Welcome to Our Home

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Walker Landgraf, Eugene Gadsden (co-founder of Sure We Can), and Michael Brittenham.  Eugene having had experience with homelessness knows the need they have for a space where they can rest and relax for a bit. Our Home on 109 Engert is meant to be this sort of sanctuary in addition to being a tangible example of earth friendly construction.

Our Home at 109 Engert St. (the entrance is actually on McGuinness Blvd. between Driggs Ave. and Engert St.) represents two key aspects of home. In the broadest sense it represents the need for people to come together and actively respect our planet, which is our common home, through eco-friendly practices.  In a more personal sense it means to be a welcoming place that provides temporary shelter and respite for those who have no home or anyone wandering by.  It will also be a venue for sharing knowledge and culture (some seminars and activities will be announced). Our Home had its official opening on July 13.

Ana Martinez de Luco is the engineer and engine behind the idea of Our Home. She is the co-founder of Sure We Can, a non-profit recycling center that provides a revenue source for can collectors and promotes sustainability practices via educational activities for schools and universities. She had been looking for an affordable space to create Our Home, and then on the Wednesday before Easter Sunday the lot on Engert came through. Eugene Gadsden, also a co-founder of Sure We Can, is a caretaker of the project and its purpose. Having been homeless, Eugene knows the importance of providing this kind of space to those without a home.

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Walker Landgraf, Michael Brittenham, and Ana Martinez de Luco (co-founder of Sure We Can) start to install a wall of recycled clear plastic bottles.

For this project to become a reality, a timely convergence of students from NYU and Pratt yielded design and construction elements and labor.  Michael Brittenham, a NYU Gallatin student of environmental design, had met Ana Martinez de Luco when he needed plastic bottles for another project. After the project’s completion he went to return the bottles, and it was decided to repurpose them for the Our Home project.  NYU students Walker Landgraf and Arvind Sindhwani were among those who volunteered to help with the construction. “We got involved because we were so inspired by Ana’s drive to make the world a better place,” said Michael Brittenham.

Samuel S.T. Pressman, a master’s student of sustainable environmental systems at the Pratt Institute was similarly swept up by Ana’s idea. He also joined the construction team, and the site of Our Home is the current home of his sculpture, The Blue Wave. It sits at the McGuinness Blvd. entrance when it’s not on loan to local schools. The Blue Wave is constructed out of over 10,000 pieces of single-use hard plastics contained in a transparent net. The plastic used in this sculpture was harvested in a single day on the Brooklyn Pratt campus. It visually demonstrates the impact the current culture of waste has on the environment and hopes to influence a zero waste mindset.

The NYU and Pratt Students were joined by Ana’s nephews, Unai and Urtzi Martinez de Luco, along with Ana and Eugene in building the main structure. In the shape of a rounded square with a slight concave edge, the structure has a wooden floor and walls of secured stacked clear plastic bottles suspended between support beams. In the winter there will be weatherproof flaps to provide some insulation. Solar panels will also be installed, a green roof is planned, and a composting toilet is in the works.

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(l to r) St. Nicks Alliance Board Member Ed Brittenham with his son Michael stand in front of the plastic wall Michael helped to build.

Another structure in the Our Home space is the Plastic Bridge, a Brooklyn Bridge replica made from 5000 single-use bottles created by artist Colin Hendee for the Dopper Foundation. “Around the world, nearly one million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute. That is equivalent to building the Brooklyn Bridge out of single-use plastic bottles, and our Plastic Bridge replica represents the scale of bottles sold in a split second—5,000,” said Merijn Everaarts, founder of the Dopper Foundation.

The signs above Our Home’s entrance say, “welcome” in Polish, English, Spanish, and Arabic. “Come be a part of the solution” and “Homelessness: a global issue”.  Our Home is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Hours may be expanded, “if volunteers are willing to spend some hours a week (while reading or doing their own computer work), we could have it open the entire week,” said Ana. Coffee and bread will be available, and if they receive other food donations those will be shared. The general public will also be welcome to drop off their compost starting in September.

Our Home is located on 109 Engert (enter on McGuinness Blvd. between Driggs Ave. and Engert St.) and is currently open Tues., Thurs., and Sat.  9 a.m.– 6 p.m. For more information contact: ana@surewecan.org   or by phone: (929)353-9133

At the opening event of Our Home
At the opening event of Our Home
Samuel S.T. Pressman and Michael Brittenham at the opening of Our Home

Ana Martinez de Luco, Michael Brittenham, and Walker Landgraf working on Our Home

Our Home is located on 109 Engert (enter on McGuinness Blvd. between Driggs Ave. and Engert St.) and is currently open Tues., Thurs., and Sat.  9 a.m.– 6 p.m. For more information contact: ana@surewecan.org   or by phone: (929)353-9133

 

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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