Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Late Happy Earth Day NYC!

Soooo,  been quite busy over the last month and just getting back now.  Most exciting was the Tribeca Film Festival - which I have written about before. I love Tribeca because I feel they bring in movies that are accessible and fun to watch. Not all of them are, of course, but I see many films available either in theaters, on video on demand, or even on cable channels such as HBO and MTV, later in the years.

 This year was very exciting for me because after 5 years working in screenings, I was given the opportunity to work as a jury liaison. Tribeca has several juries that see movies during the festival and award prizes. The prizes, often a cash prize and other services, such as post production services, which are very valuable to an independent film maker who is scraping together a movie budget. While technology has made film making very accessible in terms of equipment, it is still very expensive. So, these juries can make a big difference to a film maker.

My jury judged the best new narrative director competition and I think they did a great job. They were all very nice people and very professional. All were well known in the industry. It was a pleasure to meet them and work with them. It was very exciting, and a lot of hard work! I feel like a quarterback after football season is over. I need a rest, but I bet I'll want to do it again when next year rolls around.

April was actually an interesting month as far as the overall economy and housing markets. It seems that housing is making a comeback around the country, but really it's still finding its way after such a long time far under water.

In New York, the story is that unemployment has hit a multi-year low of 8.4%, (previously stuck at 8.9%), and it seems rents are starting to head up again as well. Sales prices have not moved too much, just a tick higher, but the story there is that the number of units on the market has pretty much dried up. Finally, properties that were taking 6-8 months to sell have mostly sold, and fewer apartments are coming on the market. Fewer "affordable" apartments (under $1 million), anyway.  The market for very high end properties is pretty lively.

My favorite news stories from the past month are actually some that will help New Yorkers enjoy a higher quality of life.

First up, we have the happy news that wifi coverage has become active on many more subway platforms in Manhattan. Previously, only 14th Street at 6th and 8th Aves, and 23rd street on 8th Ave stations had service. Very helpful! Really looking forward to expanding to those of us in Brooklyn. MTA, you have seen the coverage that rents in parts of Brooklyn are higher than in Manhattan, right? We're not all peons out here.

Next up, a couple late Earth Day bits of news. First is an exciting new program that is being piloted by New York City with a  large doorman building to have people separate food scraps for garbage collection by the city. This is the first time NYC has experimented with separating out food scraps. Right now, there are places you can drop your food scraps where NYC and/or nonprofits like the Lower East Side Ecology Center will take them off your hands for composting. But that's kind of inconvenient. I personally separate my food scraps because it keeps me from having to empty the garbage as often, thereby letting me fill my trash can instead of having to empty it before it's full (and contributing more plastic to landfills). My coop has a few compost bins that we use in our common garden, but alas more food scraps are produced than can be composted. The result? My food scraps often join the building garbage and end up in the landfill.

If NYC starts collecting food scraps, not only will we be able to reduce the amount of garbage we send to a landfill, but we can return organic materials to farms, gardens and other places where they are needed. And if it saves us a few million in tax dollars by cutting out on shipping to landfills, that's great too!

I was also excited to read about an effort in my Brooklyn community to bring solar energy to the neighborhood. Solarize Brooklyn is a joint effort by Solar One and two Brooklyn sustainable living groups to help members of the communities of Windsor Terrace, Ditmas Park and Kensington to get their buildings retrofitted with solar energy.  These neighborhoods have many 1-4 family houses that the majority of the solar energy industry are prepared to work with. Creating both one intensive point of education and a collective purchasing program to help save on installation costs and claim tax benefits is a great idea here. I live in a co-op building, and from the research I've done, the 1930s-1950s buildings are hard to retrofit. However they are welcome to the program and I hope mine will participate. Certainly if for no other reason, it would be nice to have a back-up electric system should there be another grid-wide failure (a la Hurricane Sandy). Also more solar systems contribute to a scale that makes sense for even wider adoption of solar technology. And while at the moment it's not feasible to be 100% solar, it is certainly feasible that solar should contribute a sizeable percentage of NYC's electricity, especially in the peak summer cooling months when the grid could use a little help.

So, here's hoping that these two new programs will take root and make New York a cleaner, greener city. I hope all are enjoying the beautiful (if slightly tardy) spring weather.

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