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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Green Machine given more room to grow

By Sarina Trangle
Posted
MARISOL DÍAZ/THE RIVERDALE PRESS
Stephen Ritz creator of the Green Bronx Machine, trims an Oregano plant in his Hunts Point school on Nov. 26.

Things are looking up for Stephen Ritz and his urban farming initiative. 

It was only last winter that the special education teacher at Discovery High School in the Bronx had his big concept crammed into a classroom too small to support it.

A year later, it seems he’s found plenty of room to grow his so-called Green Bronx Machine, which includes using Green Living Technologies to create verdant walls and roofs in the unlikeliest of places. 

A week after packing up his equipment at Discovery High School, the Riverdale resident said he acquired a new home for the greening initiative at Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation in Harlem.

Soon students were again learning to construct the walls and maintain them as fruits, vegetables, herbs and other plants grew. Students sold or donated produce to Path of Love, which feeds the hungry. High school students were offered gigs installing the technology everywhere from Vermont to NBC’s city studio.

Over the last year, the Green Bronx Machine has branched out to more than 20 schools, senior centers and community centers, Mr. Ritz said. In August, Mr. Ritz started at Hyde Leadership Charter School in Hunts Point as dean of students and director of community partnerships. And now he’s taking the idea national.

Two months ago, Mr. Ritz received non-profit certification for the program he came up with three years ago, which teaches students how to build green roofs and walls to hold produce and maintain the systems as the plants grow.

He’s crafting a pilot program to bring Green Bronx Machine to public schools throughout the city and he also has a new title of Green Apple Ambassador for the US Green Building Council that will help him to spread his philosophy nationwide. 

Mr. Ritz said his organization began fielding inquiries from as far as Dubai.

At Hyde Leadership Charter School, kindergartners learn how seeds sprout and students delve into the chemistry and physics of agriculture, he said. 

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Kristin

I admire Mr. Ritz's green initiatives, but SHAME ON HIM for stabbing fellow Bronx activists (and our community and our children!) in the back by forging a quasi-secret alliance with Majora Carter in support of the rotten Fresh Direct deal that would bring thousands of diesel trucks to the South Bronx waterfront.

I wonder if this new partnership with Majora has anything to do with his recent certification and all these new accolades?

Bronxites, please join us in boycotting fresh direct.

Friday, December 7, 2012 | Report this
monxolopez

Mr. Ritz idea is worth celebrating. Still, after being sadly unknown for years, doing good work behind the scenes, Steve decided to team up with Majora Carter to support the proposed nefarious move of FreshDirect to the South Bronx waterfront, a project that is quite un-Green.

FreshDirect has even refused to conduct a proper environmental impact review, and Mr. Ritz -the green man- has not called for it.

Yet, mysteriously, after Ritz's support of FD we SUDDENLY we see trips, sponsorships, prizes, jobs and attention. It is a shame. A shame that he sold himself. A shame he wasn't properly recognized until he sold out in the un-greenest of moves.

We need transparency.

Mnx

Friday, December 7, 2012 | Report this
iracharles

Hello Mr.Ritz- Here's a suggestion inspired by an article I recently read in New Scientist Magazine where researchers have found evidence that Green Walls of certain plants can significantly reduce indoor air pollution. It seems easy enuf to adapt such data gathering procedures to your Bronx Green Machine intitiatives and have the students engaged in real cutting edge date gathering with potential benefits in their own environments. Keep Up the Good Work!

Sunday, December 9, 2012 | Report this
StephenRitz

Kristin and Monxolopez:

There is no secret alliance between Majora Carter and I; it is a relationship I am proud of. Our work dates back to 2006 when she was at Sustainable South Bronx. She and her organization supported my Bronx youth when few others would and her support continues to this day. We have since tirelessly advocated for schools in the South Bronx and we have and continue to support groups and like minded organizations across the Bronx. Regarding attention and accolades, I wish more champion teachers and community advocates received the attention they deserve. In 1997, I received the Chancellor's Award, nominated by my principal and faculty - many awards in between including: Bronx Council on Environmental Quality, the US EPA Award, ABC's Above and Beyond Award and my most recent award resulted from a parent in Harlem, all removed from and independent of any alliance ANYWHERE and instead were rooted in an open democratic process. Regarding trips and sponsorship, these occurred long before I knew of Fresh Direct and have come from openly acknowledged private donations with 100% transparency - individuals and corporations - willing to support the youth I work with based on tangible, demonstrated results. There are no secrets, just hard work and the support of committed individuals, friends, colleagues and family; often resulting from articles like these. I am always open to criticism and suggestions but prefer that they be based in reality and knowledge of the sum of my work. It disappoints me that people resort to sound bytes and innuendo to drive their own agendas and saddens me to think that people cannot celebrate the successes of others or accept that that there are differences in opinions. I came to learn of the Fresh Direct issue due to endless spamming and factually incorrect comments attached to every bit of positive news highlighting our Borough and those working and proposing to see it evolve inclusively and proactively. When I stopped reading the spam and started seeking facts, speaking to employees and actually visited the facility, I saw and continue to see merit in the proposal. Folks rooted in fact and dedicated to hard work will make this Borough a better place for all!

Monday, December 10, 2012 | Report this
monxolopez

Steve:

I think that we are all happy that you are finally getting public accolades for your hard and innovative work. And, if many in the community are disappointed with your support of the FreshDirect proposed move is precisely because of your history and work in the borough.

No one can explain how a green activist like yourself has decided to support a project that could be so detrimental for the health of our community. No one can understand how a green activist can look the other way when not even a proper environmental assessment of the project has been performed. No one can fathom how someone that has seen the deepest and lasting effects of systemic poverty and environmental racism in our community can support a project that plays unto the need for jobs in the area, by offering below living-wage jobs and promising to bring more pollution to our asthma-ridden streets.

One thing is sure: although your work deserves to be recognized, the timing of it all is deeply suspicious.

No one has the right to tell you with whom you associate. But we all have the right to question the logic behind your entanglements and the wisdom of your decisions beyond the immediate benefits for yourself and your projects.

Everything behind your friend Majora Carter's support of FreshDirect is questionable. Motives, profit, timing, strategy. Everything smells foul. And your public and loud support of their plan, their strategy and their motives renders you open for reasoned and public criticism. Don't be disingenuous: you are a foot soldier for FreshDirect and Majora, their motives and strategy are foul, and you are consequently fouling yourself.

FreshDirect's OWN documents, publicly obtained through Freedom of Information requests (never willingly presented to the community) speak of thousands of added truck trips and traffic to Mott Haven's streets. Their proposed plan will also signify the permanent blocking of Mott Haven's waterfront to green recreational usages. You will surely understand, then, that given your support of this nefarious plan, given your support of their shady strategies, and given your silence concerning even a reasonable environmental impact statement, many in the community are questioning your motives, your logic and your wisdom.

Steve, it is not who starts the game, it is who finishes it and how much the person contributes to the final score. Your past work is admirable, but your current support of FreshDirect is questionable and unwise given the facts that FreshDirect itself has put out there in legally BINDING documents. These facts you call spam, I still call them facts. I believe FreshDirect itself would call them facts -if forced to- in front of a judge.

In the end, let us not forget the community that has given you the raw material for your plans and ideas. Let us not forget that poverty and environmental racism created the 'stuff' that made your past work relevant. You did what you did in the past because of the needs of our community. The ideal would be to eliminate those needs, not to perpetuate them by supporting more poverty, traffic, pollution and asthma. But that is precisely what your support for FreshDirect and Majora Carter means: a perpetuation of the cycle of systemic poverty and the doubling down on our serious health crisis.

This is not about yourself Steve. This is about our community. You don't live in Mott Haven. You are not raising your kids in Mott Haven. I never go to Kingsbridge/Riverdale to tell you guys what parks you should or shouldn't have, what traffic you should or shouldn't have or what usages I think are best for your public lands. If you DO NOT live in Mott Haven please stop bumbling your questionable, self-serving and profit-driven opinions about our neighborhood.

Let us not forget who you have become, and where your loyalties are today (with FreshDirect and her hundred thousand dollars employee Majora Carter). Don't be concerned Steve, you are who you are today, it is what it is, and you will be remembered for it. Don't be afraid of the community's memory: just be willing to live with it, because you will have to.

I will make sure that I remind people who you have become, who you are currently working for, and why.

Best,

Monday, December 10, 2012 | Report this
Mychal

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not their facts. As stated by Freshdirect in their own application to NYC Industrial Development Agency and the NYS Empire State Development Corporation for more than $127 million subsidy package, they state plans to bring upwards of 1000 daily diesel truck trips through a community with some of the highest rates of asthma in the country. Children with chronic asthma miss many days of school. The healthy of children and advocacy for that goes beyond the classroom. Teachers like Mr. Ritz can advocate for better eating and how to grow it themselves, the problem arises when the advocacy of others for a healthier community is downplayed and criticized by him and others who suppose to care. For facts about the health conditions in South Bronx go to Southbronxunite.com and see Lawsuit documents, specifically the expert health and traffic affidavits given.

Monday, December 10, 2012 | Report this
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