GCF Helps Open Park, Featured in the New York Times

October 05, 2011  |   Posted by :   |   Blog   |   Comments Off on GCF Helps Open Park, Featured in the New York Times»

NEW YORK (October 5, 2011) – Monday marked the opening of Planters Grove, a sustainable park located at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)’s Lillian Wald Houses on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The park was made possible by a partnership of Planters, The Corps Network, NYCHA, and Green City Force (GCF), and features a rainwater garden and over 600 native flowers expected to attract several species of birds and butterflies.

Aerial view of Planters Grove. Photo credit: Avi Gerver

Monday’s opening celebration was joined by U.S. Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez, New York City Councilwoman Rosie Méndez, and NYCHA Commissioner Margarita López. Congresswoman Velázquez chose the event as the occasion to unveil the Civic Justice Corps Act, which she will propose in Washington D.C.

Designed by New York-based landscape architect Ken Smith, the park was built by Kokobo Greenscapes. GCF Corps Members played a key role in the build and will care for the park with the help of fellow NYCHA residents.

GCF Corps Member Maurice Davis speaking at the opening of Planters Grove

GCF Corps Member Maurice Davis, age 21, joined elected officials and GCF Executive Director Lisbeth Shepherd as a speaker at the event. Davis lives in nearby Rutgers Houses, and will be responsible for the park’s ongoing maintenance along with fellow Corps Member Lee-Ana Correa. For the last month, Davis has divided his time between park construction and performing energy audits in low-income housing. “This park is a step towards all that is possible in NYCHA complexes,” said Davis, in a stirring speech that was met with a standing ovation and an embrace from NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea. “This is optimism right here – it’s this park.”

The remarks of Commissioner Lopez and others celebrated the potential of cross-sector collaboration between the government, corporations, and local communities. Corps Member Hosny Youssef, 19, recalls the enthusiasm of Lillian Wald residents who volunteered in the park’s construction. “The whole neighborhood is excited…It will give the residents somewhere where they can come together. It will be a real positive change in the community.”

Commissioner John B. Rhea and Corps Member Maurice Davis after Davis' remarks. At left, GCF Corps Member Lee-Ana Correa. Photo credit: Pete Mikoleski/New York City Housing Authority

The partnership provided an opportunity for Corps Members to gain experience in green construction. Of reviewing the plans with architect Ken Smith, Youssef recalls, “they were specific to the inch – it gave me a sense of what contractors and architects go through, and I was able to see the techniques they used. When we ran into complications, he worked around them. In a job like this, you need to expect the unexpected. That’s something that stuck with me. I thought, if he can do this, I definitely can.”

Planters Grove is located at Avenue D and 5th Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Click here to read about the opening in the New York Times.

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