45 Lyon Terrace
Some politicians hop on the green bandwagon, but Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch drives the bandwagon. In 2008, his first year as chief executive, the 54-year-old Finch signed an executive order to promote sustainability in the Park City. He assembled a team of 150 volunteers for the BGreen 2020 initiative, which serves as a “Greenprint” for the city’s overall vision for sustainability. Among the initiative’s programs are solar leasing of rooftops, an energy plan and a parks master plan.
The plan started with five committees. The transportation and brownfields committee looked at reducing vehicle travel and encouraging walking and mass transit. “We’re pushing people out into the suburbs to work, rather than developing the brownfields,” Finch explains. “This committee is called Green Wheels and Green Fields, and they look at mass transit and developing land so you can walk or ride your bike to work.”
Another committee, Green Energy and Green Buildings, focuses on renewable energy and energy conservation.
“It has to be a public/private partnership,” Finch says. “When we look at energy conservation, we look at what we can do to the relatively small number of city [-owned] buildings we have — under 50 — the other 30,000 buildings in the city.”
The city is looking to construct a biomass digester facility at the West Side Sewage Plant in order to reduce the amount of waste sent to New Haven for processing.
“We truck our sludge, which is 85-percent water, to New Haven to burn it. It’s a huge waste. It’s one of our biggest energy users in the city,” Finch says. It also costs more than $2 million annually. The biomass facility could be used to cool water at Resco, a power plant that converts trash to power.
The committee Green Spaces, Recycling and Water Committee looks at the natural resources.
“We’re working on the first parks master plan for the Park City in 100 years,” Finch says. “We want everyone to live within a 15-minute walk of a park and a higher rate of commercial recycling and we’d like to re-open access to the waterfront.”
He’s even got city kids involved. The Conservation Corps is a group of youths who teach people — other kids and adults — why and how to recycle. The corps appeals to homeowners to get rain barrels to catch rainfall before it gets to the sewers.
By the close of 2010, two programs were already reaping dividends: The Conservation Corps is raising awareness of the benefits of recycling, energy efficiency and storm water management; and RecycleBank, a rewards-based recycling program, helped to drive a 75-percent increase in recycling in the city’s East End and East Side neighborhoods in just three months.
Finch’s goal is to make Bridgeport the greenest city in New England and serve as a model for other cities in the region. One major commercial renovation is complete: The recent renovation of the Bridgeport Holiday Inn involved partnering with United Illuminating to install green-friendly lighting and other green renovations, resulting in lower energy costs of $125,000 per year.
Two innovations in alternative energy from the private sector are in the works: Derecktor Shipyard has begun building the world’s first hydrogen, solar and wind-powered hybrid ferry; and the opening of a liquefied natural gas station, the first of its kind east of the Mississippi.
As a state senator representing the 22nd District, Finch served as chair of the Environment Committee where he fought for clean water funds, expansion of the bottle bill and brownfield cleanups. Since becoming mayor, Finch has taken on leadership roles in the U.S. Conference of Mayors, serving on its advisory board, nominating committee and as co-chair of its Climate Protection Task Force.
“This has to be a long-term strategic advantage for all cities,” Finch says. “The price of gas in my lifetime will be over $10 per gallon. We have to find other ways.”
— Melissa Nicefaro
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