After revealing this past June that the Red Hook section of Brooklyn would be home to the first of Global Green’s five grid-tied, back-up solar installations in Superstorm Sandy-battered neighborhoods, a crucial question remained: Where exactly in Red Hook, this blogger’s home for the past seven years, would the kick-off Solar for Sandy installation take place?

My own hunch was proven to be correct yesterday at a ribbon cutting ceremony unveiling the inaugral, "catalytic” Solar For Sandy storm resiliency site: the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation’s Red Hook Recreation Center. Home to a fully equipped gym and an outdoor Olympic-size pool that attracts droves of Brooklynites during the summer, the Red Hook Recreation center will not only be the first Solar for Sandy site but the first of NYC Parks’ 35 recreation centers to go solar. Although the total capacity of the rooftop array at the rec center is still being ironed out — Mary Luevano, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for Global Green USA, explained to me that it would be in the ballpark of 10kw — the array, with PV panels donated by Suntech, will provide produce juice on an ongoing basis to help lower the energy bills associated with operating the aging facility which was built in 1939 and took on considering flood damage during Superstorm Sandy.

In the event of future catastrophic storms, and god forbid there are any, the array will transform the Red Hook Recreation Center into a blackout-mitigating hotbed of resiliency where local residents can seek refuge, charge their phones or laptops, seek emergency services, and so on. Evamay Lawson, Sustainability Manager for IKEA North America which is serving as lead funder of the project, summed it up best when she simply described the primary function of the facility as giving storm-impacted Red Hook residents “some place to go.”

It’s also worth noting that IKEA, a heavily trafficked fixture in the low-lying waterfront neighborhood, sprung into action during the days following Sandy and is no stranger when it comes to energy independence. In fact, the IKEA Red Hook location, just a few blocks away from the recreation center, served as a pilot location for the company’s North American solar initiative and boasts four different types of PV panels atop the store. Although IKEA won’t be involved in future Solar For Sandy installations across flood-prone and vulnerable New York neighborhoods as far as I know, the Swedish mega-retailer's involvement with this inaugural project is more than a perfect match — a neighbor simply helping out a neighbor.

Added NYC Parks Deputy Commissioner Robert Garafola at yesterday’s ribbon-cutting:

The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation is excited to be a part of this new partnership with Global Green USA’s Solar for Sandy Initiative. The initiative’s goal of building sustainable and resilient communities aligns with the mission of NYC Parks. The partnership will provide the Red Hook Recreation Center with renewable energy, it will increase the Center’s capacity to educate New Yorkers about climate change, and it will enable the Center to provide potential relief to the public in the wake of severe weather events. We look forward to working together with Global Green on this project that will benefit the environment and the community of Red Hook in the wake of last year’s Superstorm Sandy.
Global Green hopes to wrap up the Solar For Sandy installation at the Red Hook Recreation Center by the end of the year and announce the four other sites in early 2014. Although yesterday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony marks the one-year anniversary of the catastrophic storm’s formation, Sandy didn’t hit New York City and the rest of the Eastern Seaboard until Oct. 29., a day that changed the lives of thousands, mine included, forever.

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