Recap: “Intersecting Hubs”

Thank you to everyone who attended our first Evening Speaker Series, and the inaugural session of 2024. We were thrilled to host two interesting green hubs: the Clean Energy Hub from Con Edison and the NYC Climate Justice Hub from CUNY. Our goal was to facilitate a dialogue between the work of both hubs, complemented by panelists such as the executive director of Green City Force. This allowed us to explore how green workforce efforts play a role in this intersectionality, and to gain insights into how an Urban Sustainability student from Brooklyn College perceives and learns from the initial pre-career stages to what is currently unfolding in the environmental sector.

Last September, in 2023, and within a week, New York City saw the introduction of two distinct, yet potentially intersecting hubs. Con Edison broke ground on its Clean Energy Hub in Brooklyn, while the City University of New York and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance launched their NYC Climate Justice Hub.

Meet the speakers:

Bobby Kennedy is a project manager for Con Edison of New York where he is responsible for overseeing a $1.2 billion clean energy infrastructure portfolio. His primary focus is on advancing the company’s commitment to constructing a resilient grid that will deliver 100 percent clean energy by 2040. Notable among the clean energy projects in his portfolio is the Brooklyn Clean Energy Hub, an $810 million electric substation in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn. This hub will be able to accommodate up to 1.5 megawatts of offshore wind generation, sufficient to power approximately 750,000 homes. It will also address a reliability need in the Brownsville area of Brooklyn. Moreover, the Brooklyn Clean Energy Hub is anticipated to generate over 500 skilled union jobs in Brooklyn.

Kennedy also leads a $36 million clean energy interconnection project in Long Island City, designed to accommodate 1,250 megawatts of clean hydroelectric energy from Quebec, Canada, enough to power approximately 625,000 homes. In 2023, he and his team successfully completed the firm’s $275 million Queens Reliably Clean City Project—a 300-megawatt clean energy power line from upstate New York, replacing a fossil fuel generation station in Astoria, Queens. In 2023, he was recognized by City & State NY Magazine as one of the Top 50 “Above & Beyond Innovators” in the State for his commitment to clean energy.

Kennedy holds a Bachelor of Science in organizational management from Manhattan College and is an MBA candidate at NYU Leonard N. Stern School of Business. Beyond his professional and personal pursuits, Kennedy is an advocate for criminal justice reform and actively supports the Innocence Project—a non-profit legal clinic dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing. Additionally, he champions the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice, a non-profit organization advocating for laws that protect society without penalizing poverty, mental illness, or underlying substance abuse.

Michael Menser is the Co-Director of the NYC Climate Justice Hub. He is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Urban Sustainability Program at Brooklyn College. He is also the Associate Director of Public Engagement for the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay.  He teaches Philosophy and Urban Sustainability Studies at Brooklyn College, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center, and Community Ownership and Workplace Democracy at the CUNY School for Labor and Urban Studies. His main areas of research are participatory democracy and climate justice with a focus on participatory governance, economic democracy, and energy democracy. He is a member of the Advisory Committee to the NY State Legislative Commission on the Future of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and was the founding Board Chair of the Participatory Budgeting Project. He is the author of Democratizing Public Services, co-authored with Anne Le Strat, We Decide! Theories and Cases in Participatory Democracy, and is a contributor to Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City’s Jamaica Bay. He is a member of the PSC-CUNY’s Environmental Justice Working Group.

Tonya Gayle is the Executive Director of Green City Force (GCF). Prior to this, she led GCF’s development team from July 2014 to September 2020. She is a board member of The Corps Network focused on national service and Environmental Advocates of NY focused on environmental justice. Prior to joining GCF, Tonya served in public-private partnerships at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) Career Program. She has spent most of her career in nonprofit organizations focused on economic justice for young people of color. Gayle is a member of The New York Women’s Foundation Circle of Sisters for Social Change, a graduate of Wesleyan University, and a native Brooklynite. She is an associate producer of the 2006 documentary The Perfect Life featuring young adults from Harlem. Tonya is passionate about providing young people with viable paths to create and lead a just and equitable world.

Jamelle Tucker is a Brooklyn College student majoring in Urban Sustainability who is interested in urban planning, energy democracy, and climate justice. He worked as an intern for the Regional Plan Association, researching the emerging wind sector and completed a community solar training workshop last Fall.  

Watch the recording in case you missed it!


Menser, provided a look into his work, which marries philosophy with urban sustainability. He recounted his experiences starting from his academic roots to his engagement with resilience initiatives in response to Hurricane Sandy. His focus has shifted towards energy, driven by student inquiries and community-led organization’s needs, emphasizing the importance of integrating justice into utility management and policy.

Kennedy, shared his journey from military service to a career dedicated to developing clean energy projects within one of the nation’s largest utilities. Kennedy detailed his firsthand experiences with the impacts of pollution in urban areas, which shaped his commitment to replacing outdated power infrastructure with clean alternatives. His narrative contributed to the potential for clean energy projects like the Brooklyn Clean Energy Hub to transform local energy systems into environmentally just societies.

Gayle, representing Green City Force, discussed the nonprofit’s mission to empower young adults from disadvantaged communities through training in sustainable practices and green jobs. She shared insights into the program’s approach, which treats local, lived experiences as critical to developing effective environmental solutions. Her passion for creating meaningful opportunities in sustainability was evident as she described the program’s impact on both participants and their communities.

Tucker, a student from Brooklyn College, shared his enthusiasm for renewable energy. His perspective, along with that of other students, offered a glimpse into the growing interest among youth in clean energy technologies and their potential role in driving socio-economic change through these hubs.

The event was not just a series of talks but a dynamic interaction of resilience, justice, and the future of urban sustainability among participants. Within these dialogues, a significant theme was the impact of infrastructure projects on local communities. Questions were raised about the inclusivity of planning processes and how projects like the Brooklyn Clean Energy Hub integrate community feedback to mitigate any negative impacts. This prompted a broader discussion on the importance of community engagement in urban planning and sustainability projects.

Another focus was on education and workforce development. Inquiries were made about how educational institutions like CUNY and organizations like Green City Force are preparing young people for careers in the green economy. This led to discussions on the importance of aligning educational programs with emerging job opportunities in clean energy and sustainability sectors.

Questions also touched on the technological aspects of transitioning to clean energy, including the reliability of wind turbines and the expansion of hydroelectric power from Canada. These queries also crated interesting debates on the technical challenges and policy frameworks needed to support the integration of renewable energy sources into the existing grid.

Finally, the concept of environmental justice was central, with discussions on how initiatives can address historical injustices and ensure equitable distribution of resources and benefits. Speakers debated the best approaches to incorporate justice into environmental policies and projects, ensuring that disadvantaged communities receive adequate representation and support.

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