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Bronx Ecology: Blueprint for a New Environmentalism

Bronx Ecology: Blueprint for a New Environmentalism
Allen Hershkowitz
Island Press
Publication Date: 

cloth, 281 p., $25

In 1991 Alan Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in New York, conceived the idea of transforming an abandoned railway yard in the South Bronx into a world-scale recycling mill that would take advantage of the 12,000 tons of New York City paper discarded daily, and create 400 full-time manufacturing jobs.

Encouraged by President Bill Clinton and joined by designer Maya Lin, the brilliant architect of the Vietnam War Memorial, this project was to be a model for sustainable development. Forging partnerships with the private sector, government, unions and community groups, Dr. Hershkowitz strove to build a business that not only avoided exacerbating environmental problems, but actually remedied them.

Prior to this, the NRDC had been involved only in research and in testifying for or against legislation. This was the first time the NRDC had ever been active in initiating a project.

After nearly 10 years of patient, fact-finding work, bringing together alliances that had never been joined before, the project failed because of political and legal blows. These doomed Dr. Hershkowitz's efforts to secure financial funding, finally killing the project. In hindsight, it seems to me, some of the impediments were the result of naive thinking.

This book is a well-organized, historical account of the efforts of the Bronx Community Paper Company, under the aegis of the NRDC, to create a responsible development that would serve as a model for paper businesses and a reference work for developing environmentally sound companies. As such, the pros and cons for building on a "brown field" location (industrial wasteland), as opposed to "green field" property (virgin wooded territory), are thoroughly discussed. One can view Bronx Ecology as an important guide to industrial reform.

— Adele Kleine, Library Volunteer, Master Gardener and contributing writer to Chicagoland Gardeningmagazine