Days in the Sun

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Casa Del Sol, a community center in Mott Haven, barely dodges the shadows of the Bruckner Expressway, but its directors are determined to take advantage of its spot in the sun as a way to cut the air pollution that has put the South Bronx neighborhood on the map.

Run by the Cherry Tree Association, a local nonprofit that has battled environmental threats, from medical waste incinerators to power plants, for the last eight years, Casa plans to become the first environmentally-sustainable community center in the city by the fall of 2003. Already equipped with a community garden and solar panels (candelabras are also lit as the sun sets), Casa del Sol plans to install the latest solar technology to heat its water and electrify the entire building. A rooftop greenhouse will be used for composting, and its plants will purify the water and air that will then be funneled throughout the center.

In a neighborhood where the asthma rate among kids is twice the city average, say the people at Cherry Tree, any change is welcome, and they are working with the City College Architectural Center and New York Institute of Technology to make it happen.

Of course, a friendlier environment is not free, and in this case it could run as much as $7.5 million. Some funding has already been slated from the City Department of Environmental Conservation, Con Ed and the National Resources Defense Council. While it may take some time, Cherry Tree also hopes to make money by selling excess power to energy users around the city.

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