Union Square's Small Businesses Get Funds to Go Green

By Mary Johnson on October 31, 2011 2:23pm 

Mustafa Coskun is the owner of the Garden of Eden chain of grocery stores, which recently received some energy-efficient upgrades.
Mustafa Coskun is the owner of the Garden of Eden chain of grocery stores, which recently received some energy-efficient upgrades.
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DNAinfo/Mary Johnson

UNION SQUARE — Mustafa Coskun, owner of the Garden of Eden grocery chain, installed LED lighting a few months ago throughout three of his stores, replacing hot halogen lamps that were bothering customers and spoiling his produce.

But the real bonus for Garden of Eden, which has a location near Union Square, has been the savings. Coskun estimates that, since installing the energy upgrades, he has cut between 15 and 20 percent off his energy bills, translating to roughly $16,000 a year.

Coskun said he wouldn’t have been able to shoulder the capital expense alone. He took advantage of a Con Edison program where the utility pays 70 percent of the cost for the upgrades, leaving the participating small businesses to pay just 30 percent.

Since 2009, 12,000 small businesses like Coskun's have signed up for energy-efficient upgrades through the Con Ed program, across five boroughs and Westchester, said Esteban Vasquez, manager of the utility's small business program.

Now, the Union Square Partnership has launched an initiative to help get Coskun's neighbors on board by sweetening the pot further.

It joined with Con Ed to help bring more businesses in its district on board, said Seth Taylor, director of economic development for the Union Square Partnership. The program, aptly named “Go Green to Save Green,” aims to make the the Con Edison program even easier to join by offering grants to help small businesses shoulder the cost of that remaining 30 percent of the energy-efficient upgrades.

Taylor said it "aligns with our vision to help the small businesses."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Of the 400 businesses in the area, Taylor said that three have signed up so far, including Baohaus, a the popular Taiwanese street food restaurant that moved from the Lower East Side to East 14th Street between Second and Third avenues.

Evan Huang, who owns the restaurant with his brother, registered on Friday and said that early estimates put their annual energy savings at about $1,100 or $1,200 if the restaurant moved to LED lighting. With the grants from Con Ed and the Union Square Partnership the restaurant’s move toward energy efficiency will now be free of charge.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Huang, 24, whose restaurant uses all-natural, sustainable meats in its cooking. “It was something that we were looking into but nothing that we would have done so soon if it weren’t for this program.”

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