I love this time of year when Fall starts trickling in and warm sunny days are tempered with a little bit of crisp in the air. So last week, when Mother Earth granted us a couple of these perfect days, I decided to work outside and stepped into Transmitter Park, where I was met by a gargantuan illustration of a girl donning traditional Polish socks, in peaceful repose, holding daisies that have lost a few petals that are blowing away. The image though large, blends in unassumingly with the quiet midday scene of the park and is reminiscent of an idyllic innocent childhood. At times like this, it’s hard to remember that just a few years ago, this part of Greenpoint was slammed by Hurricane Sandy and we have been experiencing some erratic behavior with the weather since.
You don’t need to study scientific evidence to know that climate change is real. However subtle or extreme it is in the way it manifests itself in our daily lives, its presence is often like an elephant in the room and we carry on with the same habits even after being shaken up by a natural disaster. I wonder if Transmitter Park will recede with rising sea levels and the days of dipping out of the office to soak in the sun and enjoy the cityscape are numbered. I think about unusually warm winter days and how it felt unsettling. Appreciation of the moment’s beauty sinks in and I gain a renewed sense of urgency that something needs to be done.
These are the thoughts that have transpired since learning about The Greenest Point, an initiative to raise awareness about climate change through art and technology, “in a way that people will be attracted to innately” before peeling back the layers to discover its core message.
But it’s not about doom and gloom. It’s meant to inspire thought and is a community effort driven by Stephen Donofrio of Greenpoint Innovations, who along with documentary filmmaker Mark MacInnis, assembled a group of non-traditional actors around a common cause, and produced The Greenest Point. With the support of local government officials, small businesses, the parks department, private property owners like The Brooklyn Expo Center, and artists, three visual artifacts emerged. There is the mural in Transmitter Park created by FAILE, the Greenpoint based street art duo, who “wanted an image that can live with you in an every day kind of way” because “if you’re going to make changes, you can’t make these radical changes. You have to make little changes in your every day life.” There is also the corner facade of a building located on North 13th and Berry, that now displays the colorful work of artists Vexta and Askew, who collaborated to create a deeply meaningful street level mural that is also visually stunning. Finally, there is the iconic Greenpoint Water Tower, which if you haven’t noticed already, has been lit green for the past two weeks.
The different styles of Vexta and Askew is cohesively intertwined in a way that resonates with locals. Colorful motifs of icebergs and birds is in keeping with the themes of freedom and interconnectedness that is present Vexta’s general body of work, while it specifically addresses the messaging of the project. Based on the research in the Audobon Report, the birds that she chose to paint are ones that are found in New York and are being impacted by climate change.
Abstract icebergs and triangular shapes represent particles that make up the whole. It’s about how we’re all connected – Both artists hail from the South Pacific, where the front line of climate change is visibly apparent. During rainy season, walking around in knee deep water has become second nature to the inhabitants of the low lying islands of that region. “It takes things like Sandy for people to realize that New York is just as in threat,” said Askew. He brings this perspective through portraitures of four recognizable members of the North Brooklyn Community: Alan Minor, Co-Founder of Curb Your Litter; Aaron Simon, who has reported on environmental issues for Greenpointers and started the Brooklyn Environmental Reporting Project; Samanatha Niedospial of 61 Franklin Community Garden; and Aliffer Sabek, Activist with focus on food for the homeless and climate-change. Each person has a story about their work, which you can learn more about by scanning QR codes that will be added to the mural.
The green lights on the Water Tower demonstrates through action how a green economy could work. Through the in-kind donations of Brooklyn SolarWorks (green energy provider), Reveal Design Group (lighting design), Phillips U.S. (lighting equipment), the endorsement of the property owner, and the labor intense effort of the Greenpoint Innovations team, the iconic Water Tower illuminates the corner of Franklin and Milton in green.
“The reality of Greenpoint is the toxic aspects from it’s industrial history… it’s really unique to be in a neighborhood that is changing so fast… We can be a part of the change and we can use art as a platform to talk about these really difficult to understand issues because they’re so massive,” said Stephen Donofrio. The Greenest Point has demonstrated that by reclaiming public space and presenting ideas in different ways, a local community can take ownership of their neighborhood, however small, and harness change in a way that has a positive impact. I can get behind that. How about you?