Patrick Dwyer has spent his life battling for environmental causes — as an electrical engineering technician at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, as an organizer for the New York Public Interest Research Group and the state Green Party, and most recently as a designer and installer of solar panels in Brooklyn. Now he’s bringing that fight home by challenging incumbent Councilman Vincent Gentile for the seat representing his neighborhood of Bay Ridge, as well as Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, and Bensonhurst. We talked to Dwyer about why he thinks the 43rd Council District is ripe for the greening.
Will Bredderman: So how has Councilman Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) let the planet Earth down?
Patrick Dwyer: I’m just not seeing the kind of leadership we need on green issues. The community is situated in an area where we have wind, where we have tidal water, we could get heat from solar and energy from solar, and we don’t have the community projects here. We have a lot of flat roofs, we need to get solar panels on top of those roofs. We need green jobs, rehabilitating the housing here, and I’m not seeing the kind of response that helps the average homeowner get better insulation in their homes. There’s a lack of community gardens in the area. Leadership on that area is important. You could sponsor a community garden or rooftop garden events. That would be really helpful: to allow, first of all, our apartment residents who don’t have a yard, to grow their own fresh food. Also the educational experience for young people to get to see things grown, that’s a very powerful thing. And there’s very little that’s done about the lighting in stores. We should try to see if there can be a program to encourage store owners to use more efficient lighting. Refrigeration could be much more efficient. If you have new stores that are putting in refrigerators, we could encourage them to use more energy-efficient units.
WB: Would you support creating more bike lanes as a green initiative?
PD: In our area here, I don’t know that there’s as great a need for bike lanes as there is in Manhattan. Not as many people use bicycles here. I think the community could use more mass transit. There definitely aren’t enough R trains. But the goal is to try to get mass transit to be free. I like the idea of having the MTA controlled by the city of New York instead of the state. I think that the Council could do that, could help change how the MTA is structured. That’s the goal we’re looking for. We need to restructure the way that we pay for mass transit, we really need to take money from the city gasoline tax to pay for mass transit. We also should look at maybe bringing back some trolleys. I think a line on Fourth Avenue, so people could get out of the subway and get onto a street car would be powerful, and one that could connect to Staten Island at 94th Street. Of course, we would need to have all kinds of studies to decide where the best locations would be.
WB: Green Party candidates are often accused of being spoilers, helping Republicans take elections by drawing votes from Democrats. With GOPers John Quaglione and Andy Sullivan challenging Gentile, are you concerned that could happen here?
PD: Well, we could very well have a three-way race and I could win!Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderma