On Thursday, October 7th, the Mayor’s Office held its first “community conversation” to talk about what’s working and what’s not in PlaNYC.  To recap, PlaNYC is the city’s sustainability document for the year 2030, an anticipated era of more people and contentious climate.  It came out in 2007, along with the legal imperative to update it every four years.  Now New Yorkers are gathering around the collective table to direct the first round of updates for spring 2011.

Community Advocate Addresses His Peers; PlaNYC

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was encouraged by a personal email from someone at the Mayor’s Office.  Now after having attended, I recommend it to anyone who wants to be a part of building the next phase of NYC life.  At the Brooklyn event, I’d estimate there were about 130 people in attendance.  The evening was adeptly facilitated by the PlaNYC team; they said we’d be done by 8:00 pm and we were.  It was well-paced with good energy.  No rambling.  No whining.  Quite the opposite:  I met neighbors who want an open dialogue for a better city, despite upcoming tough developments.

The evening started with a summary of PlaNYC achievements to date.  For example, did you know that New York is home to the first municipal Office of Environmental Remediation in the country?  Me neither.  Later, the audience funneled into a large room with several round tables.  Each table was labeled with its particular PlaNYC topic of concern:  Water, Transportation, Energy, etc.  People selected their tables, introduced ourselves, and got talking.  The city’s team stopped by frequently to make sure our goals were, in their words, “ambitious, practical, and measurable.”  Then, each table selected a speaker to tell the room about the best idea from their discussion.  One by one in round-robin style, we heard from each table.  It was fast and focused.

In summary, if you have the opportunity to attend one of these community conversations, DO IT.  Yes, I too wonder how these conversations will eventually fold into city policy.  It was an empowering evening, but where will we go from here?  I’m not sure of the answer.  What I know is that as the room dispersed, and we all took our steps onto the Brooklyn streets, I could hear my community saying, “If you don’t participate, you can’t complain.”

Postcards Given Out Prompt Everyone to Text PlaNYC Ideas to the City

I never cared about baseball until Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series: Red Sox vs. Yankees.

A dear friend from Boston had spent weeks explaining the trials of his beloved Sox to our crew.  Without him, Game 7 was just another game in a little known perennial season.  But our friend gave it context, and thus, we cared.  When Johnny Damon hit a grand slam and shot the Sox towards the World Series, we all leapt up and embraced like the war had been won.

I had a similar experience – minus the hugs – on Saturday while listening to Rafter Sass talk about mushrooms.  Sass’ passion reminded me that when we share our knowledge of something we love, we inspire others to care, too.

His lecture was a part of a day-long Skillshare at the Germantown Community Farm.  The farm, located in the Catskills, held a series of workshops under the guiding principle of Do-It-Yourself Agriculture.  The audience listened in a barn classroom; as the crowd grew, people overturned buckets to make seats.

What’s cool about mushrooms?  Answer: the potential for cultivating them ourselves.  As people bring our food sources closer to home – digging deep in our gardens, hosting cheese-making parties, and keeping bees on the rooftop, for example – we’ve overlooked mushrooms.  To get them so far, we’ve either 1) foraged in the woods, which is fun, but unpredictable and uncommon or 2) bought the cellophane-wrapped products of industrial processing.  There has yet to be a middle ground.

Sass has a new approach and he calls it “mycoscaping.”  It is the Do-It-Yourself manner of mushrooms. It comes from his appreciation of permaculture, or the observation of wild eco-systems and our recreation of them.  Mycoscaping means cultivating mushrooms somewhat systematically (and locally) while simulating the environment in which they thrive.  As one example, he demonstrated a case where he had grown wine cap mushrooms in the mulch of a client’s garden.  In another, he grew them in the tree crevices of a new orchard.  A different slide showed elegant wood logs in a client’s kitchen growing mushrooms like organic artwork.

In Sass’ words, it’s time for mushrooms to be a part of our “local food sovereignty,” and he’s bringing the food to its “growing edge.”

Rafter Sass Presents in the Barn Classroom

Rafter Sass Presents in the Barn Classroom

Image of Farm Sustainability: Electric Fence via Solar Power

Image of Farm Sustainability: Electric Fence via Solar Power

Nighttime on the Farm & Dinner is Served; Grab the Fiddle - Contra Dancing is Next!

Nighttime on the Farm & Dinner is Served; Grab the Fiddle - Contra Dancing is Next!