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We introduce the second installment of our case study series, Energy Democracy: Broadway Triangle –Multi-racial Efforts towards a Sustainable Neighborhood. In this case study, we examine the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition (BTCC) Plan to develop vacant land in Brooklyn, NY for renewable energy, green jobs, energy efficiency and affordable housing for a multi-racial constituency. Communities are at the frontline of our national challenges, be it jobs, housing or climate change, and often see opportunities to solve multiple challenges holistically, as does the Broadway Triangle Coalition. But while communities of color are generating new ideas and multiple efforts to build a more inclusive and green future we, as a nation, are not yet discussing policies to support these endeavors.
In our previous case study, Energy Democracy: Community Innovation in Boston, we learned that if local innovators in Boston receive financial support from foundations and governments to leverage private capital, it would be possible to start a weatherization cooperative that creates local ownership and jobs, saves residents money through energy efficiency and supports Massachusetts’s ability to achieve an 80% reduction in carbon emissions.
This case study finds that BTCC’s vision for sustainable development would provide affordable housing, create jobs, generate renewable energy and cut carbon emissions. We identify the opportunities to implement effectively the BTCC Plan and identify challenges, including the lack of inclusion by the city-planning processes and lack of available capital needed to support the project. We discuss how communities might use the BTCC Plan to scale out local renewable energy and efficiency solutions that take into account the rapidly diversifying demographics of our communities.
BTCC’s Plan for Brooklyn’s Broadway Triangle:
Through a series of participatory planning with community members and visioning charettes, BTTC created a proposal for an energy-plus neighborhood: an area which would develop energy-efficient affordable housing units, create a community-owned energy utility and incubate green jobs.
- Create affordable housing: BTCC’s plan called for 4,800 carbon-neutral housing units, 75% of which would be affordable, which means paying no more than 30% of one’s income on housing
- Creating a community-owned energy utility: BTCC’s plan would site small-scale wind turbines and solar panels on roofs and open spaces in the Broadway Triangle and it would convert subway and sewer heat into a heating and power system.
- Incubating green jobs: From construction to maintenance, the plan would help develop workers for the renewable energy economy.
Lessons from BTTC:
BTCC’s plan was not implemented but the lessons learned were enormous. Two critical lessons:
- Communities need to have a responsive government that listens to community residents, responds to community needs and supports community innovation.
- Communities need access to capital to put forth a vision that can create a healthier economy and environment.