Finding new park space and places for kids to play has been an ongoing challenge for community leaders in a neighborhood known for its heavy traffic and close-packed population.
Past efforts to green the neighborhood have yielded few results. But now, thanks to the outreach efforts of the Green Agenda for Jackson Heights, positive changes are at least within sight.
What does “going green” mean to you? That question jump-started the Green Agenda for Jackson Heights-Sustainable Solutions Session, where civic groups and residents focused on the neighborhood's lack of public space and affordable housing, poor air quality and health care services.
The first-of-its-kind meeting, held March 20 at the Renaissance Charter School on 81st Street, was a starting point more than anything- a forum to bandy about a host of ideas that could, with support and funding, turn into reality.
(It was organized by Green Agenda, a coalition of several community and development groups, including the Jackson Heights Beautification Group and the Pratt Center for Community Development).
The summit wasn't just talk, however.
This summer Green Agenda hopes to publish an action plan addressing possible environmental policy changes. The action plan will be based on the summit meeting and several previous planning sessions, which began last November.
In the meantime, the summit got the ball rolling, said one woman, Nancy, a member of the Queens Community House Action Group who only gave her first name.
"The Green Agenda discussion sessions allowed me to discuss topics that meant something to me and my life,” she said. “It allowed me to hear from others and compare what is most important to each of us in making our community a better place to live.”
Local elected officials have expressed interest in the Green Agenda, according to Anna Dioguardi, the director of Community Organizing and Development at Queens Community House. Still, implementing solutions won't be an easy task, she said.
“This is a grassroots effort,” Dioguardi said. “We’re reaching out to all members of our community across the divides of language, ethnicity, age and income.”
Michael Epp, of The Pratt Center for Community Development, said the summit was a solid step forward. “This is really the first time Jackson Heights has come together as a community to discuss how all of these issues relate to each other.”