Groundbreaking Welcome Remarks
Official Green Street Groundbreaking Ceremony
November 24, 2009 Remarks from Mayor Adam Ortiz
[Introduce Town Council, Electeds, others….]
Several years ago much of this town was underwater. Year after year, we suffered terrible flooding, with as many 56 homes affected. The damages were substantial: furniture, books and even automobiles were lost. In some cases, families lost absolutely everything save the clothes they were wearing.
However, contrary to conventional wisdom, we did not flood from the Anacostia River that is only a few yards away.
We flooded from parking lots. We flooded from highways, shopping centers, roofs. We flooded from streets. We flooded from the indifference of builders, planners and decisionmakers who did not take environmental responsibility seriously.
But with the resilience of our residents, who stuck together and fought, and the heroic assistance of then-Councilman (and now Senator) David Harrington, our new flood pumping station powered with screws fashioned in the screw-shaped design of the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes.
Through this ordeal we learned a lot. We learned that environmental neglect comes at a cost — and that cost is paid by someone, somewhere, at some time. The price of environmental irresponsibility, in this case bad storm water management, was paid for many years in Edmonston — but no more.
As we have learned the lessons, we must apply them to ourselves. All streets have an expiration date, a time when they must be restructured, resurfaced and paved. The date for Decatur Street was coming due, and we decided to do it right. We decided to build the greenest street we possible could.
From top to bottom, we have worked with partners to reconceptualize the American Main Street.
At the top, we will have a large canopy featuring native trees such as maples, oaks and sycamores.
Then, our streetlights will utilize light emitting diode (LED) fixtures powered by clean wind energy purchased through the credit system.
At street level, we have narrowed the street and made it curve or “wiggle,” with bump out to slow traffic down. We will have bike lanes and wide sidewalks connecting to our parks, trails and transit, to encourage community interaction, health and wellness.
And most importantly, at the surface and underground levels, storm water will not flow into the storm drains and into our river and the Bay, but will be diverted into natural bio-retention tree-boxes to naturally filter the water into the ground, mimicking the way it was centuries ago when this area was wilderness.
[Introduction of speakers. Order: Dr. Bob Summers, Maryland Department of Environment; Allen Hance, Chesapeake Bay Trust; Congresswoman Donna Edwards; Congressman Chris Van Hollen; Administrator Lisa Jackson]
Now we will focus on the people who are building the green street.
Although the dirt, machinery, and workers involved in this project may appear to be the same as any other, they aren’t. But f you look closer, you see that they are green.
There is a transition taking place here. They all have tremendous experience building conventional streets. But with this project, the civil engineers now can design a bio-retention bed, these laborers now can set porous pavement, these electricians can install LED lighting. These planners and tradesmen and women are the bedrock of our emerging green economy.
And when this project is over, we will have directly produced or preserved approximately 50 jobs. [Introduce workers and contractors]
VMP Contractors, Valter Ramos, head of, a local Prince George’s County business G&C Consultants, Roberto Ibanez, a local Prince George’s County business Neil Weinstein, of the Low Impact Development Center, a local Prince George’s County business
Our town was first established by the Plummer family, freed slaves from the nearby Calvert plantation. They had a vision for a better life and pursued it. Today, we are still a small community of 1400 people, approximately a third white, a third black, and a third latino. We are diverse in every way, except we don’t have any rich people.
You will not see Volvos or Lexus in this town unless they are passing through. We are working class — the little guys.
And if our little working class town can build a sustainable street like this, anybody can and everybody should.
As we continue this project, we will be placing our designs and engineering drawings on our website. We urge other towns, cities, communities, planners and decision makers to learn from our successes and mistakes, replicate and improve upon what we are doing here. We do not seek any credit, just steal our ideas.
Navigating the recovery process was not easy, we must give special thanks to our committed partners: Jana Davis and Allen Hance of the Chesapeake Bay Trust Brigid Kenney and the MDE staff, and especially Dominique Luekenoff, from EPA Region III. Must also thank our hardworking police and staff, especially Guy Tiberio.
We will now have a short walking tour of the project followed by a ‘green groundbreaking’ using recycled hardhats and shovels (from previous events), and we will ‘shovel’ a pile of organic compost. I ask anyone who has had a role in ARRA or this project to join us in the ceremonial shoveling.
We will then have a lunch reception at La Fondita Restaurant, located on the other side of the bridge. Thank you.