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October Newsletter – Tarrytown Environmental Council

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October 12, 2020







This month, there’s great news for Tarrytown: a new community solar project is on-line. Dean explains what that third prong is for, and Mai Mai helps you prepare your garden for winter, without taking a wrecking-ball to beneficial insects’ homes. Where will you vote? Can you spare a Saturday for a clean-up (we have two this month!)? And we invite you to our meeting. It’s tonight, and it’s Zoom-style.


A Beautiful Place to Roll Up Your Sleeves.

After being unable to hold their spring cleanup last April, the Hackley Lake Keepers is excited to announce a socially-distanced Fall cleanup on Saturday, October 10, from 10 am -1 pm at the Tarrytown Lakes. The trails have seen increased usage these past several months, which has drastically increased the amount of litter around the Tarrytown Lakes. 

Meet at the Neperan and Sunnyside Avenue parking lot by the skate shack. Disposable gloves, trashbags, hand sanitizer, maps and clipping shears will be provided. Volunteers should bring their own water, masks, wear long pants/long sleeves and be aware of the possibility of ticks or poison ivy. For more information please contact Maxwel Lee at mwlee0115@gmail.com. 

The mission statement of the Hackley Lake Keepers is to “give back to the Tarrytown community by partnering with the TEAC in order to monitor the ecosystem around the Tarrytown Lakes Parkland and keep its surrounding waters and trail-ways clean.” 


Gardens are alive year-round.

By Mai Mai Margules

As the vibrant blooms of summer fade, fall ushers in a new cycle in the life of pollinators and new “non-duties” for us in caring for our gardens and the wildlife that dwells therein. For wildlife to survive the winter months we need to leave our gardens messy, benign neglect is our operating principle.

The traditional fall cleanup routine, clearcutting all plant material, blowing all leaves and twigs out of the yard etc., destroys the winter habitat for wildlife. It’s the equivalent of someone taking a wrecking ball to our home just as winter begins.

Beneficial insects need plants year-round to survive. Plants provide nectar in the warm months; in fall insects lay eggs on host plants to ensure reproductive survival.

Other pollinators actually overwinter as a chrysalis such as swallowtail and cabbage white butterflies or hawk moths. Viceroy butterflies, meadow fritillary and others remain caterpillars, hibernating amongst vegetation, rolled-up leaves or seed pods.

Native bees, such as bumblebees, may bury into the ground or hide in hollow stems of plants or stands of ornamental grass. Messy areas such as brush piles, leaf litter, and tall grasses all provide cover and protection for ground dwelling bees.

If you have a lawn consider mulching dried leaves. This requires that you mow with a mulching mower. The shredded leaves will decompose and act as a natural fertilizer and weed control. They will filter through the grass and disappear from sight, a far better practice than bagging and carting off to landfills.

If mulching is not possible move some leaves to peripheral areas to create untidy areas for wildlife.

Did you know? Pollen, nectar and scent can be lost in the cultivation process of modern hybrids. Choose heirloom varieties instead! Your pollinators will thank you.

For our plant beds leaves form a natural mulch, protect the plants in winter, conserve water, and enrich the soil. Nothing could be easier; just leave the leaves.    

Now that we’re liberated from the chore of fall cleanup we can plot ahead with spring in mind. This fall try seeding your lawn or other areas with clover. Clover puts nitrogen back in the soil and is a welcome food source for early emerging bees. Also leave space for dandelions, they are a crucial food source for early bees and other pollinators.

Fall is a great time for planting native plants and shrubs. Live plants are ideally planted 6-8 weeks before the first hard frost. Hyssop, liatris, cardinal flower, agastache, sedum, asters are a few that I have successfully planted in the fall.

Check with our local garden centers that sell native plants and ask for advice on fall planting. It gives us and the pollinators a lot to look forward to!

Below is a link to a list of native plants, shrubs and trees. Also check the National Audubon website, WCC Native Plant Center and Pollinator Pathways sites for more info and direction on native landscaping.


Do you have a garden that’s designed to help our pollinators? Let us know, and we’ll feature it in our newsletter! tarrytownenviro@gmail.com


How Clio Created Her Pollinator Garden!

This summer, one of our local Middle School students, Clio, asked TEAC for a spot to create a small Pollinator garden. We approached Francesca Spinner, director of the Neighborhood House on Wildey St, and she generously agreed to offer Clio the use of a neglected raised-bed garden on the south side of the building. We also supplied a new hose and nozzle nearby for Clio (and her father, Mark, who helped with the “heavy lifting”) for watering.
The whole project was such a great success that we placed it on the map of gardens on the Pollinator Pathways. Clio and Mark have produced a very nice YouTube Kids video with all the details on what goes into morphing a patch of weeds into a showpiece wildflower garden, attracting butterflies, bees and people! Check it out here: https://youtu.be/BGm-uP_QfUo 


Let’s seed-bank for next year’s Earth Day.

Cosmos, zinnias, salvias and other easy-to-grow annuals are putting out their seeds in abundance at this time of year. If you have them (and know that they are heirloom varieties and not hybrids), consider collecting them from your own garden and labeling them. We’ll plant them in the Village on next year’s Earth Day.

Let us know if you have seeds to donate: tarrytownenviro@gmail.com


Let’s all work to help keep our Hudson River trash-free.

THE ANNUAL Riverkeeper Sweep Cleanup will be held October 17th 9-12pm. TEAC will be collecting trash along a parking area near the train station and other areas near the Hudson River. Join us!

Please sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tarrytown-tarrytown-metro-north-station-cleanup-registration-120066806049


TODAY is World Vegetarian Day!

Find some great meatless recipes here:


This is our new series, presenting questions of local interest to Dean Gallea, our co-chair.

Q: Most electrical things I plug in only have two prongs, so why are there three prongs on my electric outlets, and what are they for? Can Dean explain?

A: Here’s a useful illustration: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/electric/hsehld.html

Some salient points:

1) The three prongs of an outlet:

  • The narrower flat one is the “hot” – It is the source of the utility’s current that powers stuff like plug-in appliances, and is wired to a branch circuit breaker in the home service panel.
  • The wider flat one is the “neutral” – It returns the current passing through a connected appliance, creating a circuit (Latin root circus, for circle). It’s wired to the “neutral bus”, a thick bar in the service panel shared by all the circuits, and is wired back to the utility. 
  • The third, round, prong, is the “ground”, which is a safety connection for appliances that can use it, and is wired to the “ground bus”, a thick bar in the service panel that is wired to a ground rod and water pipe outside the house. (See point 7 if you have outlets with only two prongs.)

2) The neutral prong carries the current passing through the appliance from the hot prong back to the service panel. Since copper house wiring is not a perfect conductor – it has some small “resistance” to current flow – the neutral prong might float a few volts above the ground prong, but not enough to be dangerous. So, someone coming into contact with the neutral prong is normally safe.

3) The reason for the wider neutral prong is to prevent plugging newer “polarized” two-prong appliances in backwards – they’re made with a wider prong so appliances can be engineered to connect parts most likely to be touched to the neutral. For example, a lamp with a screw-socket has the screw shell wired to the neutral, so someone replacing the bulb with the switch on won’t get a shock if they touch the shell.

4) In the home service panel, the neutral bus and the ground bus are actually combined. The point to remember is that outlets’ ground prongs (and wires) never carry current except in the rare case when a three-prong appliance internally “shorts out” – the hot wire inside touches the grounded cabinet or the neutral parts, or water gets inside creating a conductive path. In that case, the current that might reach the user gets safely carried out through the ground rods.

5) Appliances with exposed metallic parts should have a three-prong plug, which is wired internally to the metal parts. That ensures that any failure in the appliance doesn’t make the metal parts “hot”, even if the failure isn’t enough to cause the branch circuit breaker to interrupt.

6) Appliances without exposed metallic parts (like “double-insulated” power tools and devices with plastic cases) usually don’t have a ground prong, but they can still be dangerous in wet environments. So, outlets near water or outdoors require a “ground fault interrupter” (GFI) that can detect tiny amounts of ground current and interrupt the circuit to prevent the appliance from continuing dangerous operation.

7) If you have an old house with two-prong outlets (especially if both prongs are narrow, preventing newer appliances from plugging in without an adapter), you really should have them re-wired by an electrician with outlets that have a ground prong. You can even get outlets that have built-in USB charging ports that can conveniently replace separate chargers.

— Dean

Saving energy is important. Many devices use “vampire energy” even when switched off. The worst offenders are cable boxes, computer-related devices like printers, and any chargers that feel warm to the touch. Switch off or unplug these when you’re not actively using them. Special outlets that automatically switch off can pay for themselves.

Don’t forget to unplug appliances when they’re not in use; it saves energy! Here are some energy-saving plug-in options:



NY DEC starts enforcing New York’s plastic bag ban on October 19, 2020. 

NY DEC Announces Enforcement of New York’s Plastic Bag Ban to Start Oct. 19, 2020

The plastic bag ban, which went into effect on March 1, was not enforced per an agreement between the parties in a lawsuit brought by Poly-Pak Industries, Inc., et al, in New York State Supreme Court.

For more information about the plastic bag ban, reusable bags, or to file a complaint about entities using plastic carryout bags, visit DEC’s website, email plasticbags@dec.ny.gov, or call (518) 402-8706.

Kudos to some of the nearby stores and businesses who offered alternatives to plastic bags although the bag ban was not being enforced: CVS, Walgreens, C- Town, River View Wines. This is not a comprehensive list.

Collection sites for plastic bags and film:

  • Stop and Shop on 119 have a collection bin next to the garbage can in front of the store. 

  • C-Town has a bin for plastic bags inside the store on the exit aisle past the cashiers. 

  • Home Depot has a recycling center for plastic bags/films, CFl bulbs, lead acid battery cores, rechargeable batteries, and cardboard.. The plastic bags/films are sold to Trex to be made into wood-alternative products.



The Tarrytown Tree Commision will be at the TaSH Farmers Market giving away 100 Douglas Fir and Siberian Spruce saplings on October 10th from 8:30-1:30 pm. 

DON’T FORGET: Green Tree textile recycling is back every week. This recycling service takes your unwanted clothes — typically those that can’t be accepted and resold by Goodwill or other clothing donation outlets — and sells them for re-use by environmentally-minded manufacturers and designers.




There’s a new Community Solar Project in town.

A huge Community Solar installation with hundreds of high-output panels is at last on-line and producing Megawatt-hours of carbon-free, sustainable electricity to dozens of homes every day.

The panels are on the roof of the Tarrytown Self-Storage building at the foot of Wildey St, nearly impossible to see from the ground, but our friend John Muggenborg [https://www.johnmuggenborg.com] got a good shot of them with his hi-resolution drone camera.

Though this project is fully subscribed, anyone in the ConEd area who doesn’t already have solar on their home can subscribe to another Community Solar Project, either planned or operating, and save energy dollars in the process. Go to Sustainable Westchester’s Community Solar site to find out more: https://sustainablewestchester.org/solar/#benefits 

And! Good news for Greenburgh Town residents outside the Villages:

The Town Council voted Wednesday to stay in the Westchester Power CCA (Community Choice Aggregation) program, supplying 100% renewably-sourced electricity to residents who do not opt out. The vote included amendments that will improve communication about options for people who want to consider opting out and still support renewable power programs.


Voting in the 2020 fall election is critical to our battle to save the planet. Please make a plan to cast your vote. We encourage you to VOTE EARLY, using the guidelines below.

EARLY VOTING is a safe, easy way to vote. Registered voters can vote at any of the early voting locations listed below. You will be voting in person, at ANY of the Westchester County early voting locations listed below. Please note that these locations may be different from your usual polling place.

Polls are open from SATURDAY, OCTOBER 24TH through SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 1 for early voting.


Please note, early voting is just one of three ways to vote. If you are registered to vote, you may:



The Guardian (a British news site) reports that a super-enzyme that degrades plastic bottles six times faster than before has been created by scientists and could be used for recycling within a year or two. The super-enzyme was engineered by linking two separate enzymes, both of which were found in the plastic-eating bug discovered at a Japanese waste site in 2016. The enzyme breaks down the plastic into constituent parts that can be used to create new plastic items, leading to true recycling, which is difficult to do with conventional “recycling” methods.

This could be a solution to the huge islands of mixed plastics floating in the oceans, as well as processing the plastic containers we all place into our curbside bins each week. It can also work on fabrics made of mixed materials, which are tricky to recycle.






A long thread on Nextdoor.com (a hyper-local social media service) shows Tarrytown and Greenburgh residents up in arms about the spate of late-night car and motorcycle racing sounds, both on the roads around the Thruway and in nearby parking lots. Examples of the complaints:

  • “Every night. Tonight at 11:30pm and then 11:45pm… etc etc …wakes up sleeping babies. Loud mufflers, annoying loud engines, probably racing… How to get it to stop, and real ideas?”

  • “…news article even or in those community newspapers?”

  • “…the roads were empty but out of nowhere we had our doors blown off by 4 motorcycles on the thruway.  Not sure how you stop them as they were going really fast.”

  • “…no point to chase them down, catching a few racers won’t change anything and the community isn’t pushing to stop the problem”

  • “Need a community wide initiative, it’s not a one off time or place. U shut down Siemens parking lot it will just move somewhere else nearby”

  • “Good luck with that. I think unless we have an elected official behind this, we’d be lucky to get focus from one dept.”

Greenburgh Town may provide initiative. Here’s a message one resident received from Supervisor Paul Feiner: “The Town Board is holding a hearing on a proposed local law on October 14th. We hope to pass a law that will enable the town to forefeiture vehicles where the car driver was convicted of participating in drag racing. The hearing will take place at 7:30 PM. I hope you can speak. If you do want to speak please email townboard@greenburghny.com.”

Tarrytown and other Villages have anti-noise laws on the books, but they are difficult to enforce, as the activity must be directly observed by law-enforcers and the perpetrator stopped.

TEAC relies on volunteers to keep things moving.Since the Covid, we’ve moved our monthly meetings online — Zoom-style for now — so you can still pitch in. The meetings are open to all.This month, TEAC bids farewell to longtime friend and environmental advocate Drew Fixell and welcomes New Mayor Tom Butler! Please come “meet” Mayor Butler in our Zoom meeting

“Every emergency reveals that “impossible” things are actually doable. In this case, our society just demonstrated that it can choose to change more and faster than we ever imagined.”
— MIT President Rafael Reif, reflecting on lessons of the pandemic for climate change action.

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