Since its inception in 1994, the Earth Crew Youth Project has provided a unique opportunity, for Northern Manhattan youth to learn about their urban environment and enhance their community. Earth Crew, which began as a summer project, has since expanded into an after-school project as well. During the school year, the Earth Crew youth are engaged in more than 300 hours of training and service. For every young person that participates in the program there are three goals:
Open Space Gardening
- To enhance awareness of their urban environment;
- To empower them to protect and improve their environment; and
- To develop their leadership abilities. By providing a combination of environmental education, personal and skill development workshops, as well as opportunities to provide service in their neighborhoods, Earth Crew has been able to achieve these goals.
With the information and skills provided by the workshops, the young people were able to complete a variety of projects, which benefited the community. One such project is the 125th Street Oasis. The Earth Crew transformed an abandoned, garbage-strewn area on the plaza of the Harlem State Office Building into a beautiful vest-pocket park. When the project was completed in August 1996, many community residents could hardly believe their eyes. What was once an eyesore, had been transformed into a panorama of colorful flowers and newly planted trees, which affords people a place to rest and be entertained, shaded by Mediterranean-style umbrellas. Gone is the garbage and the pervasive stench of urine, and the community now has an oasis on Northern Manhattan's busiest commercial strip. All this was accomplished by the young minds and bodies of our Earth Crew participants. The 125th Street Oasis is open to the public Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Air Quality Monitoring Study
At the request of WE ACT and the community, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) began a landmark air quality monitoring study, in which the EPA placed eight air monitors at designated locations in Northern Manhattan. These monitors were place on street lamps above the level at which pedestrians breathe. In an effort to capture information about the level of pollution at street level, the Earth Crew, under the direction of Patrick Kinney, Ph.D., Columbia University School of Public Health and Mary E. Northridge, Ph.D., Harlem Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, embarked on a study. For five days, eight hours a day, at four of the eight EPA sites, the Earth Crew conducted pedestrian and traffic counts, and wore personal air monitors to record the level of particulates in the air. This was the first time that Northern Manhattan youth were involved in a study of this nature and their efforts were highly publicized. The results from the study have been published by Dr. Kinney and t EPA did review them. The EPA has issued new rules regulating particulate pollution since the Earth Crew's study. While we cannot claim credit for the EPA's new regulations, we feel confident that the experience of participating in the study was both enlightening and empowering for the young people.
See Also: "Dirty Diesel Campaign"
See Also: "Diesel Exhaust Exposure Among Adolescents in West Harlem"
Industrial & Commercial Sites Audit
A block-by-block audit of Northern Manhattan's four communities: East, West and Central Harlem, and Washington Heights was begun in October 1996 and completed in August 1997 by the Earth Crew, WE ACT's community youth internship program. The audit is a starting point for assessing environmental issues and to provide background data. The audit will indicate key areas where past and present development principles and actions, not based on community sustainability, continue to be harmful to the natural, built and social environments.
The Earth Crew has been involved in several other noteworthy projects: water sampling on the Hudson River, voter registration drives, launching a letter-writing campaign to protest cutbacks to the City's recycling program which produced over 850 signed letters from community residents, and over 450 letters to the MTA to convert diesel bus fleet to natural gas.
More About The Audit...
"The Earth Crew Times" Newsletter
"The Earth Crew Times" newsletter was generated by the members of the Earth Crew at the end of every season. It represents the culmination of hundreds of hours of community participation detailing projects they had worked on, poems/stories/art work they volunteered to generate, as well as field trips they participated in. It became a part of a resource to hand out to funders, to give to parents of current and future members, and as a personal guide of their growth.
"Earth Crew Times" (Summer 1996) (1.24MB)
"Earth Crew Times" (Fall 1996/Winter 1997) (1.05MB)
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