched
fuels for only 14 days in 2003-04 and 4 days in 2004-05. (The coming winter is
the first time Con Ed is permitted to tap the fuel-switch fund, since the East
River plant expansion was only completed this past spring.)
- The money must be spent within 10 years or “we’re not sure what happens to
it” (Carol Kostik & Susan Steinberg)
- Upon hearing this, one audience member asked Charles & Jeff: “So, How soon
can you start?”
Discussion of process with Con Ed
- Does Con Ed have veto power if Community Board 3 decides to put money into
Greening A Block?
- Charles thinks Con Ed would not use this power, since the uproar from the
community as well as the citywide environmental lobby would be too great.
- The settlement allows alternative (non-fuel-switching) uses of the fund, as
long as the uses are prudent; Greening A Block certainly is.
- “But they’ve screwed us before!”
- CONCLUSION: Jeff and Charles need to make a solid case that Con Ed won't seek
to override a decision by Community Board 3 to re-allocate fuel-switch
funds to Greening A Block.
Nando Rodriguez of Open Road spoke of training neighborhood high school-age
youths, his students at East Side Community High School, as Greening A Block
outreach staff and apprentices for energy audits and other project
implementation tasks. He also emphasized the shared ethics of Greening a Block
and Open Road.
John Nettleton gave a brief presentation on the biofuels program at Cornell
- They are seeking buildings for a pilot program to run residential boilers
on 20% biofuel No. 2 heating oil.
- Based on extensive testing to date, boilers running on biofuels are
expected to have lower emissions of particulates and sulfur dioxide and to be
easier to maintain at peak efficiency and reliability.
- John would be happy to run one of the buildings on the chosen block on
- We need to make it clear how we can expand Greening A Block to more blocks
(through financing, etc.)
- Several people noted that 11th Street has been particularly burdened by the
Con Ed steam expansion, with the street dug up and disrupted by installing
expanded pipes. A resident requested that we consider her block.
Most attendees stayed until 8:00 pm, when the formal presentations ended.
Many folks lingered for further conversation, and the room finally cleared out