The Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) celebrated its 50th anniversary during Tuesday night’s Green Gala at Terrace on the Park.
There were several community leaders in attendance at the Green Gala, including Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Senator John Liu and Councilwoman Sandra Ung. Each of them spoke at the event, with Richards presenting the awards to the honorees.
“It’s been great to work with this organization because although people will say it’s centered in this part of Queens, the reach of this organization is so beyond just the place that it’s in,” Richards said. “We see what’s going on across the county. You think about Ida, you think about what the possibilities are this year as we go through a major climate season as projected. And we have to make sure that our children of tomorrow are prepared and educated on climate education.”
During the event, Con Edison Director of Energy Efficiency and Demand Management Gregory Elcock was presented with the Corporate Green Leadership Award while Vice President of Community Development and Public Affairs for Resorts World Casino in New York City Michelle Stoddart was honored with the Corporate Friend of the Environment Award.
“I had the chance to visit Alley Pond not too long ago and all I can say is, it’s a beautiful organization,” Elcock said. “You can’t put on a show that really reflects the commitment you have to the organization, it exudes from the body of the organization and I was able to see that when I visited. Con Edison shares the Alley Pond Environmental Center’s commitment to educating and informing our communities about the climate crisis. We are thankful for the recognition and proud to be APEC’s first ever Corporate Green Leadership honoree.”
Con Edison announced an expanded Clean Energy Commitment in 2021. This was meant to reflect its strategy to lead New York and the nation in the transition to renewables, give customers more control over their energy use and better prepare the company’s energy-delivery system for the impacts of climate change.
Stoddart began working with APEC approximately 16 years ago while with the Queens Economic Development Corporation. Her first visit there left quite the impression on her.
“All the work that they do to teach our kids and to teach adults about the environment is just top notch,” Stoddart said. “So I really appreciate this. I’m honored and I’m humbled.”
Senator Liu, who grew up not too far from Alley Pond, said he’s noticed the area change quite a bit over the years thanks in large part to APEC.
“The incredible reclamation of our environment of this is a tremendous asset not only in our eastern Queens community, but I daresay an asset for the entire state of New York,” Liu said. “This place that we are never going to let get developed and will keep for generations of children and families to enjoy. Your efforts have really paid off. When I was a kid, I never would have imagined that that entire area would become what it has become today.”
APEC Board President Rita Sherman and Parks Chairperson in Council Shekar Krishnan also spoke on the importance of the organization celebrating 50 years. According to Sherman, APEC has grown from just one educator to a staff of paid and volunteer educators, a full and part-time maintenance crew and a full volunteer board.
Krishnan believes it’s important to pay attention to issues of parks equity in New York City to ensure that the parks and the environmental groups that operate out of them receive the same resources, services and attention in each borough.
“I think supporting organizations like APEC, supporting our parks in Queens, highlights exactly the importance of expanding green space in our city for all of our communities and especially our immigrant neighborhoods in particular,” Krishnan said.
Alley Pond Environmental Center was first established in 1972 within Alley Pond Park as a partnership between the Parks Department and a group of grassroots organizers that were led by Hy and Joan Rosner. In the beginning, classes were taught a few times each week in a small building. Today, that area houses an environmental center that sees around 60,000 visitors a year. Alley Pond Environmental Center has grown into a valuable part of the community thanks in large part to its growing roster of educational programs, animals and support from visitors and members.