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EPA Applauds Environmental Champions from New York

Release Date: 04/24/2009
Contact Information: Elizabeth Myer (212) 637-3860,

(New York, N.Y.) In conjunction with Earth Day, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented Environmental Quality Awards to representatives from 26 projects across New York State for their efforts to protect the environment. EPA also recognized a student and a school from New York that received the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou presented the awards today at a ceremony at EPA’s office in Manhattan, and environmental advocate Majora Carter delivered keynote remarks.

“These exemplary environmental stewards have gone above and beyond for environmental change in local communities across New York,” said Pavlou. “Let their extraordinary contributions remind us all that we can make our world a better place and individuals really inspire others and make a lasting difference.”

EPA selects Environmental Quality Award winners from non-profit environmental and community groups, individual citizens, educators, business organizations and members of the news media, as well as from federal, state, local or tribal governments and agencies. The honor is given to those individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to improving the environment and public health in EPA Region 2, which covers New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and seven federally-recognized Indian Nations. The Agency receives nominations for the awards from both inside and outside EPA. For information about the Environmental Quality Awards in EPA Region 2, go to

EPA’s annual President’s Environmental Youth Award program encourages young people to study the environment and better understand their relationship to it. The national competition is open to students from kindergarten through 12th grade who actively participate in noteworthy environmental projects. Out of the hundreds of competitors, one winner is chosen from each of EPA’s 10 regions and several others are chosen to receive honorable mentions. For more information on the PEYA program, visit

Individual Citizen
Barbara Brown, Eastern Queens Alliance, Queens
Barbara Brown, Chairwoman of the Eastern Queens Alliance, has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to environmental justice in Queens. Under her leadership, the Eastern Queens Alliance has worked to preserve and restore the wetlands in Idlewild Park Preserve and to establish the Idlewild Park Salt March Environmental Science Learning Center, through which environmental education will be provided to children and families of the community at large. The alliance has also worked to address the preservation of open space and the prevention of further encroachment by airport-related services.

Janet Lee Burnet, Ramapo River Watershed Intermunicipal Council, Suffern
Janet Lee Burnet envisioned, planned, and successfully executed the formation of the Ramapo River Watershed Intermunicipal Council, where she spearheaded the writing of a memorandum of understanding signed by 28 watershed municipalities. The council’s efforts in intermunicipal cooperation have created a vision for environmentally sustainable development, which serves as an exceptional watershed protection model. Burnet is also the environmental grant-writer and educator at Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority. This entity is a model of 21st century recycling and hazardous waste disposal.

Marjorie Elder, Victor
Marjorie Elder, Chairwoman of the Conservation Board of Victor, N.Y., promotes her passion for environmental preservation with a diplomatic view to help a town experiencing significant growth manage resources by providing a vision that balances development and the environment in an efficient and sustainable manner. Using her teaching experience, Elder spearheaded several initiatives to educate others on the benefits of environmental protection. In the town newsletter, she often suggests outdoor activities for families to experience together in local parks as a means of teaching future generations about the importance of the natural environment.

Dean Emeritus Richard Ottinger, Pace Law School, Pace University, White Plains
Richard Ottinger has made many notable contributions to the environment through a lifelong dedication to the resolution of environmental issues. In addition to serving on numerous environmental boards, Ottinger founded and serves as the faculty supervisor of the Pace Energy and Climate Center, which works to reduce the negative environmental and social effects associated with the most common forms of energy production and climate change. Throughout his lengthy career, he has remained on the vanguard of changes in energy policy and sustainability.

Jessye Waxman, Great Neck
Jessye Waxman, Co-President of Great Neck South High School’s Environmental Club, is an outstanding force in environmental education and activism. Waxman recently developed and taught an environmental education course for 4th and 5th graders at an afterschool program. She also helped the town of North Hempstead develop and implement a recycling program, which put recycling bins in every public building, and spearheaded an effort to get residential and commercial property owners in Great Neck to participate in Earth Hour, a global climate change awareness event. She also worked with the mayors of nine towns to educate thousands of residents and businesses about this event.

Business and Industry
GreenWheels, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Pearl River
The GreenWheels program at Pearl River was created by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals as an environmentally-conscious approach to commuter transportation. Currently, over 50 percent of Pearl River’s registered employees participate in the GreenWheels program, of which another 50 percent rideshare at least three days per week. In December 2008 alone, GreenWheels commuters eliminated more than 183,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, playing a significant role in improving air quality and alleviating pollution in the Pearl River area.

Mount Sinai Medical Center, Department of Environmental Health and Safety, Manhattan
Mouth Sinai’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety has made great strides in advancing its multimedia environmental compliance program. Over the past few years, the division has accomplished a myriad of complex multimedia compliance milestones including establishing and managing 350 “satellite accumulation areas” for the short-term storage of hazardous waste, universal waste and hazardous substances; developing and delivering multimedia environmental compliance training to thousands of individuals at the center; conducting regularly scheduled multimedia compliance audits at over 800 research laboratories.

O.A.R., Manhattan
In 2008, the band O.A.R. partnered with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and Reverb for the Green Dream and Campus Consciousness tours. Throughout O.A.R.’s Green Dream tour, information was distributed to concertgoers in person, on Web sites, and through public service announcements on YouTube to over 400,000 fans worldwide. O.A.R. and SAIC centered their Green Dream campaign on the importance of recycling and ultimately diverted more than one ton of materials from landfills. On their Campus Consciousness Tour, O.A.R. teamed with Reverb to prevent 576,500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions through a variety of “green” initiatives.

Federal, State, Local, or Tribal Government or Agency
Monroe County Department of Environmental Services, Rochester
The Monroe County Department of Environmental Services has always been proactive in looking for ways to improve and protect the environment. In April 2008, Monroe County held the region’s first ever pharmaceutical waste collection event. Subsequently, 15 collection events were held and over 2,000 pounds of hazardous, non-hazardous, and controlled substances were amassed and disposed of properly. The staff members’ perseverance, both in the office and in the field, has significantly minimized the adverse impacts that the county’s residents have on its land and waterways.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, State Electronics Challenge, Albany
As a partner in the State Electronics Challenge, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation demonstrated leadership in the procurement and end-of-life management of its computer equipment, resulting in reductions in greenhouse gases and toxics. The goal of the challenge is for government agencies to “green” the life-cycle of computer equipment. In 2008, 100 percent of the nearly 1,000 computers taken out of service were recycled in an environmentally sound manner. In addition, 100 percent of the computers purchased were designated “environmentally preferable products.”

Honorable Thomas R. Suozzi, Nassau County, Mineola
Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi is the founder of “Green Levittown,” a unique initiative dedicated to making America’s first suburb one of America’s first green communities. Part of this project involved Suozzi and volunteers launching a door-to-door canvass, talking to thousands of school children, and holding community events to educate homeowners and families about how to make their homes “green” in order to increase energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint. Suozzi has established one of the largest alternative fuel vehicle programs in New York State, created a Green Fuels Filling Station Program, and upgraded several major county buildings with the New York Power Authority.

Town of Islip, Islip
In 2008, Islip became the first municipality on Long Island to adopt provisions in its town code allowing the installation of accessory wind energy turbines on residential and industrial properties. Islip also became the first town in the state to institute a residential curbside electronics waste pickup, which occurs once a month. In addition, Islip initiated federal ENERGY STAR standards for residential construction; contracted with the New York Power Authority to conduct energy audits of town facilities; and was the only municipality to receive a grade of “A” from Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment for its town-wide recycling program.

Honorable C. Scott Vanderhoef, County of Rockland, New City
Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef initiated the county’s first Open Space Acquisition Program to protect and preserve rapidly disappearing natural, cultural, and historic resources. Vanderhoef has committed $35 million to acquire such properties and, to date, has obtained 1,125 acres. Vanderhoef has proposed and signed numerous laws that protect air quality, including an anti-idling law and a law requiring retrofits of county vehicles to improve air emissions. Additionally, he secured a permanent air monitoring station and signed onto the Mayor’s Agreement on Climate Change in 2008.

Environmental Education
Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell Farm Services Composting Facility, Ithaca
In 1992, Cornell Farm Services began one of the first composting operations in the New York university system. Today, Farm Services composts 57 diverse waste streams, including food waste, greenhouse waste, animal bedding, and other organics. Since its inception, the Cornell compost site has diverted thousands of tons of organic waste, while the on-site facility has reduced transportation costs and fuel use. The site runs year-round and is the second largest composting operation in the county. The operation has facilitated ground-breaking research on composting with direct statewide impact.

Lower East Side Ecology Center, Manhattan
The Lower East Side Ecology Center is a non-profit community group that coordinates year-round environmental education seminars, participatory events, and recycling and composting programs for the public throughout the five boroughs. Under the dedicated leadership of Christina Datz-Romero, the center has been a strong force in increasing community awareness and involvement as it works toward a more sustainable New York City.

Non-Profit Organization, Environmental or Community Group
Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, Keene Valley
The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, currently housed by the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, protects the Adirondack region from the real and lasting negative economic and environmental impacts of non-native, invasive species. The program’s accomplishments include innovative invasive species educational programs, systematic monitoring, controlling hundreds of infestations, and serving as a model for other regional partnerships. In 2008, the program received the first contract for invasive species funding through New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund.

Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI), Goodwill of Greater Rochester, Rochester
In 2008, ABVI-Goodwill partnered with Dell to launch the Reconnect program, a free computer recycling program with a mission of keeping at least 300,000 pounds of computers and computer equipment out of landfills each year. The program provides consumer education on the importance of environmentally-responsible computer disposal while also supplying residents with an affordable way to dispose of their unwanted computer equipment. The Reconnect program generates a revenue stream for ABVI that creates job opportunities for individuals who are blind or visually impaired or who face other employment barriers. Since its inception in July, the agency has recycled over 200,000 pounds of computer waste.

Alley Pond Environmental Center, Queens
The Alley Pond Environmental Center utilizes the wetlands habitat and nature preserve of Alley Pond Park to facilitate awareness of the natural environment through hands-on classes. Each year, the center provides 40,000 children and 16,000 adults with an unparalleled eco-centric classroom, offering classes that range from bird watching and astronomy to geology and invertebrate development. Through their dedication to community education, APEC has helped to raise environmental consciousness throughout the New York Metropolitan area for over 40 years.

The Beacon Sloop Club, Beacon
The Beacon Sloop Club is a volunteer organization that consists of approximately 300 members dedicated to cleaning up the Hudson River and its environs, educating the public on environmental issues, and promoting environmentally sound practices. In 2008, the club held five festivals on the waterfront, bringing more than 10,000 people to the Hudson. In particular, the festivals focused on cleanup of the shoreline, environmental education, and green technologies. The club maintains the “Woody Guthrie,” a replica 19th century ferry sloop and provided free educational sails to more than 1,200 people in 2008.

Friends of the Bay, Oyster Bay
Friends of the Bay was formed in 1987 by a small group of citizens concerned about the impact of the development of Oyster Bay, Long Island. Today, Friends of the Bay has grown to encompass more than 3,000 participants that have been instrumental in the environmentally conscious development plan of the Oyster Bay waterfront. The organization strives to ensure that any development within the watershed is compatible with the needs of a healthy ecosystem. Friends of the Bay executes its role as stewards of Oyster Bay through water quality monitoring, wetland restoration and habitat protection, community events, education and outreach.

Middleport Community Input Group, Middleport
The Middleport Community Input Group was formed in 2006 as a citizen-led forum to ensure that the remediation process at the FMC Corporation site in Middleport has an outcome favorable to residents. The group holds monthly meetings with FMC and government agencies to voice expectations on decisions that should be made on behalf of the community and propose alternate means of eco-friendly remediation. It also holds community seminars at which residents can hear from FMC and government representatives in addition to scientists in the field of arsenic contamination and cleanup.

Beryl Thurman, North Shore Waterfront Conservancy, Staten Island
Under the leadership of Beryl Thurman, the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy (NSWC) continues to advance and promote increased public access and the revitalization of Staten Island’s North Shore waterfront. Due to her knowledge of the North Shore and her unwavering drive to promote environmental protection via community involvement, Thurman was appointed to serve on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Advisory Group, as well as the state Environmental Justice Taskforce. Through NSWC’s efforts to document manufacturing sites that impede revitalization and restoration in the area, government agencies have become more engaged in addressing issues experienced by the affected communities.

STRIVE NewYork, East Harlem Employment Service, Inc., Manhattan
STRIVE New York is a non-profit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty and dependence among unemployed and low-income people. In 2009, STRIVE developed a green construction training program, a unique course that instructs participants on “green” energy building and maintenance. The 12-week program begins with a focus on teaching “soft-skills” and later advances to electrical, carpentry, plumbing and green energy efficiency building. STRIVE graduates can rely on job placements through its national network of over 400 businesses and corporations.

Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development, Callicoon Center
Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development (SASD) is a network of individuals, businesses, and organizations whose goal is to implement a new economic model for Sullivan County based on projects that are socially and environmentally responsible. In 2008 alone, SASD successfully completed various energy efficiency initiatives, including securing $866,000 in funding for solar electricity systems for five dairy farms and no cost energy audits on 12; designing a large solar electric system for the town of Callicoon; and, conducting energy efficiency and renewable energy workshops throughout the county.

Kevin Trotta, Global Sports Alliance - New York Team, Cornwall
Kevin Trotta is the founder and captain of the New York Team of the Global Sports Alliance, a group that seeks to leverage the universal appeal of sports and outdoor recreation as a means of promoting environmental awareness and action. Since its founding in 2007, Trotta has volunteered his time to spearhead the team’s current projects, including the encouragement of “green” sports events; promoting environmentally friendly sports facilities; and creating partnerships to advance the integration of environmental stewardship and recreation.

Press and Media
John F. “Jay” Bonfatti (posthumous), The Buffalo News, Buffalo
A first rate journalist for more than three decades, John F. Bonfatti was a skillful and versatile reporter who covered many subjects from weather to the environment. Bonfatti joined the Buffalo News in 1998 and served there for 10 years reporting on various environmental stories such as Superfund cleanups and EPA activities on ecosystem restoration in the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. Bonfatti passed away last year at the age of 52. He was a consummate journalist who expressed and celebrated the culture and historical fabric of the Western New York area while supporting sustainable development of the regional economy.

Sujay Tyle, “The Sustainable Development of Ethanol for Environmentally Friendly Alternative Energy,” Pittsford Mendon High School, Pittsford, New York
Ethanol fuel has the potential to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, reduce trade deficits and air pollution, and create jobs in rural areas. Currently, bio-ethanol is not a completely viable fuel alternative because it utilizes expensive enzymes in a multi-step process, and corn as a raw material. Tyle investigated the bacterium, Clostridium thermocellum, at the University of Rochester, and cloned its genes to study its ability to degrade cellulosic biomass. In the process, a new enzyme, Gene 5, was discovered and shown to degrade cellulose efficiently. His investigation found that developing a technology to regulate the component of the bacterium responsible for creating the active cellulose system could provide the ingredient needed to make ethanol commercially practical.

Honorable Mention
Connetquot High School, “Restoring Our Estuaries: A Hard - Shell Clam Mariculture Project,” Bohemia
The Hard-Shell Clam Mariculture Project, conducted by 27 students and their teacher, is a grant program sponsored by Western Suffolk BOCES and the Nature Conservancy, which has given students the experience of actually growing hard-shell clams under controlled conditions. The purpose of the program is to revitalize the clamming industry on Long Island by restocking clams in the Long Island Sound and Great South Bay. Students learned how clams and oysters help purify the waters surrounding Long Island and they are helping to restore a profession that has been dwindling on Long Island in recent years.