“I cannot live with myself any longer.” This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.”
– Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
On Friday, June 7th, the Indo-Caribbean Alliance of Queens, New York honored my girlfriend Anandi A. Premlall for her work with SustyQ, along with two other members of the Indo-Caribbean community in Queens. I’m very grateful to know Anandi, who has worked tirelessly to inspire and revitalize southern Queens. She’s also taught me much about sustainability and placemaking, and she’s been wonderfully supportive, loving, and strong in our relationship together.
“Anandi A. Premlall is a grassroots artivist and founder of the organization and social movement that inspires and integrates AWE: Art, Wellness and Ecology in creating a Sustainable Queens. SustyQ, as the organization is affectionately known, seeks to support multi-ethnic communities through encouraging environmentally conscious-lifestyles that cultivate empowerment, wellness and creativity. Anandi held many firsts as a young Indo-Caribbean leader — from having her poem published at the age of 8; her socially-conscious art displayed at the United Nations and Queens Museum of Art at 9; to Managing Editor of The Olivetree Review: Hunter College’s Literary and Arts Journal; as President of Golden Key International Honour Society at Hunter College; as winner of World of Good and eBay’s Eco-Super Hero Award in 2010; as featured in Green America’s National Green Pages for healing her home; as a special guest on Let’s Talk with Lakshmee’s first Going Green episode (which aired in the USA and Guyana); and with an organization focusing on random acts of beauty and wickedly delicious kindness: SustyQ.
With degrees in English and Art, she fuses her skills to create more just and restorative worlds through collaborative murals, sharing ideas, nurturing words and adding beauty. As a solutionary, Anandi cultivates a diverse community through collaboration and mentors people who want to join the movement. She sparks conversations across a wide audience and transforms public spaces to manifest positive change. Anandi’s local activism through environmental and artistic endeavors shows her passion for making her neighborhood Richmond Hill, the borough of Queens, New York City and the Earth beautiful. She has undeniably inspired many souls to reflect on their own lives and take steps toward positive change.
SustyQ’s off to an outstanding start with grant-winning ideas such as The Critical Moss, a project that uses thought-provoking and environmentally conscious moss graffiti street art to create eco-awareness; and Taking Liberty, a project that will beautify Richmond Hill with tree-lined streets, lush tree beds, sidewalk benches, and raised beds of colorful wildflowers, fragrant herbs and sunny marigolds to reawaken the nature-loving cultural roots of Southern Queens residents. Anandi’s determination for seeing the abandoned Rockaway Beach Branch right-of-way become the Queens High Line led her on a journey to seek those who share the dream. She is now part of the Executive Steering Committee of The QueensWay and is working on making this 3.5 mile cultural community greenway a reality. Anandi represents the Southern region of the proposed greenspace, serving as the eyes, ears, and voice of the various populations residing along these tracks. Anandi is also a proud member of Coro’s Immigrant Civic Leadership Program, where she works on creating healing spaces in immigrant communities.
When this Guyanese native is not playing with dirt; crafting shenanigans and up to her elbows with guerrilla gardening and tactical urbanism; connecting with her Indo-Caribbean and South Asian roots through Farm School NYC; and using social media for good, you can find her snuggled up with books and organic fair-trade chocolate.”
I came upon the concept of smart cities some time last year, as I began exploring the field of urban planning and design. I’ve seen different definitions of “smart city,” but the essence of the concept to me is a city that leverages physical, social, financial, and environmental data streams for better performance. On the surface, this sounds great. All kinds of activities go on even in small cities and towns, and putting sensors in the spaces where things happen could give us all kinds of data. We could pipe that data to some heavy processing hardware and software, then empower people to make sense of the data (that is, to extract information from it) and take action. Power, generated more efficiently. Water, wasted less. Water quality, improved. Traffic jams, minimized. Crime, eradicated. With just such a picture in mind, a number of large companies have established smart cities initiatives and built relationships with city governments to install and operate smart cities systems. But how should these systems be built?