Eco Hero: Susan Anderson

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For Susan Anderson, it all started at a kitchen table.

After graduate school in Philadelphia, Susan stumbled upon Greenpoint while she was looking for a new home in the New York City area. As an investment banker, she needed to be close to Manhattan, but she also craved the tight-knit feel of a suburban community. Greenpoint, with it’s tree-lined streets and close proximity to downtown Manhattan, checked off all her boxes, so she made the move to this area.

Fast forward to the year 2004.  Susan was pregnant with her son as she was chatting with a group of friends and neighbors in an apartment kitchen when the topic of community ties became the focal point of the discussion. Community ties amongst neighbors usually were traditionally formed through means such as shared ethnic groups or through common schools that children attended. The question that rose with Susan was this – How can a closer Greenpoint community be created through non-traditional ways? It was this that inspired Susan and neighbors to help found Town Square., a volunteer organization that seeks to bring communities closer together through family-friendly activities, events, and programs.

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Susan and Town Square’s first project was a simple one:  to put together a small Halloween costume party for the neighborhood children. They worked with some local tweens to get the party organized, but the tweens eventually lost interest and bailed for another “cooler” party. Susan and her co-volunteers decided to go ahead with the party anyway, albeit with extremely low expectations.

The newly formed Town Square was in for a pleasant surprise! Half an hour before the event was scheduled to begin, there were already 35 kids lined up in costumes outside the door bracing the cold. In the end, the party was a smashing success with over 100 neighborhood children attending and showing off their Halloween costumes. For Susan, the unexpected triumph of their hastily-organized Halloween party unmistakably highlighted Greenpoint’s need for more community events and programs. Ever since then, there’s been no looking back for the folks at Town Square.

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Since 2011, Town Square and Susan, who is now the Chairperson of the Town Square board, have run Greenpoint’s most successful and well-known community event, the Go Green! Brooklyn Festival. The festival, which promotes local environmental sustainability initiatives and provides entertainment in the form of local food, art, and music exhibitions, began in 2008 as the brainchild of then- Greenpoint resident and Town Square Board Member Caroline Nasson. Caroline ran the festival herself for almost three years before moving out to Long Island.  Susan and Town Square have continued Go Green! Brooklyn Festival ever since.

Under the collective watch of Susan and the rest of Town Square, the Go Green! Brooklyn Festival has blossomed from a humble community get-together to a vibrant festival driven by local schools, organizations, and advocacy groups.

For Susan, the real reward is seeing the results of all her hard work around how the Greenpoint community was brought together by a common cause that everyone can support as well as the positive feedback from all of Town Square’s initiatives. This story may have started at a kitchen table, but thankfully it didn’t end there.

By Romey Louangvilay