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Archive for the ‘New York State’ Category

Predictions for the Big Apple haven’t been so great lately, at least as far as climate is concerned. News from a week ago was that heat-related deaths are predicted to rise by 20% by the 2020s and by nearly 100% by the end of the century. Scientific American summarizes the work published this month in the journal, Nature Climate Change, and includes this quote from one of the authors:

“This serves as a reminder that heat events are one of the greatest hazards faced by urban populations around the globe,” said coauthor Radley Horton, a climate scientist at the Earth Institute’s Center for Climate Systems Research.

The record 2010 heat wave that hit Russia, killing some 55,000 people, and the 2003 one in Europe that killed 70,000 are potent examples of the devastation that extreme heat can cause, Horton added.

This week, Scientific American published another warning for NYC and the rest of the East Coast. The climate threat in this case is flooding – the possibility of Hurricane Sandy-like flooding every two years by century’s end! Salon summarizes the SA behind-the-paywall story here.  A few planning details:

Municipalities rarely plan for anything greater than the so-called one-in-100-year storm—which means that the chances of such a storm hitting during any given year is one in 100. Sandy was a one-in-500-year storm. If sea level rises by five feet, the chance in any year of a storm bringing a three-foot surge to New York City will increase to as high as one in three or even one in two, according to various projections. The 100-year-height for a storm in the year 2000 would be reached by a two-year storm in 2100.

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Rochester graffiti captured by Nick Swann

Landscape architecture students, among others, seem to have a passion for graffiti/street art. In what I think is the only interesting story I’ve seen on “network news” this year, CNN’s report on street art as public art includes a shout out to Rochester. Not much depth, but some good photos from around the world.

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Like the SUNY-ESF research to cool Downtown Syracuse with water from Lake Ontario, the project discussed in the local newspaper, excerpted below, is another promising step on the route to a sustainable energy future, led by my own college.

Syracuse, NY — Farmers in Oswego County beginning next week will be able to sign up to grow willows as part of a renewable energy fuel project.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing $4.3 million to be paid to Central and Northern New York farmers to grow willow to burn to make electricity. The project is a collaboration of the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry and the ReEnergy Co.

SUNY-ESF, which has been studying using willows as a renewable energy source since 1986, will offer an outreach program to educate local government officials, agricultural leaders, farmers and landowners about the opportunity to grow willow. ReEnergy operates plants that use biomass and waste residues to produce thermal and electric energy.

And, in another part of the article, Tim Volk describes the production and harvesting conditions for willow.

Volk said the willow will be grown on 3,500 acres of marginal farmland that is considered poor for other crops. He said willow grows well in wet soils and is pretty tolerant of adverse weather condition.

The first harvest of willow takes place four years after it is planted. It then is harvested again every three years, Volk said, adding it is an easy crop to grow and requires very little management.

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Building community and playgrounds in Central New York. A story in the local newspaper and video.

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In December, we celebrate the 4th anniversary of the official start of the Great Recession or Lesser Depression. One silver lining that I see would be if communities (i.e., community residents) started to take matters into their own hands and began to create their own better futures. Recently there have been signs that some communities are doing just that. From today’s New York Times, the story of the new department store in Saranac Lake, NY, entirely financed by shares sold to community residents. After the town’s last department store closed, residents had to drive 50 miles to buy basic necessities, and they were considering an offer by Wal-Mart to develop a store. Not liking either alternative…

But rather than accept their fate, residents of Saranac Lake did something unusual: they decided to raise capital to open their own department store. Shares in the store, priced at $100 each, were marketed to local residents as a way to “take control of our future and help our community,” said Melinda Little, a Saranac Lake resident who has been involved in the effort from the start. “The idea was, this is an investment in the community as well as the store.”

And later in the article:

Think of it as the retail equivalent of the Green Bay Packers — a department store owned by its customers that will not pick up and leave when a better opportunity comes along or a corporate parent takes on too much debt.

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David Tulloch of the Places and Spaces blog has posted a well-produced video on the Tribute in Light memorial. In the video, lighting designer Paul Marantz discusses the process of bringing the concept to fruition. Designed and executed by the firm Fisher, Marantz, Stone in collaboration with a group of architects and artists, the memorial is an installation of 88 searchlights that suggest the outline of the twin towers against the New York skyline. The temporary installation originally debuted six months after 9/11, and it has been launched yearly on the anniversary of the attack, including this year.

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It’s not your everyday, run of the mill design problem. But it is an everyday reality – cows produce significant amounts of the greenhouse gas (GHG), methane, and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are therefore point sources of GHG pollution. There are arguments for ending the CAFO practice, but these controversial land uses appear to be with us for the foreseeable future anyway. Can the impacts be mitigated? Can agroforestry techniques be used to mitigate the emissions, and, if you plant a lot of trees, do you still have enough open land to maintain farm functionality? These are the questions asked by the ESF graduate student, Au Ta, in his capstone project, supervised by Dayton Reuter and me. His study produced some very interesting results.

Forested buffer alternatives were tested

Graduate students in landscape architecture programs sometimes produce studies that are worthy of peer-reviewed publication, but these projects often remain hidden in their respective departments. As a discipline, we need to move toward the expectation that this work will be published, either in traditional print media or through online journals. Our colleagues in other disciplines would not squander these resources! Like many LA graduate theses and capstones, Au’s project was not designed from the outset to be a carefully controlled study, but instead evolved over time into something interesting, thought-provoking, and not necessarily easy to publish in science journals because of the degree of intuitive design involved. But the project is well-crafted and reaches some surprising conclusions. Click continue reading to read the abstract and get a link to the entire paper. (more…)

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One of the most popular stories today in the New York Times is about the “Brooklynization” of Hudson River towns. Even with the weak national economy, or perhaps because of it, New Yorkers are seeking the comfort of small town life and bringing their creative enterprises and locovore habits with them. While this has been true for the closest towns for a long time, the wave of newcomers is reaching farther into the hinterlands today. Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, calls this a “green economic revitalization,” suggesting that environmental groups are not opposing this population influx as they might have in the past. Many of the towns in this region have been down and out since their industries left long ago, so the transformation is nothing less than astonishing for the chosen ones.

…for all the images of upstate decay, the population of the Hudson Valley is growing more than twice as fast as that of the rest of the state — 5.8 percent over the past decade, compared with 2.1 percent for New York State and New York City. (While there are no universally accepted boundaries to the Hudson Valley, this reference includes the counties north of suburban Rockland and Westchester and south of the capital region: Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia and Greene.)   … and snip…

But optimism is one thing you find in the Hudson Valley, to an extent not seen elsewhere. It is true that, even here, it takes more than art, farm stands and caffeine to make an economy work — especially for those who don’t make a living with a laptop or a paintbrush. But in a culture sometimes whipsawed between a desire to be in the middle of the storm and to be a million miles away, the Hudson Valley offers the promise of both, the upstate hills and quirky towns just 90 minutes from Manhattan, said Bradley Thomason, who moved his small technology and organizational development consultancy, Miraclelabb, from Manhattan to the mighty metropolis of Accord last year.

“This isn’t like the tech revolution,” he said. “I’d be worried if there were some big kaboom Hudson Valley moment. But I think what you’re seeing is a slow progression toward something that can sustain itself.”

 

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Syracuse is hoping the nickname “Emerald City” sticks, and that “green” is an identity that will distinguish it from its urban competitors. In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency helped add substance to the claim by naming Syracuse one of 10 EPA Green Infrastructure (GI) partnership communities. The designation came in response to an ambitious effort by the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County to use stormwater-focused GI techniques (green roofs, rain gardens, rain barrels, and so forth) on an unusually extensive scale – throughout the urban watershed of the City’s main tributary, Onondaga Creek. The Save the Rain program aims to improve water quality in Onondaga Creek and Onondaga Lake by reducing stormwater runoff that is currently causing combined sewer overflows, a situation common in many U.S. cities. Commitment to the effort, driven by a 2009 amended consent order between NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Onondaga County, the urban context, and scale of the intervention make this an example worth watching.

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Naturally Chilled Water Project

The City of Syracuse is considering a proposal to pipe cool lake water from Lake Ontario or a smaller Finger Lake, Skaneateles Lake, to Downtown Syracuse and the eds and meds district, University Hill, to provide summer cooling to the buildings there. Toronto, our impressive big city neighbor to the northwest, already has such a system in place. The dramatically lower costs of summer cooling would be attractive to businesses considering relocation and be great for the businesses already located in these areas. Dr. James Hassett, professor emeritus of SUNY-ESF, conducted the feasibility study. According to the Syracuse Post Standard, Syracuse would be the first city in the U.S. to stop using electricity to cool its downtown and major institutional buildings if the proposal is adopted.

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