ioby 2011 Heroes In Our Backyards

In case you didn't have a chance to meet the ioby heroes last week in person or to read about them at the event, you can meet them right here and right now. If you want to see the pictures from the event, you can check them out on Flickr or on Facebook.


heroes: Martha Lopez-Gilpin & Jules Corkery
affiliation: Astoria Park Alliance
project: Car-Free Astoria Water Walk on Shore Blvd; Let’s Talk Trash, Beyond the Can; Support Car-Free Programming at the Astoria Park Shore Fest!
location: Astoria, Queens
The Astoria Park Alliance formed in 2007 with co-presidents Martha and Jules with the intention of stewarding the 64 acre crown jewel of western Queens parks.  A pair of red tail hawks, a butterfly garden, several slippery shoreline clean ups, a few hundred Christmas trees, a giant pile of leaves, lots of wet dog kisses, three apartment chickens, and a few margaritas later the group realized that there was a missing connection (not of the Craigslist variety) between Astoria Park and the waterfront right across the street.  That was the street itself.  On any summer day, wedding parties, picnickers, joggers, and neighbors exchanging gossip and reading the paper would gather on the street between the water and the park interrupted only by cars and motorcycles hurdling down the mile long road.  The Astoria Park Alliance saw an opportunity to team up with the NYC DOT’s Weekend Walks program to close down this street in order to give neighborhood residents a reprieve from fast moving traffic and access to excellent free programming.  Four years and three ioby projects later Martha and Jules are still smiling and finding new ways to make Astoria nicer for everyone.
heroes: Dudley Stewart, Donovan Finn, Melissa Haldeman, Will Sweeney, Maria Hoffman, Georgia Southworth, Anthony Ng, & Elena Madison
affiliation: Jackson Heights Green Alliance 
project: Jackson Heights 78th Street Playstreet
location: Jackson Heights, Queens
Eight people with twelve children living in the neighborhood with the least about of park space in all of New York City banded together starting in 2007 to create more places for kids to play.  In 2008, 78th Street, adjacent to Travers Park, in Jackson Heights, Queens was officially closed for the weekends.  The kids took over the street.  In 2010, the Jackson Heights Green Alliance along with other community groups and residents bought a protesting parade of 100 adults + 100 kids to a community board meeting to urge the neighborhood to close 78th Street for the entirety of the July and August.  They succeeded.  Today, the Jackson Heights Green Alliance looks one step further to close 78th Street to cars forever and open it up into a safe haven for kids. 
heroes: Stacey Murphy, Bee Ayer, Molly Culver, Martha Jackson
affiliation: Bk Farmyards
project: Cooking the New $1 Menu: Straight from the Farm & Chicken Apprenticeship Workshops
location: Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn
Founded in 2009, a confluence of perhaps not so coincidental events led Stacey and Bee to find each other, both wanting to start a decentralized project where underutilized snippets of backyards, rooftops, community gardens, school grounds, and other open space could be converted into places for food production.  Stacey and Bee decided to work together and were joined by two other like minded souls, Molly and Martha.  Collectively they produce enough vegetables, eggs, and flowers to start a Brooklyn-based CSA and a farmers market.   Inspired?  Support their Chicken Apprenticeship project on ioby!
heroes: Karyn Williams, Naomi Doerner, Samelys Lopez
affiliation: Velo City 
project: Soundview Park Bikesplorations
location: Soundview, Bronx
Bikes? Check. Helmets? Check. A group of pint-sized Urban Planners?  Check.  
Karyn, Naomi and Samelys, all with masters degrees in Urban Planning, had a series of dissatisfying conversations where they questioned why what they learned in school was privileged information.  Why if everyone knew what Urban Planners know, we’d all be able to re-envision and change our neighborhoods, right?  Why should a couple of people in hard to find places make all the decisions?  These three women set out with a mission of making Urban Planning in local neighborhoods accessible and understandable to youth by creating Velo City.   To date, Velo City has led high school students from the South Bronx, the Lower East Side and Chinatown around New York City by bike, teaching Urban Planning concepts and methods; and instilling in their students that imagination paired with logic can go a long way in changing your neighborhood.
hero: Anne Pope
affiliation: Sustainable Flatbush
project: Sustainable Flatbush Church Ave Communal Garden &  Sustainable Flatbush Church Ave Communal Garden Compost Project
location: Flatbush, Brooklyn
Anne Pope is an omnipresent force in Flatbush, Brooklyn and a woman who like many of our heroes has literally spent all of her free time in creating Sustainable Flatbush.  Sustainable Flatbush’s mission is to promote sustainable living in Flatbush Brooklyn and beyond.  From taking a critical look at how streets are used, to promoting alternative energy with innovations like a Sun Bike, to urban gardening to looking at ways to reduce landfill waste, Anne Pope’s Sustainable Flatbush is a one stop shop in how to green your conscience in Brooklyn. 
heroes: Jennifer Lytton-Hirsch, Katie McCarthy, Steve Jones Daughs
affiliation: The Community Association of Tompkinsville Park Promoting Arts and Fun (CATPAF) 
project: 5th Annual St George Day Festival
location: St George, Staten Island
If you take the three most community oriented folks situated in a naturally occurring cultural district on the north shore of Staten Island and let them create a Festival for St George Day; what do you get?  A 35-foot dragon requiring 18 handlers of course!  Legend has it that St George slayed the dragon, and Jenny, Katie and Steve have transformed this story into a teachable moment for peaceful conflict resolution for the last five years as part of a festive day in the park for the entire community.
hero: Troy Lancaster
affiliation: Dred Scott Bird Sanctuary
project: Dred Scott Bird Sanctuary
location: South Bronx
In the 1970’s the Bronx burned.  In the 1980’s the Bronx became the birthplace of break dance, rap and hip-hop.  In 1996 Troy Lancaster arrived to take out the trash.  If you know Troy you know that chatting for a while and getting trees are just some of his many special talents.  With a big empty lot cleaned and tree planted, the birds started to arrive.  Troy worked with neighborhood and planted more trees, plants and flowers.  More migrating birds flew by.  Each year the Dred Scott Bird Sanctuary uses approximately 900 lbs of bird seed to help and encourage the migrating flocks while educating neighborhood residents.  Troy is currently looking for donations for his ioby project.
heroes: Oren Yaniv, Jay Smith, Naomi Donabedian
affiliation: Prospect Farm
project: Prospect Farm: Compost Collection Bins
location: Kensington, Brooklyn
In 2010 Tom Angotti, a professor and activist, decided that his property was too big.  He and his wife lived in a house and there was a tumble of wild greenery that grew on a big hill adjacent.  He did what any person that has no fear does, he put a call out for strangers and neighbors in the community to visit and form a community garden on the slope.  A hundred people from Kensington arrived that first day and the momentum of Prospect Farm has only grown bigger since.  Reclaiming space from the hearty NYC wilderness is no small feat though. Little by little, and now with the help of new compost bins, the team which includes Oren, Jay and Naomi are coaxing vegetables out of the ground.  Prospect Farm turns the idea of individual ownership on its head by sharing its bounty with Kensington, Brooklyn.