Since April I put together an online store prototype store for GrowNYC’s Fresh Food Box using WooCommerce Storefront, and worked on an ongoing project, interviewing NYCHA Staff for Resources Recycling Systems.
When the New York City Council established the Office of Recycling Outreach and Education, Michael’s background seemed like a good fit. With no prior knowledge of the borough, Michael was assigned to Staten Island, home to New York City’s last active landfill. Starting on the North Shore, which had the lowest recycling rate in the borough, Michael worked his way down the island, participating in street fairs and community events, making school presentations, and speaking at community board meetings. Pretty soon he became a recognized authority on recycling in the Staten Island community. Michael organized annual meetings inviting representatives from the many organizations that offered environmental programming to coordinate programming to better serve the Staten Island community.
To help reach its goal of Zero Waste, New York City Council empowered the Department of Sanitation’s ambitious programs to collect organics, electronics and textiles. The outreach required to build these programs was empowered in part by GrowNYC. I had the privilege of partnering with resident recycling advocates to introduce organics, electronics and textile recycling to their residents.
When GrowNYC’s Zero waste programs were reorganized to focus on the communities with the lowest participation city-wide, Michael focused on educating residents in the areas that surrounded public housing in Brooklyn and the Bronx. He established relationships with Property Managers, Resident Associations, New York City Public Housing staff, church, school, and other community leaders.
The experience of doing door to door outreach with New York City Public Housing Resident Engagement Staff led to a real understanding of the recycling problem. Resident after resident explained that while residents efforts to recycle were minimal, NYCHA staff was discarding materials from the bins as trash, and indeed the Department of Sanitation had stopped collecting materials from the developments. After negotiating with NYCHA and Sanitation for five months collections were reestablished. A cardboard compactor was brought in to collect the massive amount of material that is generated by a cluster of developments in the Bronx. And just as outreach was about to begin in March, the Coronavirus lockdown began resulting in the city budget and GrowNYC Zero Waste Programs, and my job funding cuts.
From RecyleThis to Per Scholas
Around 2003 Michael recognized the impact that was being caused by the disposal of the now obsolete computers he had helped so many people use. As they were being discarded, they were creating an environmental catastrophe, contributing a mere 2% of the bulk, but 70% of the toxicity to landfills.
To raise the public’s awareness of this environmental problem, Michael joined with a small citizens group that was committed to improving recycling and started organizing electronics recycling collections which led to the start of his next career, on a grant directing the Community Computer Recycling Project at Per Scholas a nonprofit electronics recycler.
Fleet Bank to AT&T
Recognizing that we all have to grow up sometime, Michael went to business school, and graduating into the worst recession since the gas crisis in the 1970s, and landed a job at Fleet Bank processing loan discharge documents, creating a database for an early childhood program, writing marketing letters for a stock broker, and managing a restaurant.
This eventually led him to work at the former Bell Labs, one of his childhood dreams. It was a time of explosive growth for the internet and an opportunity to help consumers and businesses to use AT&T’s Easy Worldwide Web. Serving as the Field Support Liaison for the team that developed the web hosting platform, Michael supported corporate web developers. And so, when AT&T downsized in 2001 Michael answered RFPs and managed hosting contracts for 121 Communications, a small startup that developed TransitChek a new product that offered pretax public transportation as an employee benefit.
In the early 1980s while some people joined the Peace Corps to help improve people’s lives in developing countries, Michael reasoned that he could do more good by working with children nearby and so began his teaching career.