Entries in Garden (4)


Bringing Sunlight to Light an Underground Garden

Kibum Park/Raad, LLC(NEW YORK) -- Imagine an inviting green park with tall, shady trees and wide swaths of grassy lawn where you can hear live music or see theater or simply sit quietly soaking up the noonday sun.

Now, imagine that all underground in an old disused parking garage … but still with trees and grass in the bright sunlight — a little less bright, of course, on cloudy days.

This paradoxical vision is already halfway to becoming a reality in downtown Manhattan, a dream made possible partly by fiber-optic technology that can capture sunlight on high rooftops and literally pipe it down to shine further from big underground “skylights.”

Dan Barasch and James Ramsey envisioned it all in 2008 when they teamed up with an idea to transform an abandoned trolley terminal, a 1.5-acre lot underneath the Williamsburg Bridge and next to the Delancey St. subway station.

They dubbed their underground park the “Lowline,” a nod to Manhattan’s popular Highline Park that transformed another swatch of urban blight — in that case an unused and overgrown elevated rail bed.
Since they teamed up, Ramsey, an architect and principal at RAAD Studio, and Barasch, formerly VP of strategic partnerships for PopTech, have raised more than $500,000 for the project, including a Kickstarter campaign that totaled $155,000.

This past September, Ramsey and Barasch also staged an exhibit at a warehouse on Essex Street, just above where the proposed park would exist, in an effort to show the public what the Lowline could look like.
But lighting the underground space is a challenge and that is where Ramsey’s background in engineering comes in; the former NASA employee turned architect had already been working on a way to collect and funnel light when he approached Barasch about the idea of an underground park.

Ramsey and Barasch explain their concept and in more detail here:

The technology consists of fiber optic cables attached to devices Ramsey refers to as remote skylights. Equipped with GPS, these solar collectors follow and capture the sun funneling it down through the cables. The glass surface of the skylights filters out infrared and UVA rays, but still harvests the light necessary for photosynthesis to take place.

For the exhibit, Ramsey and Barasch, alongside a team of volunteers put this technology to the test; together with their team they hand fit together 600 pieces of anodized-aluminum sheets to create a curved dome, a silver canopy that cast the light down on the warehouse space. On the warehouse roof, 20 feet above, six tracking systems collected the light and piped it down to the space below.

“We looked to the way that they build space telescopes to actually cobble together a mesh of flat pieces to create a very completed curved surface, and that curved surface is calibrated to actually deploy the light,” said Ramsey, who worked with infrared spectrometry while at NASA.

With the help of volunteers, including engineers and team members from RAAD Studio, the duo created a mock-up complete with moss-covered knolls and Japanese maples. For their installation, they partnered with Sun Central, a Canadian-based solar technology firm, and Arup, a design and engineering firm that is also working on the Second Avenue subway line in Manhattan.

“All of a sudden you have this idea beginning to emerge where you can take this ancient disused space underneath the city and actually turn it into a public space, a garden really, for everyone to enjoy,” Ramsey said.

Both Barasch and Ramsey point out despite their success so far, they still have a long way to go before making the Lowline a reality; first, they need to convince city and MTA officials (and ultimately the state) to let them use the site, a process that Barasch says requires both political and public support.

Barasch, who resigned from his position at PopTech in March, is devoting his efforts full time to the project focusing on fundraising and engaging with members of the community.

“This is not a short-term project,” Barasch said. “It’s very big in terms of its integration with the overall ecosystem of the space, the neighborhood, the subway line, the community and the city and we want to do this right.”

If they gain control of the terminal, Ramsey and Barasch estimate the project would cost $50 million in capital costs for construction and may take five to eight years to complete. Nevertheless, both remain determined to see the Lowline complete.

“It taps into this thing that every human actually just needs, which is public space and some semblance of being outdoors as well as being inspired by making the city more beautiful, more livable,” Barasch said.

For now, the trolley terminal remains an empty, shadowy cavern with an undetermined future, but one in which Ramsey and Barasch hope they can play a part.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Let’s Plant!’ Michelle Obama Seeds 4th White House Garden

File photo by official White House photographer Chuck Kennedy(WASHINGTON) -- New faces and new potatoes marked the fourth annual spring planting in the White House kitchen garden Monday afternoon.

First lady Michelle Obama rolled up her sleeves and crouched down in the mud, working alongside three Girl Scouts from upstate New York to plant rows of potatoes, including five new varieties -- purple Peruvian fingerling, red thumb, russet, mountain rose and sangre, and a small plot of mustard greens. They also sprinkled seeds for dill and cilantro on a dirt patch next to the sprouting garlic.

Around them, more than two dozen other school children worked in teams with hand tools and watering cans to plant carrots, onions, broccoli, swiss chard, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach and kale.

“It’s fun to live here,” Obama said before the planting began. “It’s fun, especially on a day like this because you guys are going to help us plant the garden, right? Yay! It’s so exciting!”

“A lot of times when you grow your own vegetables and fruits, they taste really good. They taste better than a lot of stuff you’ll get in a grocery store -- trust me,” she said.  “My kids have done it.  They’re not big fans of all vegetables, but if they help to work on it they’re much more excited about trying it out.”

Before she arrived, the kids munched on apples and homemade granola bars on picnic tables near the White House beehives.

“It would take us forever to plant this garden if we didn’t have your help, so it’s really special to have you all here,” she said. “So are you ready to do some work? Let’s plant!”

It was the first time students from outside the Washington, D.C., area participated in the event. There were groups from Fairport, N.Y., Ames, Iowa, Chester, Pa., and Greensboro, N.C.  All the invitees had written letters to the first lady about gardening and healthy living in their communities, the White House said.

With the exception of New York, all of the students hail from general election battleground states where the White House has been eager to attract media attention. The first lady also did sitdown interviews with anchors from local TV stations invited to the White House for the planting event.

Politics, though, did not seem to be on the minds of the students involved.

“We learned when you put down seeds, you don’t just leave them there you put dirt on top of them to make them grow,” said Keenan, of Sumner Elementary in Greensboro, N.C.

Classmate Makayla said meeting the first lady was a highlight. “It was cool. She’s nice, she’s beautiful,” she said.

Obama began the garden initiative in 2009 to start a conversation about healthy living and the importance of fruits and vegetables, she said. It was the first vegetable garden planted at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden.

“We plant these little seeds, and you know these kids are curious about what happens. So when they come back in June for the next harvest, they get to see what they’ve put in the ground has grown,” assistant White House chef Sam Kass, who orchestrated the planting, told ABC News. “They get to cut it and cook it and taste it. Today is that beginning. ”

Kass said White House chefs use the harvested fruits and vegetables for the first family’s meals, as well as for state dinners and other official functions.  About a third of the harvest is donated to a local soup kitchen.

“I’ll come down and pick some spinach tonight that’s left over from the winter planting for dinner,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Wayne Sabaj Finds $150K in Garden

Martin Poole/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Wayne Sabaj may have one of the greenest thumbs around. The unemployed Illinois man wandered into his garden and unearthed a crop of cash -- about $150,000 worth.

"Now what do I do with this?" Sabaj wondered.

He was making a pork roast that night and wanted something to accompany it so he went out to his garden. It's a farmer's delight and has everything from beets to onions to sprouts. As he searched for broccoli, he instead found a bag full of cash, nestled among the peppers.

He took the discovery back inside to his father, Mitchell. But while some may have been delighted at the find, the younger Sabaj was disheartened.

"We're in trouble now," Sabaj told his father. He was worried that the money may have come from a bank robbery and didn't want anything to be pinned on him. So he called the sheriff's office in McHenry County, Illinois, to come pick it up.

When they arrived, they found another bag almost in plain view. Sabaj stood by his decision to let them take the money back to the station, where the contents' total worth was determined to be $150,000.

"I'm sure Wayne was battling with moral decisions at that point, " said Lt. James Popovits of the McHenry County Police.

Sabaj's moral dilemma was probably even more tortuous because he, like about nine percent of the country's population, is unemployed.

He used to work on million-dollar homes as a carpenter. Now, he says, that market has dried up and jobs are sparse. He currently is living with his father. But despite his financial struggle, Sabaj said turning in the money was the right thing to do.

"That could have been somebody's life savings, you know? That wouldn't be fair if I just kept it," Sabaj told ABC News.

Now this isn't an everyday occurrence in the unincorporated McHenry County. In fact, authorities have no idea of where the money came from. They have determined that there were no residential or commercial burglaries in Illinois where the money could have originated. Now they are checking with other states and are testing the money for forensics.

According to Popovits, they are searching for the owner, even leaving a note in the spot where the money was found. But if that owner never comes and a source for the cash is never determined, the money could go back to the man that found it first, Sabaj.

It would not be a quick process. The money would have to go unclaimed for a year and, even then, Sabaj would have fill out extensive paperwork before the money is his.

That is assuming he still wants it. Police have suspicions that the money was not legally gained.

"Let's just say it [money] wasn't found in bags typically used for storing money," said Popovits.

Sabaj said he doesn't think about the money much.

"I don't even think I'll get it back and even if I do, the government's just going to take a third of it back," Sabaj joked. "You just can't worry about it."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Planting Season: Michelle Obama Gets the White House Garden Ready for Spring

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- With spring approaching, first lady Michelle Obama replanted the White House garden for the third time Wednesday afternoon.  Along with elementary students from local D.C. schools, Mrs. Obama planted cauliflower, spinach, peas and broccoli among other vegetables at the South Lawn garden.

“This is the planting season for the White House Garden," Mrs. Obama exclaimed. “There’s no way we would get this done without your help.”

One of the students was particularly excited to plants some beets.

“Uh-oh,” Mrs. Obama said. “The President doesn’t like beets.  But it’s okay.  We’re an equal opportunity garden."

The 1,500 square-foot garden has produced more than 2,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables, the White House touts, over the first two years of its existence. Many of those vegetables harvested from the garden contribute to meals that guests eat at the White House, as well as on the plates of the Obama family’s nightly dinners. The rest of the garden harvest goes to charity, the first lady’s office says.

Mrs. Obama says she hopes that once the garden is harvested the kids will try new vegetables, like leeks and Swiss chard growing in the garden. The White House kitchen garden is a part of Mrs. Obama’s "Let’s Move!" campaign to combat childhood obesity.

“It’s not just about planting good vegetables; it’s about passing the information on,” Mrs. Obama said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio