Greening the Elm City

Visitors to the New Haven IKEA will soon be able to catch a glimpse of a new addition to the skyline: a wind turbine.

The potential addition of such an energy resource to the city’s arsenal — as well as the energy efficiency of New Haven public schools and the resale value of used grease — was on the bill at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Environmental Advisory Council at City Hall, where members discussed ongoing initiatives to make the city greener. In its only vote of the night, the council, comprising mayoral appointees and representatives from various city departments, agreed to request money from the state to construct sound barriers on either side of Interstate 95 by Bayview Park.

City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg ARC ’75 told the council that because the state Department of Transportation removed many trees from the park — located in the City Point neighborhood — to expand the highway, the park lost its natural sound buffer.

“You can’t even hear yourself think,” she said after the meeting.

In her presentation, Gilvarg said it is the state’s responsibility to construct a wall around the highway. Previously, Gilvarg said, there had been a wooden wall along part of the highway, but the wall had to be removed.

With little discussion, the seven council members present voted unanimously to bring the request for the wall before the state.

Council member Jennifer Pugh, deputy chief administrative officer for City Hall, said after the meeting that the barrier is also important for protecting pedestrians in the park from vehicles that may veer off the highway.

Another addition to the I-95 landscape New Haven residents can soon expect to see is the wind turbine, which the city, in cooperation with the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, is building on the city’s Long Wharf.

It, along with two other turbines elsewhere in the state, will serve as trials to determine the effectiveness and feasibility of wind technology in Connecticut, Giovanni Zinn ’05, environmental consultant for New Haven’s City Plan Department, explained in his presentation. He said the upcoming turbines will be used to determine the best location and overall feasibility for the harvesting of wind energy in the Nutmeg State.

The turbines are only the latest step toward the city’s goal of deriving 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2010. Through the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, the city has already implemented photovoltaic cells — or solar panels — around Long Wharf, and Zinn said he hopes the city will be able to add wind energy in the near future.

“In these tough financial times, environmentally friendly measures not only protect the environment, but also help residents’ bottom line,” he said.

Mike Piscitelli, director of the New Haven Transportation, Traffic & Parking Department, updated council members on his department’s initiatives to boost the city’s accessibility to bicycle riders and make bike riding a more common mode of commuting.

Already, he said in his presentation, New Haven has the highest percentage of people who walk or bike to work of any municipality in New England. According to one recent survey, 60 of Union Station’s 62 bicycle parking sports were taken during the day studied.

In response, Piscitelli explained after the meeting, his department will be adding four miles of bike paths that will come together at Union Station at a junction he called the “Union Station Interconnect.” The project will also increase the number of bicycle parking spots available at Union Station, he said.

“Cycling is not just for recreation,” he said after the meeting.

Council members continued their discussion with a focus on the City Plan Department’s efforts to encourage green living through brochures titled “Green New Haven” — which also features a Spanish version, “New Haven Verde.” Among the brochure’s tips are suggestions for how residents can save on electricity and have the city dispose of waste oil.

Council members said they will hold their next meeting in approximately two months.

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