Feb 16, 2011
PENN: Please add thoughts on any specific project ideas (refer to by #) and feel free to introduce new ideas here.
Feb 17, 2011
I'm always interested in focusing on urban agriculture (#2), but I heard informally from city reps that they had already done an inventory of city-owned vacant land in that area (I'm unclear on how broad their geographic focus) and that the only plots that weren't already "claimed" by various city agencies for future development are the 4 in Dorchester that were recently the focus of re-zoning efforts. I might be wrong about where they were initially focusing, so maybe other spots along Blue Hill haven't been investigated, but it could be that the city is unwilling to give over the land because it has distant plans. I can check with Edith Murnane to confirm which areas were initially looked at for urban agriculture. Any one else know something about this topic?
Feb 21, 2011
I am excited about several of the projects on this list, especially the urban ag and green inventories (#s 1, 2 & 3). I also have also been thinking a lot lately about the Hi-Lo/Whole Foods issue in JP and it seems to have the potential to be one of those crisis-opportunity moments that fits in well with our workshop. I know it has come up a few times in our discussions and I am wondering if anyone has any thoughts. One thought I've had is to try and connect all the urban ag work going on around Boston with some of the bodegas/corner stores around the city. I am sure the ag students know more about this than I do - Ronak mentioned a few experiments that have been done in other cities and some of the difficulties. But if anyone is going to gain from the loss of Hi-Lo (besides Whole Foods), it might be the bodegas around the area, so why not try to get them to stock truly local and more affordable meats/produce (as opposed to what Whole Foods is likely to offer). I heard about one bodega on Boylston St. that has started bringing in a pig from a farm in central Mass, butchering it and selling all the different cuts which range in price enough to satisfy a spectrum of customers. Perhaps this strategy could extend to other meats and produce and could be a way to make urban ag produce more accessible to local residents.
Feb 25, 2011
While reading the assigned articles from yes! magazine, I came across this article on food justice that relates to my thoughts above, but goes deeper into the history of disenfranchisement of black store owners and disinvestment in inner cities. There is an interview with two food justice pioneers out of Oakland and Seattle, both of whom are doing exciting things to connect urban farming, healthy food systems and local entrepreneurship. Here is a link: Lentils and Justice for All.
I was part of a group in Penn's EJ class in the fall that researched "Green Zones" (#3) and I really like the idea of targeting a block or neighborhood for a sustainable redesign. I like the more holistic approach to targeting an area or areas of our community making them more energy efficient, green and transportation friendly while creating local jobs. It seem like if it comes from the community, is about the community and what it wants, and stays in the community it can help build more power within the community and spur economic development within the people of community. It also seems like it could be a good way to start developing a solidarity economy within that community. I also feel like a green zone initiative could encompass many of the other projects like jobs, co-ops, urban gardens, asset mapping, new green businesses, education, and targeting multi-family and low to moderate income households for energy efficiency work.
Oops I wasn't singed in when I wrote my comment, but the above anonymous comment is from me. Sorry!
Feb 27, 2011
I'm drawn to the holistic nature of the "green zones" idea too, especially if we were to work on developing it in a geographic area where the work of multiple organizations overlaps. It could be the type of joint project that draws on the multiple threads of knowledge, experience, connections and interests that we represent as a group.
This is Michael Chavez, YouthBuild Boston (I dont think I have an account yet). Although its too hard to share all the work we've done so far in the Blue Hill Ave corridor in this comment section, I'd be more than happy to continue pushing our vacant lot initiative. There are actually over 1000 vacant lots in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan, with the majority of those in what we consider the Blue Hill Ave corridor. We are currently working on the renovation of an urban garden in Dorchester (completion date is late April or first week of May) and it will be our model of community engagement, understanding policy behind the development of urban agriculture, budgets, youth involvement, etc. One reason we (as in I) are participating in this workshop is to further understand the full breadth of urban green space development, especially in urban neighborhoods along Blue Hill Ave. I think partnering our work with several of the other ideas mentioned above such as "green zone strategic plans", asset mapping, education, and job development make perfect sense. We're currently working with the EPA to hold a "brown fields bootcamp" in May or June as well as host free trainings for our students in the designing, building, and maintaining of rain gardens and bioswales this summer so there's a lot of upcoming opportunities that we can work on and provide good results...
I am intrigued by Worker's Cooperatives (#10), particularly after Caroline's presentation on ADP. I wonder if any of the participating organizations can see themselves participating in an alternative economy or take lessons from ADP, maybe around how to develop capital. I agree with Jessie that the Whole Foods/Hi-Lo conversation has come up many times in this course and perhaps that is a great opportunity to exercise alternative economic principles and power. A project around cooperatives could be specific, such as the JP example, or more broad as a thinking and strategy exercise for participating community partners. I also am interested in urban agriculture projects (#2), however the need doesnt seem to be inventory per Michael and Molly's comments, as well as my own understanding. A major issue is getting permissions to the land which are not short term leases (a big issue for the longevity of agricultural projects, an innate requirement for success). Maybe a research project to understand the land ownership issues and any strategies for obtaining land for a more permanent tenure.
So many interesting project possibilities on the table! Ones that jump out at me from the list are 3, 4, 5 and 10. But I'm also looking forward to hearing more about the other projects. The pre-weatherization project (#4) seems timely based on some reading and conversations that I've had recently about the challenge of weatherizing older homes. Many need upgrades in wiring, etc. before weatherization and energy efficiency improvements can happen, and programs/policies/available funding generally don't address this pre-weatherization work. Also, this part of the weatherization process could be a job training and worker cooperative development opportunity. A worker cooperative that houses the knowledge and tools for the full weatherization process, along with city policies that address and support it?!? Anyway, very much looking forward to us all discussing the possibilities in person.
New Project: I know it sounds really dry and mundane, but after looking at the report from the Community Scholars Program, should we consider it a project to document what we have done here? Perhaps it would then go the next step and evaluate the course with some recommendations for next year. It could also involve a search and review of similar programs. Also, if these types of workshops are an important part of starting this new narrative and we are concerned about how to get to scale, then enabling more of these workshops to be created is an important part. I don't know how best to suggest that other planning schools recreate a similar program--would it have to be some kind of scholarly article professing our great successes? or simply a concise report distributed to the right people?
As far as suggested projects: I am most interested in #10, #1 (perhaps with the perspective of identifying resources that could be community or cooperatively owned so as to develop a captive market), #3, and #4. I also like Jessie's suggestion and wonder if there are more aspects that can be added to it. Is this a potential opportunity for a CBA or do they have the green light no matter what?
#9 + #11 - interested in this. Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) is researching doing a campaign to get CBAs with all the high rise developments in and around Chinatown. The focus would be on jobs.
#10 - I would particularly like to deeper analysis and thought about how the worker cooperative that CPA, ACE, and BWA is working on in the weatherization industry will tie in and support the organizing work the groups are doing.
Reform proposals to the low-income weatherization program - related to #4, but focused on come up with a survey of how well the low-income program is serving people and recommendations on how to improve it. Challenge will be getting CAP agencies to cooperate.
Mar 06, 2011
Hi guys, this is Ninya, I still don't have an account. Synthesizing some thoughts from above, one project idea would be to concentrate on Hyde Square in JP (the area where Hi-Lo is located). Pick one or more adjacent blocks to concentrate on as a prospective 'green zone'. (Note: I have been doing green block organizing on two blocks in that area, Sheridan-Cranston-Termine and Gayhead streets, for the past year so we could hook into those groups easily.) Do an inventory of this zones' justainability 'infrastructure' (I am not sure what this would include, but could be green infrastructure resources, a social network web of organizations people belong to in the community, political influences, important economic factors in the zone like Hi-Lo, etc.). Then invite members of Whose Foods (the group which is fighting Whole Foods coming in), successful local co-ops other relevant organizations, and neighbors to one or more practical visionaries 'mini workshops' where we share key parts of what we've learned in this course and we work together as a group to come up with a 'justainable' green zone plan that includes a viable alternative to Whole Foods? I get the impression a lot of community-based work is going on already to find successful alternatives to Whole Foods, by JPNDC, JP Neighborhood Council, etc, so we have to make sure that our project will actually contribute in a meaningful way to that effort.
Mar 07, 2011
alex from clean water: #5 sounds pretty good to me (with possible link to #2 for a site)- develop community-accountable and worker-centered green jobs in the recycling and remanufacturing industry. i'm part of a project thinking about this for boston, but just getting started with much research still outstanding and policy recommendations and implementation months away. but good partners on board- teamsters union, enviros, worker safety folks, etc. so could be a good time to build something based on models we've studied. we know there's good potential for this to flourish if done right- recycling rate is 13% here, so less landfilling and incineration, decent jobs for people with little formal education and a local manufacturing base sound pretty good.
also, jessie's thought about getting the small grocers together in jp is intriguing- as a way to deal with the whole foods mess, and also in relation to other communities which have similar characteristics. i hear jpndc is discussing this already for another site, might be good to check in w them to see about a community process early on. also know some young people thinking in that direction in dudley area- but just a thought, hasn't gone anywhere so far...