Innovative groups show how Queens is going green

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Photo gallery

Leonel Ramirez, 6, of Briarwood tests his hand at construction with giant foam blocks sent up for children at Going Green in Queens.
Gael Ramirez, 4, plays with large foam blocks at the event. Photo by Christina Santucci
Clare Doyle (r.) of Green Shores NYC listens as Jackson Heights environmental activist Len Maniace speaks at Going Green in Queens, Photo by Christina Santucci
A plush critter from the Queens Zoo is part of the day's attractions. Photo by Christina Santucci
John Kelly (l.) and Rachel Schneider from Transportation Alternatives talk with Patricia Erickson (r.), a Con Edison employee who also works with the LIC Community Boathouse and Con Edison. Photo by Christina Santucci
Going Green organizer Fred Kress (l.) chats with Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. Photo by Christina Santucci
Going Green in Queens organizer Fred Kress is joined by Claudette Ramos, outreach coordinator for the Parks Department. Photo by Christina Santucci
Erik Baard (l.) is joined by Grace Magee (c.) and Priscilla Lee.
Jenny Nyulasi (l.) and Cindy Van Houten represent the Friends of Gantry Neighborhood Parks at Hunters Point at the event.
Lisa Kaplan, a consultant, and Emily Walker, an outreach & events coordinator, are ready to greet visitors at the New Yorkers for Parks table.
Ivan Mrakovcic (l.) and Andrea Crawford from the QueensWay chat with George Haikalis, president of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility.

A Flushing organization sold polo shirts made from recycled plastic bottles, a silver-haired kayak enthusiast hyped a new aqueous launching point sandwiched into a gritty industrial sector and more than a few heated discussions erupted at this year’s Going Green in Queens event, where the purveyors of the borough’s most exciting and controversial outdoor initiatives gather each year to share information with the public and each other.

“Some groups are for things, some are against,” said Fred Kress, organizer of the event and president of the Queens Coalition for Parks and Greenspaces. “But we’re here mostly to spread and share information.”

There was plenty to go around.

Going Green in Queens was held at the Al Oerter Recreation Center, near the corner of Fowler Avenue and College Point Boulevard, and where TimesLedger Newspapers served as the media sponsor.

Queens residents in attendance showed they are carving recreational opportunities out of concrete and asphalt like never before.

Recycle-A-Bicycle is a nonprofit that teaches teens about bicycle repair and encourages physical activity. Its members salvage about 1,200 two-wheelers from landfills each year and rebuild them during workshops at the group’s education center in Long Island City, where some of the borough’s newest bike lanes around the Queensboro Bridge were completed last year.

Erik Baard spearheads an initiative called Harbor Lab, which is a new kayak launch near the mouth of polluted Newtown Creek.

The launch is near the foot of the Pulaski Bridge and brings a new meaning to the term urban jungle because it is so far off the beaten sidewalks of Long Island City. Baard is proposing interested parties meet at a nearby coffee shop before a guide brings them to the spot.

“So many varied groups come out to show what they are doing,” said Dorothy Lewandowski, Queens commissioner of the city Parks Department. “It’s a community that has a passion for what is happening in Queens.”

Some groups were gathering signatures to oppose proposed developments in Flushing Meadows Corona Park: the expansion of the United States Tennis Association’s facility, a proposed 13-acre soccer stadium and a 1.4 million-square-foot mall.

Another group was promoting the Queensway, a controversial proposal that would create a park along an abandoned elevated train line running through Woodhaven and Ozone Park.

These plans have become a heated topic in political debates as election season beings — some of those debates took place at booths at Going Green Sunday — and Kress hopes the vigor with which they are discussed shows how much people care.

“We want to show that environmental groups are a good voting bloc,” he said.

Of course, there were other booths at the event that everyone could agree on. The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, a Taiwan-based charity with an office in Flushing, was selling clothing made out of recycled plastic bottles.

According to Joyce Tsai, the plastic is melted, formed into thin fibers and then woven into all manner of material. The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Queens Zoo — the city’s only all-outdoor animal destination — was on hand to show off upcoming activities, and Transportation Alternatives was promoting cycling in the city.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 12:31 am, March 29, 2013
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