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  Groundwork Hudson Valley Newsletter            Winter 2013/2014

Hello Friends,   
Hope your 2014 is off to a good start! Thank for your generous donations, volunteer hours and support at the end of 2013. Here in the office we are busy teaching Botany at Gorton High School, weatherizing older adults homes with Saunders High School Students, cutting invasive vines along the Saw Mill River and trudging through the snow to various events and conferences. Stay safe and warm and we'll see you out and about in the spring!  
Best regards,
The Groundwork Hudson Valley Staff: Rick, Anne, Ann-Marie, Bob, Curt, Decora, Holly, Jennifer, Kathy, Latisha, Lynn, Myrna, Rhea, Sara and Vernon. 
And our Board: Brian, Jeff, Joan, Joe, Jon, Nina, Paula, Rob, Shannon and Wendy.

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In This Issue
Get Ready to SWARM!
REED All About It!
Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.
Groundwork Goings-ons
Whats Next for Groundwork?
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Going Green: A New Greenway for Southwest Yonkers


Sometimes you can stand someplace and fail to see what it once was.  This was the case in a southwest Yonkers neighborhood where Groundwork has been working with residents, church leaders, and others to clean up vacant lots and plant trees for many years.  When a request for a community garden came in from residents of a Municipal Housing site a year ago, an in-depth historical review uncovered that the land for the garden, the housing project itself, and much of the neighborhood's land, had been a railroad corridor.  In fact, up until 1944, the railroad and nearby trolley lines were the primary forms of travel for residents.

The steering committee tours the Highline in Manhattan

This area possessed two stations along the Yonkers Branch of the Putnam Railroad, a commuter line that connected Getty Square to New York City. Unless you know about the railroad, little evidence remains of this once vibrant neighborhood built by transit except for stone abutments and vacant properties.   Even the name of the neighborhood, "Lowerre," has fallen from use and memory.   Attractive storefronts  used by riders for most of a century, are covered by steel gates that rarely open.  As a result, the bustling street life has given way to streets that are desolate and forbidding.


A light bulb went off in the minds of Groundwork Staff and Board Members. What if we recreated the railroad line as a greenway for Southwest Yonkers? Quicker than the dalighting project, support for this ambitious idea grew rapidly led by Mayor Spano. 


Our first task was to form a steering committee for the planning process. The committee is made up of representatives from Groundwork, Steppin Up!, Living Transformation, various

Community meeting in the Lawrence Street neighborhood

 agencies of the City of Yonkers, St. Joseph's Medical Center and others.  In November, the steering committee took a field trip to visit Manhattan to see examples of elements we might like to include in the neighborhood.  We saw The HighLine, the Manhattan Greenway, the Ninth Avenue protected bike lane and a Citibike station.  As public health problems related to inactivity are endemic to the neighborhood, active living opportunities like cycling and walking need to be included in whatever happens.   


Having seen what has been done elsewhere, the committee is better able to advise the community in the planning process.  The steering committee recently hosted their first community meeting and is planning on having more throughout the spring. 


We have been fortunate to have support for this process from the visionary Westchester Community Foundation, which has provided two exploratory grants.   In addition, we received a highly competitive national Area-Wide Planning grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency.  And recently, we received a NYS Parks grant through the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council to extend this planning process north of the Lowerre neighborhood to the Yonkers waterfront near the Science Barge.


Throughout, we have worked very closely with Mayor Mike Spano and multiple agencies of the City of Yonkers, including the Planning and Parks departments.
Read more about this project here.

Get Ready to SWARM!
Volunteers following crew leader to their SWARM site 
On November 16th Groundwork hosted the first invasive vine cutting SWARM in the Hudson Valley. Masterminded by Groundwork's Invasive Vine Cutting Task Force, the Swarm brought together organizations and volunteers from all over the Hudson Valley area to focus on one specific portion of the Saw Mill River. In this case it was Lawrence Street in Ardsley.  A surprisingly warm day played host to about 174 volunteers who showed up to Swarm the Lawrence Street Site. Working from 10am-3pm this group was able to free just over 500 trees! Experienced vine cutters led groups at six different sites along the South County Trail. These groups featured the names of invasive plants such as "Multiflora Rose" or "Porcelain Berry." The combination of new and experienced vine cutters worked wonderfully, with the new participants tackling a lot of volume leaving the specialty areas and the parkway side for the more experienced leaders.
Swarming along the Saw Mill River Parkway 

One of the highlights for many vine cutters was the brown bag lunch, which allowed all participants a chance to speak and recommend sites for the next SWARM. Volunteers spread out on picnic blankets in the sand of the volleyball court at Life the Place to Be and devoured lunches, granola bars, coffee and hot chocolate while soaking up the November sunshine. The SWARM was more successful than any of us at Groundwork could have anticipated and we look forward to swarming an area near you soon! (See upcoming vine-cutting dates below)


Thanks to all participating groups: American Field Service students, Boy Scout Troop 25, Bronx River Conservancy, Croton CAC, Croton Vine Cutters, Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, The Garden Club of Irvington, Hastings High School Environmental Club, Hastings Vine Squad, HelpHalsey123, New York State DOT local office, NY-NJ Trail Conference Invasives Strike Force, Saw Mill River Audubon, Somers Land Trust, Trail Mix, Westchester County Parks, and the Yonkers Land Conservancy


And Many Thanks to Our Sponsors: Life the Place to Be, Yonkers Costco and Care of Trees. 


Read more about the SWARM here.

REED All About It!


Anne Megaro presenting about garden education at the 4th annual REED conference

The fourth annual Regional Environmental Educators Day (REED) conference was held at Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining New York on January 15th, 2014. On this sunny but cold morning four Groundwork staffers trooped into the "bear room" and prepared for one of two workshops to be led by the staff during the conference. Determined to increase Groundwork's presence at REED, which is an important regional event, Science Barge Director of Education, Jennifer Sloan joined the planning committee and helped to organize the workshops. Jennifer also co -led a workshop on Hudson River watershed education  with Vicky Garufi from the Beczak. This interactive workshop incorporated PowerPoints, activities and discussion and was so well received that the questions ran over into lunch and the two presenters spent most of their lunch hour talking about the tools and activities they use to teach environmental science to school children.

Jennifer Sloan and Vicky Garufi teaching about the Hudson River watershed. 


            Groundwork's second workshop was co-led by none other than Anne Megaro, Director of

Land Programs, and Chanyz Estrada, past Barge intern, Groundwork Green teamer and current intern at the Greenburgh Nature Center. The title of their workshop was "Garden Education" and the topics they covered ranged from Barge programs to in-school activities to what it actually means to do hands-on learning. We thoroughly enjoyed participating in this year's REED conference and hope to be able to continue this participation in years to come.  


Honoring a Hero: MLK Day Activities 

Volunteers cleaning the NFT hydroponic system on the barge

Happy Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday! This truly was a day "on" for Groundwork staff. The Science Barge crew was busy doing a pre-spring cleaning with a group from the Volunteer Center of United Way. Despite the sleet, snow and cold weather, 14 brave volunteers ventured out onto the Hudson. The group cleaned hydroton, scrubbed down hydroponic systems and organized the battery room. Days like this are a tremendous help to all of us at Groundwork and a great way to get the Barge ready for its 2014 season.

Groundwork youth exploring Newtown Creek 


Meanwhile, Sara Smith Sell and Curt Collier led youth from Saunders High School and Gorton High School students on an environmental justice tour of Brooklyn. As MLK said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Using this quote as a frame, the group toured Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal. Seeing the amount of visible oil in the water at Newtown Creek was shocking for the youth.  There are between 17 and 30 million

 gallons of oil in the creek. As of 2012,

 they have removed 8.8 gallons. This raised the

Oil in Newtown Creek 

 question of why this creek and the canal are so polluted. And who lives near them? The Groundwork staff led the students in a discussion of income-inequality and race and how these factors are essential when understanding why polluted areas are where they are. After visiting these sites the group visited the Queens Museum and the panorama of New York City. Overall a fun and informative day for all!      


Groundwork Goings-On 
1. GWUSA receives "Partners in Conservation" Award from the DOI
Groundwork Hudson Valley Green Team members, Alivia Acosta, Kira Lopez and Nathan Martinez attended the ceremony in Washington D.C. and met Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

2. New Trails in the Meadow off of Farragut 
One of the new trails leading down to the Saw Mill River constructed by Steve Pucillo, a member of the invasive vine cutting task force.
3. Our Folks Going Strong 
Students from Saunders who participate in the Our Folks program spent an afternoon landscaping Barbara Smith's yard. Our Folks is a program that brings high schoolers to older adults homes in the community. The students help in the garden, or weaterproof the home before sharing stories and a snack with the senior. 
4. 4-H Club resumes at School 29
4-H club is back! In our second year at School 29, 4-H is part of an emerging urban agriculture track at the Yonkers Public Schools which Groundwork has been instrumental in shaping. 

What's Next for Groundwork?
Upcoming Vine Cuttings! 
Free-A Tree is back in full force this year. The Saw Mill River Coalition has already led a successful vine cutting at Farragut Avenue. 
Vine Cutting-March 1
Vine Cutting-March 16
SWARM save the date March 22
Great Saw Mill River Clean Up- April 26
Sign up for a CSA with Groundwork
Now in our 9th consecutive year of providing all organic vegetables to residents of Yonkers, Groundwork's CSA runs for 20-22 weeks, starting in June and ending in October. Cost is $300-$400, depending on income.
Email Anne Megaro for a contract at 
Join the Farm Team! 
Farm Team Applications due March 7th
Do you know any Yonkers Public High School students looking for a summer job? Groundwork is recruiting for our 2014 Farm Team. Learn urban farming, canning, jam making and how to run a successful farmer's market. 
Applications are available in the Groundwork office. 
High Schoolers Help Out Seniors 
Are you an older adult living in the Yonkers community? Our Folks is a program that brings trained students from Saunders High School and Gorton High School to weatherize homes and landscape gardens/yards. 
For more information contact Sara Smith Sell at or (914) 375-2151  
Groundwork in the News

Swarming Volunteers Free Trees from Invasive Vines from The Rivertowns Enterprise 

Old Rail Line Could Spur a Yonkers Resurgence from Westchester County Business Journal 

Children Explore the Hudson's "Green Oasis" from the Riverdale Press  
Seen in NY: The Science Barge a great video from the Teacher's College at Columbia University