The power of water

The power of water.

This story is not so much about buildings, but about respect for Mother Nature and all her powers.

Few of us ever have the chance to see the connections between different natural systems or experience our effect on nature or nature’s effect on us. A few learn dramatically and with great loss. The few lucky ones, like my son and I and the people we were hiking with, have a chance to understand and get through the experience with no long-term issues, just awe and respect, and new-found awareness.

We left on a rainy morning in June to hike another Adirondack high peak, Mount Haystack. Hiking in the wet is no big deal and the temperature was perfect. Not too muggy, no black flies, all in all very nice, though…wet.

As we rounded a corner to hike up to the slight depression before heading up Little Haystack (you have to go over Little Haystack and then down a bit to get up to Mount Haystack) we realized we were hiking up a waterfall. Seriously – a waterfall. The trail is usually the lowest part of the mountainside, as it is often worn down, and water migrates (in this case dramatically) to the trail. As the trail got steeper, the water ran with more force and the rain added volume. My son and I turned back about a mile from the peak. So close, but it was too much for us to continue.

That is not the story. The story is the 5.5 mile hike back to John Brooks Lodge (JBL) and what we saw. The first stream crossing we came to, after Slant Rock, stunned us. We had easily crossed with dry feet by hopping rock by rock earlier this same day. All the rain had aggregated into the stream, which seemed now unpassable, and we had to cross it. With much trepidation, our compatriot, John, crossed the too-deep water with a rope and tied it off to bank-side trees so my son and I could use it to stabilize our shorter and smaller bodies in the crossing. We made it, shaking.

We crossed two other small streams with caution, and then arrived at Johns Brook, which we had to cross to get back to JBL situated about 1.5 miles downriver on the other side. No way. The river was nearly three feet deeper than it was a mere five hours earlier. We were forced to bushwack (go through the woods with no trail) for 1.5 miles on the wrong side of the river to reach a trail that would eventually bring us to a high water bridge below JBL. This took us 3.5 hours.

My son, Erik, and I, are posing for a relaxed photo That slight bulge is the same rock we were

at mid-morning on John’s Brook. sitting on, about 5 hours later.

That is what happens when water flows. It has speed and power and will make its own paths when needed, and grow and grow in volume as it runs down. We don’t treat water in our cities and suburbs with respect. We contain it and we direct it, and it does NOT like it. Putting it into a pipe in the ground and flowing it to a bigger pipe, and a bigger one, eventually to dump into a treatment plant is a recipe for disaster. Disaster we have seen in Upstate NY, especially with Irene, by building tightly to seemingly passive streams and rivers, and by watching manhole covers erupt in our asphalt-covered cities. Water is fierce. Water is not going to pay attention to you, Insignificant Human (nothing personal).

So, I am recommitting to Green Infrastructure (GI) efforts, efforts that include green roofs, inverted berming, rain gardens, pervious paving and bioswales. Green building is not, nor has it ever been, just about energy-use reductions. It is about doing smart, long-lasting things that are durable, flexible, cost-effective, and that create no new problems. Impervious surfaces leading to pipes underground very often create new problems, even in the best scenario: problems of storage, treatment, discharge and maintenance. In the worst scenario: flooding, destruction, danger, and untreated waste.

Let’s engage Mother Nature and work with her to filter the water through her own soils instead of running it into faster, bigger and costly man-made avenues. Let’s NOT spend money or power pumping and treating unless we have to! Let’s recharge and renew, revitalize and reconnect the systems that were working perfectly well before we starting interfering with our hard surfaces and restricting pipes. We may need to invest in some more cleverness, but we will certainly find less-expensive and more-effective ways to let our mother help us out.

Learn from your experiences,


Greenie tackles webpage…

Great gaming with friends!

Great gaming with friends!

Sigh, Who’s going to win this one? My husband and I were reminiscing about my parents and their lack of ability to handle their answering machine, circa 1995.  We realized that someday, our son will facetime us from a space station, or a settlement somewhere, and we’ll be facing the wrong holographic camera, trying to talk with him with our backs to him. In he meantime, I attempt to create a usable and attractive website, with information I am dying to share.  I frustratingly feel the whole time like I am back in the Netherlands, the first few weeks of living there, with a headache from trying to keep up with casual conversations. Is this sustainability?  The constant need to communicate and to expand my ability to communicate in the hope of expanding my audience?  Does this make me merely a narcissist or actually a change agent, or a true dyed in the organic wool greenie?  I hope it makes me accessible (despite the communication glitches). I want sustainability to be about outreach and connection.  We are individuals each with a piece of the solution, and we can only truly find the end game by playing together more than we currently do.

changing the world

Heads up – we know we’re changing the world when people start fighting back! – Jodi

From Marisa Long of the USGBC

By now, many of you have seen the unabashed false claims that came out in a press release last week from the fictitious organization called the “Environmental Policy Alliance." Rest assured, USGBC is responding to each media inquiry on an individual basis and addressing these attacks head on.

As a member of the USGBC community, here are some key points for you to use if you are getting questions:

The LEED rating system has spurred explosive growth in energy-efficient buildings, which has supported almost eight million jobs across all 50 states and contributes $554 billion to the U.S. economy annually. LEED certification saves tax payer dollars by conserving energy and water, which reduces water and utility bills. LEED buildings can also be built for little to no upfront additional costs.

The claims made by the fictitious organization “Environmental Policy Alliance” are false. As a recent report by the District of Columbia states, Washington’s commercial buildings are exceptionally efficient, scoring on average 77 out of 100 on the ENERGY STAR scale, well above the national median score of 50. Commercial buildings in the District of Columbia have reduced their energy consumption by an average of six percent from 2010 to 2012. These positive results are due in large part to the District’s use of LEED, the most widely used global green building program. To read more about LEED buildings in the DC area at USGBC’s green building platform, visit GBIG here: Washington, DC. And here is a link to the District Department of Environment release the Alliance references:….

This “alliance” claims that LEED buildings are using more energy but when reporters have asked them to provide the LEED buildings, the alliance has not been able to do so. This organization is backed by front groups run by Richard Berman, a notorious DC lobbyist who works with special interests under the guise of policy and research institutes. You can see what the Boston Globe has to say about Berman and his history of attacking nonprofit organizations on behalf of special interest groups:…. Also check out a recent 60 Minutes piece about Richard Berman. You can learn more at:

The article that seems to be circulating most heavily is from the Daily Caller.…. We encourage members of the USGBC community to share the truth on these claims in the comments section of this article as you/your company deem appropriate.

If you are contacted by any media, you can put them in touch with me directly. Please feel free to reach out to us with any additional questions as well.

Thank you,

I hate this building

I must warn you, I am usually accepting of things I don’t understand, yet where Gehry is concerned I am consistently disappointed and even angered, which is reflected in my tone, here. I see red when I see Gehry’s "architecture".

I’m PO’d that there is NO mention of high performance, green, sustainability or LEED. Of course, I don’t think this architect cares at all about health and well-being of users or builders, the budget or the planet.

I am really awed at how inappropriate and ugly this is – it represents bio-diversity? Its metal and concrete and glass. It is NOT biodiverse in form or function and not even accommodating yet alone using the local skills in the industry. Once again, Gehry’s ego on parade.


connection to space and place

I love empirical testing. I think we too often (waaaay too often) rely on data when we need to feel, see, smell, hear, touch and yes, even taste! My husband often tells me it’s not raining (per his handy dandy phone app for weather) and I stick my hand out the window and say "Uhm…honey? You may want to check your data".

Think about the real goal of green buildings – comfort and usability (and beauty) without waste. Are you comfortable? – then this is a successful building. If you are not comfortable, can reasonable adjustments be made to your surroundings or to your situation (a sweater, opening a vent, whatever)? Success!

Now, this is not to say that our senses don’t need some re-training. We "think" the smell of Lysol and other harsh chemical disinfectants actually mean "clean" and they do not. We need to re-learn that fresh, clean smells without the toxic undertones are much more supportive of the health we seek. (one example).


State of New York | Executive Chamber
Andrew M. Cuomo | Governor
For Immediate Release: January 15, 2014


63 Projects Will Encourage Tourism and Economic Development Opportunities Statewide

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the award of approximately $67 million in funding for 63 bicycle, pedestrian and multi-use path transportation enhancement projects that will encourage tourism and economic development opportunities across the state. The projects include the addition of accessible sidewalks, improved pedestrian access to public transportation services, construction of new bicycle and pedestrian facilities and the preservation and conversion of abandoned railroad corridors for trail use.

“We are modernizing New York State’s transportation system while making it safer,” Governor Cuomo said. “From building new facilities for bicycles and pedestrians to supporting historic highway programs, these projects will provide new tourism and recreational opportunities for New Yorkers and visitors. We will continue to upgrade New York’s infrastructure to expand tourism and economic development while improving our communities.”

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner (NYSDOT) Joan McDonald said, “Today’s announcement demonstrates the State’s sustained commitment to investing in bicycle and pedestrian safety efforts to improve the livability of communities statewide. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Cuomo, we are investing in projects that are promoting transportation alternatives, tourism and recreation, and local and regional economic development.”

These funds are made available to the State through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and are administered by NYSDOT. The funds cover 80 percent of the cost of each project, with the remaining 20 percent coming from the project sponsor. The funds are dedicated for strategic investments in transportation alternatives. With the 20% local match, these projects will support a total investment of $96.5 million. The selected projects are required to address one or more of the following categories:

· Facilities for bicycles and pedestrians;
· Scenic or historic highway programs;
· Landscaping and other beautification initiatives;
· Preservation of abandoned railway corridors, including their conversion and use as pedestrian and bicycle trails; and
· Environmental mitigation to address water pollution due to highway runoff or reducing vehicle-caused wildlife mortality.

The projects announced today were selected through a competitive solicitation process and rated on established criteria that included environmental enhancement to and for the transportation system; connectivity to an existing transportation system; encouragement of smart growth; impact on local or regional economies; availability of matching funds; and level of community support. A full list of the projects is below.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said, “Improving New York’s transportation systems – be they rail, highway, pedestrian pathways or bicycle lanes – encourages tourism, improves the environment and spurs business growth along those routes, pumping vital dollars into our economy and cleaner air into our lungs. As we watch these exciting projects take off, I will continue to work with New York State to bring federal resources to bear to improve New York State’s transportation network.”

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “Despite attempts in Congress to cut funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects, I fought alongside many of my colleagues to maintain our federal commitment to projects like those being announced today. Investing in bicycle and pedestrian projects not only improves safety for cyclists and pedestrians, but promotes tourism, outdoor recreation and economic development, enhancing the quality of life for millions of New Yorkers.”

Congresswoman Nita Lowey said, “These exciting investments in Westchester and Rockland Counties will improve public safety, offer new opportunities for tourists and Lower Hudson Valley residents to explore our region, and boost our economy. This is yet another example of how smart federal investments in transportation infrastructure can strengthen our communities.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, “I thank Governor Cuomo for today’s announcement of Federal highway trust fund dollars for bike and pedestrian enhancements. In particular, the funding of two projects, the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway and the Hudson River Park, will greatly impact a large number of my constituents. These investments will improve the local quality of life and are a vital part of ongoing civic improvement. I will continue to work with the Governor to make sure these projects get the attention and funding they deserve.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said, “Funding for these projects will make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to safely commute and travel throughout our city. I will continue working to pass funding for important projects like these, and I’m pleased to see the funds we were able to secure last year are being put to good use.”

Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy said, “As a lifelong resident of Long Island, I understand the importance of the environmental resources we have here and throughout New York State, and the benefits they bring to our economy and way of life. Governor Cuomo’s announcement and the funding to improve bicycle, pedestrian and multi-use path transportation enhancement projects are an important investment in our communities for our citizens, especially our young people. This funding will encourage tourism and economic development opportunities across the state and provide access to safe and welcoming means of transportation.”

Congressman Joe Crowley said, “Investing in bike and pedestrian paths, sidewalks and crosswalks is an essential part of making our communities safer, greener and better suited for the transportation practices of the 21st century, and I’m glad New York is taking full advantage of the funds available to make these critical improvements. The projects announced today will not only improve safety and encourage tourism and recreation, they will also create jobs and promote economic development.”

Congressman Steve Israel said, “I am pleased this federal investment in Great Neck Plaza will help local businesses along with pedestrians and cyclists. As we focus on healthier lifestyles and more walkable downtowns, funding for improvements like these boost quality of life for residents and strengthen communities.”

Congressman Brian Higgins said, “As our region continues to grow and transform, Western New Yorkers are eager to have new and improved methods of getting around their communities. This funding will support vital infrastructure improvements in Amherst and Williamsville, making it safer and more accessible for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists and providing a more user-friendly neighborhood and visitor experience.”

Congressman Paul Tonko said, “These federal funds will enhance the quality of life and leisure for those in our area who enjoy the great outdoors. The more we work to beautify and protect our environment, build up our infrastructure, and promote tourism, the more attractive and marketable the Capital Region becomes for families and businesses to lay down their roots and grow.”

Congressman Chris Gibson said, “Path enhancement projects have a real impact on our communities, with economic benefits through increased tourism and recreation. Upstate New York is a leader in expanding these projects and I look forward to continuing to work with the state and localities to advance these initiatives. Notably, I would also like to thank my constituents Heather Andersen and Brian Kehoe for their work leading on this effort.”

Congressman Dan Maffei said, “The funding to assist development of the Onondaga Lake Canalways Trail and the Owasco River Greenway Trail in Auburn is a huge win for Central New York. This important investment will bolster local tourism, expand recreational opportunities in our region, encourage more environmentally-friendly transportation alternatives, and in turn help our economy in Central New York continue to grow.”

Josh Wilson, Executive Director of NY Bicycling Coalition, said, “On behalf of New York Bicycling Coalition and our members across the state, I want to commend Governor Cuomo for doubling the amount of grant funding awarded by NYSDOT this year for bicycle and pedestrian projects under the Transportation Enhancements Program. This federal funding is in high demand as more communities than ever are looking for ways to increase foot and bike traffic to downtown business districts and local tourism destinations, and to make roadways safer and more appealing to pedestrians and cyclists of all ages. NYBC applauds the cities, counties and towns that are investing in the safety, health and quality of life of their residents through these projects.”

Veronica Vanterpool, Executive Director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said, “We applaud Governor Cuomo for heeding the call of New Yorkers to increase funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure with a 50 percent increase in TEP funds. This additional funding will be used by towns and municipalities trying to meet the soaring demand for safe, walkable, bikeable, economically vibrant streets. It’s a significant step forward in the spirit of the state’s Complete Streets law.”

Robin Dropkin, Executive Director of Parks & Trails New York, said, “New Yorkers clearly want more opportunities to walk and bike and these grants are going to help them do that. We are pleased that so many communities will now have the resources to build the trails, sidewalks, and other active transportation infrastructure that will foster revitalization of main streets, attract tourism dollars, and ensure that all New Yorkers are more physically active and thus enjoy better mental and physical health.”

Projects Awards by Region

Capital Region – $5.7 million

Black Bridge over the Catskill Creek Village of Catskill Greene $2,240,000
Delaware Avenue Hamlet Multi-Modal and Streetscape Enhancements Town of Bethlehem Albany $1,200,000
North Central Avenue Pedestrian Safety Project City of Mechanicville Saratoga $400,000
NYS Route 9 Complete Streets Improvement Town of Lake George Warren $1,100,000
Hamlet of Hillsdale Pedestrian Streetscape Enhancements Town of Hillsdale Columbia $754,975

Mohawk Valley – $4 million

North & South Washington Street Project Village of Herkimer Herkimer $680,000
Grey to Green: East Dominick Streetscape Improvements City of Rome Oneida $350,000
Erie Canalway Trail: South Amsterdam to Pattersonville “Closing the Gap” NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation Montgomery $980,000
Cooperstown Downtown Streetscape and Pedestrian Improvements Village of Cooperstown Otsego $1,761,200
Neahwa Park Entrance Improvements City of Oneonta Otsego $227,692

Central New York – $4.5 million

Owasco River Greenway Trail Construction City of Auburn Cayuga $1,322,000
Northeast Gateway and Clinton Avenue Corridor Enhancement City of Cortland Cortland $544,000
Onondaga Lake Canalways Trail-State Fair Boulevard Extension Onondaga County Dept. Of Trans. Onondaga $1,530,000
Oneida Rail Trail: Wampsville/Oneida Connector City of Oneida Madison $545,830
South Peterboro Street Enhancement Project Phase I Village of Canastota Madison $519,968

Finger Lakes – $4.7 million

Elmwood Avenue/Collegetown Cycle Track City of Rochester Monroe $1,000,000
Highland Crossing Trail Town of Brighton Monroe $1,331,040
Erie Canalway Trail Segment West of NYS Route 414 Village of Clyde Wayne $279,472
Downtown Perry Streetscape Village of Perry Wyoming $1,063,638
Ellicott Trail Town of Batavia Genesee $1,024,492

Western New York – $7.8 million

Pendleton Pathway Expansion Project Town of Pendleton Niagara $640,153
Olean Creek Bicycle and Pedestrian Crossing City of Olean Cattaraugus $535,516
Newstead Trailway Expansion Project Town of Newstead Erie $245,854
Town of Holland Sidewalk Connection Project Town of Holland Erie $370,505
Newfane Streetscape Improvements Town of Newfane Niagara $336,880
The Pennsy Trail Seneca Nation of Indians Cattaraugus $482,206
Amherst Sidewalks for Safety Town of Amherst Erie $406,400
Mayville Lakeside Pedestrian and Bike Path- Section 4 Chautauqua County Chautauqua $611,200
Main Street Sidewalks- Thompson to Transit Town of Clarence Erie $415,600
Picture Main Street Village of Williamsville Erie $2,500,000
The Lucy Trail Chautauqua County Chautauqua $965,200
Village Gateway Enhancements Village of Wellsville Allegany $278,794

Southern Tier – $3.3 million

Northside (East Pulteney Street) Pedestrian Safety Improvements City of Corning Steuben $480,000
Chemung River Corridor Trail – Lackawanna Trail Improvements Chemung County Chemung $202,214
Campbell Hamlet Sidewalk Project Town of Campbell Steuben $164,960
Town of Chemung Sidewalk Placement Project Chemung County Chemung $600,000
W. Martin Luther King Jr. Corridor Enhancements City of Ithaca Tompkins $600,000
South Otsiningo Riverfront Multi-Modal Trail Broome County Broome $406,300
Front St. Streetscape Improvements (Court St. to Dean St.) Village of Deposit Broome $825,000

North Country – $3 million

Black River Trail Extension NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation Jefferson $640,000
Pedestrian Accessibility Improvements NYS 86 Village of Saranac Lake Franklin $761,600
Saranac River Trail City of Plattsburgh Clinton $1,626,000

Mid-Hudson Valley – $14.2 million

NYS Route 211 Pedestrian and Landscape Improvements Town of Wallkill Orange $1,336,000
Town of Crawford Pedestrian Improvement Town of Crawford Orange $611,029
Route 52 Pedestrian Bridge to Walden-Wallkill Rail Trail Village of Walden Orange $500,928
Safe Sidewalks Program/East Main Street & Kingston Avenue City of Port Jervis Orange $745,178
Brown/South/Esther Streetscape-Phase 2 City of Peekskill Westchester $788,000
Scotts Corner Bike/Pedestrian Safety Streetscape Project Town of Pound Ridge Westchester $1,480,000
Revitalization West Nyack Phase 2 Town of Clarkstown Rockland $2,321,224
N. Middletown Rd Pedestrian Corridor Link Town of Orangetown Rockland $1,899,859
Morningthorpe Avenue Pedestrian Bridge Connection Putnam County Putnam $2,000,000
Jefferson Street Gateway Project Village of Monticello Sullivan $477,995
City of Kingston Connectivity Project City of Kingston Ulster $2,001,500

Long Island – $5.1 million

Sunrise Highway Streetscape Program Village of Freeport Nassau $1,655,871
The Bay Shore Corridor Project Town of Islip Suffolk $1,615,514
Downtown Main Street Sidewalk and Roadway Improvements Village of Port Jefferson Suffolk $1,001,208
Shorewood Drive/Welwyn Road Pedestrian and Bicyclist Enhancements Village of Great Neck Plaza Nassau $838,000

New York City – $14.8 million

Putnam Plaza NYC Department of Transportation Kings $2,403,743
Pulaski Bridge Bicycle and Pedestrian NYC Department of Transportation Queens $2,500,000
Hell Gate Pathway Phase III NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (NYCDPR) New York $2,500,000
Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway-Gowanus Connector NYC Department of Transportation Kings $2,500,000
Route 9A/West 13th Street Hudson River Park Trust New York $2,361,374
Pedestrian and Bike Improvements in Gulick Park The City of New York, Department of Parks & Recreation New York $2,500,000


Additional news available at
New York State | Executive Chamber | | 518.474.8418

definition of a sustainable world

I still go back to getting past "independence" to "interdependence". I think a truly sustainable world is one where there are more taken opportunities to build our strength upon our shared story.

This relates to transportation, to resiliency in times of economic/ health/ weather trials, to educational systems, to government support structures, to fabrication of products, to farming and sourcing of foods and management of materials leftover, to buildings and their operational uses.

We have worked so hard to be "independent" and to romanticize that concept since the start of the USA as a nation. Even before the USA came to be, many stories give accolades to the hero standing alone, but the real hero is the one standing with.

So – that’s our sustainable future. A simple (not easy) shift of paradigm regarding the perception of the term "interdependence" and honoring of the heroes that are heroes because of their relationship and work with those around them. Think of nearly anyone who has changed the world for the better and you will find they not only did not do it alone, but are proud of that fact.

Governor Cuomo’s State of the State

I LOVE much of what Governor Cuomo presented in his State of the State. This one part does confuse me. Why is he talking about getting RE up from downstate when typically energy moves from upstate down to the city, and why would we do that anyway? The true power of RE comes with being as close to point of use as possible…I love the rest of this paragraph – cut approval times for smart, local projects. Hoorah.

“We are going to expedite the building of our energy super highway; we still have a problem getting low cost clean renewable power up from downstate to upstate which is costing rate payers $600 million a year. It can take up to two years believe it or not to get a new transmission project approved and some of the proposed projects are causing concerns by expanding into local communities. Let’s incentivize smart projects that locate within state owned or existing transmission right of ways so that they are not interfering or spreading into local communities and lets offer those smart projects and expedited approval process which will cut the time from two years to ten months if they do it smart. It is a win-win for upstate which needs the economic growth and its rate payers for downstate New York.”

true sustainability

Responding to a comment that net-zero homes and “self sufficiency” are false goals. We need to drop these concepts. I feel they are a valid step toward the real goal….

That’s why the verbiage is now moving to resiliency. And we need to speak of resiliency and efficiency in a broader way – a community with one "resilient" or "net zero" home will not be able to manage a tragic occurrence nearly as well as a community that strived for resiliency and balance as a whole.

It’s back to the real core definition of strength. First you are dependent, then independent (we are working on that with self-sufficiency approaches, and tending our own stuff as much as we can) then ultimately INTERdependence, where we understand the strengths and weaknesses of the community and make decisions and efforts optimizing the systems in collaboration. This approach is a systems approach for sustainability, and applies to products, buildings, communities and relationships.

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