“Make Jackson Heights the greenest and friendliest neighborhood in New York City,” he said.
By green, he means environmentally sustainable. By friendlist, he means celebrating and welcoming the diversity that makes Jackson Heights unique.
Maniace, a writer and journalist, has always been an environmentalist. He’s interested in making cities more sustainable in the face of climate change, especially as more people live in dense, urban areas.
“There is a place for nature in cities as well,” he said. “If we’re going to have people living in cities, they have to have parks and green spaces where they connect with nature.
“Global warming is a serious threat, New York City is on the coast,” he added. “The sea level is rising. It’s a problem.”
The work starts locally. JHBG is currently working on redoing the garden outside the Jackson Heights Post Office and replacing old shrubs.
“We are putting in a variety of shrubs now that will have four-season interests,” he said.
They’re also planting milkweed, a type of plant that monarch butterflies need to lay their eggs on.
The organization has also worked on installing metal fences around trees. JHGB has not only paid for them, but has worked with the city and merchants to put them up as well.
The idea is to turn them into “curbside gardens” that offer a bit of nature in the sprawling city.
“They help the trees grow and big trees cool the streets,” Maniace said. “Then you don’t need to run your air conditioning as much, and you don’t burn as much electricity and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”