A greenhouse that a Kensington Boy Scout is building on the banks of the Gowanus Canal will do two thing: bring native plants back to the area, and take him one step closer to fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming an Eagle Scout.
Seventeen-year-old Alex Lola of Troop 815 in Cobble Hill started developing the plan to construct a mini-greenhouse for the environmental group Gowanus Canal Conservancy last March. Now the greenhouse, which will be used to nurture vegetation that will eventually be transplanted along the fetid waterway, is almost finished and Lola says he could not be happier with how his work has turned out
“It feels really good and really rewarding,” said Lola, who volunteered to build the 12-foot-long, 12-foot-wide canal-side greenhouse to help him achieve the coveted Scout rank.
Lola said that he put a lot of time and energy into constructing the mobile greenhouse, first researching the building techniques, then conducting a feasibility study, then designing it with the help of an architect, and finally securing the funding through donations, including $1,000 from the development firm Lightstone Group, which is building luxury towers along the putrid channel.
“I’ve never built anything like this before,” said the high school senior, who attends The Beacon School in Manhattan. “It was the most intense project I’ve ever taken on.”
Lola, with the help of his fellow scouts, built the 14-foot-high wooden-frame for the greenhouse over the course of three nine-hour workdays. Once the see-through polycarbonate panels are added over the coming days, the plant incubator will be ready to start nurturing plants such as perennial flowers, shrubs, and decorative blooms, he said.
The greenhouse sits in a city-owned lot on Second Avenue at Fifth Street that the Conservancy uses to house a plant nursery and a compost pile and the project was languishing on the group’s wish list until Lola came along. Now the green thumbs have everything they need to begin a campaign of seeding the canal-side with fauna that is from here.
“It’s going to provide a staging ground to expand our native plant propagation effort, which will provide more attractive green space, more ornamental gardens, and support greater wildlife habitats and species diversity around the Gowanus Canal,” said Hans Hesselein, executive director of the Conservancy, which aims to clean up the area around the canal.
The greenhouse was built to be mobile so that it can be redeployed as plant operations move.
Lola, who grew up near Brooklyn’s nautical purgatory, says that his greenhouse is a “small contribution” to sprucing up the banks of the waterway, but that he hopes it will help out in the long run.