Weekly Update: A Passion for Solutions

Doreen Abubakar Leads the Way

Doreen Abubakar (photo courtesy of Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven)

How Doreen Abubakar Mobilizes People to Make Places 

You’ve seen our blog posts highlighting the stories of young environmental leaders working to make positive change in Connecticut and New York. We’re now adding a new storytelling series that highlights the sustainability work of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and intersectional justice-focused leaders of all ages! We call this the Environmental Justice Storytelling Series.  

For this story, we highlight Doreen Abubakar, New Haven native, mother, grandmother, and urban environmentalist. She is the founder of CPEN – Community Placemaking Engagement Network, a New Haven-based organization that connects local youth with sustainability opportunities including urban farming, outdoor recreation, and more. Save the Sound’s Environmental Justice Specialist, Alex Rodriguez, talked with Doreen recently to hear her story; read more of their conversation on our blog.

Over the years, Doreen has been influenced by those with a passion for impact and has always tried to pay that passion forward to youth. As a young person, she met and worked for Richie Havens, a folk singer and founder of an organization called the Natural Guard. It was here she developed a passion for teaching others about the environment and grew as a leader. 

In 2011, Doreen founded the West River Watershed Partnership to engage people of all backgrounds who lived around the river in New Haven. She organized the West River Water Festival, now an annual festival where neighbors enjoy canoe rides, bird walks, a touch tank with marine animals, and other family activities that helped connect the community to the beautiful urban watershed. Doreen’s leadership and partnership have been instrumental in Save the Sound’s success connecting with residents of the West River Watershed to install rain gardens that filter stormwater and beautify blocks. 

Following this, she continued building her network, mobilizing her partners to restore Newhallville, a low-income neighborhood where more than 90% of the population is BIPOC. Together they restored a blighted lot known as “the Mudhole” into a vibrant, family-friendly public space called the Learning Corridor. They also created a native plant nursery to cultivate and sell pollinator-friendly plants to build habitats in Newhallville for birds, bees, and butterflies, beautifying the neighborhood and building awareness and connection within an urban environment. 

Doreen’s passion for creating solutions transforms common spaces into opportunities for people to thrive; this passion of hers has diversified involvement and engagement in outdoor recreation, specifically connecting people with New Haven’s public parks. 

When asked about the future and advice she would give to newcomers to this work, Doreen said: “I hope the places I’m building serve as an asset for engagement and that the processes that I use become a model for effective community engagement. If you’re new to this work, get started and do it. Reach out to others with experience in this work and expand your network.” 

We’re proud to continue working with Doreen and CPEN on environmental projects. On April 29, we will be participating together in the 15th Annual Rock to Rock Earth Day Ride/Walk. Register for this New Haven event here and learn more about Doreen’s story here.

NY Action Opportunity: Learn about federal storm barriers proposal 

Save the Sound is a member of the Urban Tributaries Working Group, which on Thursday issued a letter outlining our concerns with aspects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ NY-NJ Harbor and Tributaries Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study. Fellow working group member Guardians of Flushing Bay will host virtual comment-writing workshops on Monday, Feb. 27 at 6:00 p.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 12:00 p.m., during which you can hear more about our concerns and recommendations, and learn how to send your own thoughts to federal decision-makers. Read the letter and register for the workshops here

CT Cleanup—data is coming in 

Volunteers like you have collected over half a million pieces of trash in the past six years as part of our Connecticut Cleanup! Cigarette butts continue to place first for most common trash type collected each year. On average, we pick up 20,000 of them each year! Balloons tend to be the most common type of trash seen in the Sound, and tiny plastic pieces continue to grow with an average of over 200 collected at each of our cleanup events. This effort needs support from volunteers to keep Connecticut clean. Are you interested in leading a cleanup? Contact Annalisa Paltauf at apaltauf@savethesound.org to get involved. 

Transfer station hazards are subject of court filing 

Save the Sound attorneys filed a petition last week to intervene in a lawsuit addressing environmental concerns at a solid waste transfer station in the Annex in New Haven—already one of the most environmentally overburdened neighborhoods in Connecticut. Murphy Road Recycling (MRR), the owner of the facility, sued New Haven’s planning commission after it renewed MRR’s special permit in May 2022 with new conditions, following public testimony from community members and concerned organizations. Hazards at the site include noise and pollution from idling trucks, litter, odors, stormwater contamination, and vermin, all of which threaten the health of neighbors and surrounding natural resources. The transfer station’s location on the banks of the Quinnipiac River is also an inappropriate use of riverfront property, which cuts off coastal land from water dependent uses and impedes public access to the water. Read our complete petition and press release here.

Water, water everywhere across New York 

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, David Ansel, our regional director of water protection, was in Albany meeting state legislators during Environmental Protection Fund Lobby Day and testifying at a joint legislative session in front of the Environmental Conservation committee. Two days later, he was on the East End of Long Island, attending an Environmental Roundtable and hearing the same concerns raised and priorities expressed as he had up in the Capitol.  

Wherever he goes in the region, clean water is the issue at the top of everyone’s mind and the tip of everyone’s tongue. Read more on our blog.

Quick Links

  • The latest edition of SoundBites, our quarterly newsletter, is out now! Read about updates on environmental battles happening in your backyard. If you are a member, keep an eye on your mailbox for a print edition. This winter’s highlights: Grants Awarded for New York River and Shoreline Health; Kinneytown Dam Removal Project Recommended for Federal Funding; The Essence of the Soundkeeper Experience; and Decarbonizing Connecticut’s Electric Grid. 
  • Peter Linderoth, our director of water quality, led a Lunch & Learn webinar last week hosted by Guardians of Flushing Bay. Peter talked about our 2022 Long Island Sound Report Card, focusing on the challenges unique to the waterways of Flushing and throughout the Western Narrows. Watch it here.
  • Save the Sound’s Soundkeeper, Bill Lucey, joined journalists from CT Public for a documentary on how climate change is affecting Long Island Sound. The film has premiered—see it now! 

Upcoming Events

  • TONIGHT: Save the Sound’s Youth Eco Advocacy Corps meetings are an opportunity for youth activists to share their sustainability initiatives and learn what our team is doing to promote climate action and environmental justice. We meet every fourth Monday at 6:00 p.m. Register here.
  • Rock to Rock 2023 Launch Party – Saturday, Mar. 4 at 12:00 p.m. – Bear’s Smokehouse, New Haven, CT. Bring your family and friends to the launch party this Saturday to hear about local environmental projects, learn about this annual Earth Day bike ride and how to fundraise, meet nonprofit leaders, win prizes, & more! Learn more here. 
  • Join New Haven Climate Movement for their event “Transform: A Radical Climate Action Rally” on Friday, March 3, at 4:30 p.m. at Trinity on the Green, New Haven. The event will begin behind Trinity Church, and NHCM organizers will guide the attendees in a march to the New Haven City Hall while hearing speeches along the way. This event is part of an international Fridays for Future action being held on this date.

Find details on these, and all our events, on our Stay Engaged page.

Photo of the Week

This early sign of spring was spotted by our lands communications specialist, Kathy Czepiel, in her front yard garden. Would you like your photo to be featured in an upcoming issue? Send it to us at info@savethesound.org!

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Saturday, April 27, at East Rock Park in New Haven
Celebrate Earth Day, cycle or hike with the New Haven community, fundraise for environmental organizations, and enjoy food, music, and more at the Green Fair on April 27. Join our cycling team to support a healthy, clean, and thriving Long Island Sound region.

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