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Thread: Green Roofs

  1. #16
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Summer Comes to a Close in a Rooftop Eden That May Not See Spring


    Close to 40 years ago, Michael Goldstein, then a young dad, rented the top floor of a building on the corner of Broome and Mercer Streets, and plunked a sandbox and kiddie pool on the roof. Such was the humble beginning of what would eventually become an elaborate, fantasyland garden, complete with convincing-looking synthetic grass, peach, apple and cherry trees, blueberry bushes, and Adirondack chairs nestled among the fragrant boughs.

    Long before green roofs were hot, long before Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg declared his goal to plant one million trees across the five boroughs, Mr. Goldstein was doing his part to green New York with his 2,500-square-foot aerie atop the ninth floor.

    Until now, Mr. Goldstein’s garden has been governed mostly by the quick-changing whims of the seasons. This week, his birch tree is losing its leaves, and his apple tree has been bearing sweet, mild fruit. The seasons may be intractable masters, but Mr. Goldstein, now 71, has come to expect their tyranny. Much harder to accept: that a piece of paper pinned to a door should govern the fate of the small ecosystem that he considers an extension of his home.

    In July, Mr. Goldstein, who runs a merchandising business from a small, sunny office mounted on his roof, found a troubling notice from the City Buildings Department on his building’s front door. From a roof nearby, the notice read, visual inspection revealed “small housing structures built on top of this roof,” along with other concerns, including “foliage resembling a small forest.” The building was not code-compliant, the notice went on to say, and the owner would be required to provide an engineering report documenting the structural soundness of the roof.

    Then Mr. Goldstein received a letter in the mail, dated Aug. 28, from the bank that bought the building when its previous owner went bankrupt. The bank was terminating his lease to the roof. He would have until the end of September to deconstruct Eden and return the roof to its natural state: black tar, the kudzu of urban surfaces everywhere.

    It is no small thing to plant and maintain foliage resembling a small forest in New York City — it requires two hours of watering a day, said Mr. Goldstein, who pays $1,700 a month in rent for the roof. He never leaves town in the summer, because a day or two of arid heat would take too heavy a toll.

    Nor would it be a small thing to remove said small forest through the building’s cramped elevator, to disassemble a living, photosynthesizing community. Mr. Goldstein said he has told officials at the bank that he would hire an engineer to test the soundness of the roof, and remove whatever weight was deemed problematic. But he said he has been given no leeway, just orders to remove years of history and a space that is considered home not just to him and his neighbors, but to the two mockingbirds and three robins that feed off the fruit, and to an owl that occasionally surprises them with a visit.

    At a time when so many people are losing their homes, there is no need to shed too many tears for someone losing a luxury that most people could only dream of in the first place. But the situation does speak to the nonsensical churn and burn that happens when the banks take over. (A manager at Nova America SoHo, which directly owns the building, did not return messages Friday, and two of the company’s lawyers could not be reached.)

    Mr. Goldstein never met the building owner who went bankrupt, but the landlord before that was a New Yorker who, he was confident, “at least would have let me try to keep the roof — as long as he didn’t have to pay for it.” He was, in other words, not a sap, just a reasonable creature.
    On a bad day, New York seems to risk facing some of the budget shortfalls and service interruptions of earlier eras, without the benefit of all the looking-the-other-way loopholes that allowed for gracious perks and quirks among the middle class.

    Up on the roof, the sun was setting, and the chilly snap of fall was in the air: Summer was over. Mr. Goldstein picked an apple from the tree and offered it to me, then picked another and took a bite. All the phone calls, the wrangling with the building management, the heartache — “It’s not for me,” he said. “The plants.”

  2. #17
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Sep 2003


    That is so petty.

    The ONLY thing I agree with is getting a structural assesment, but aside from that, they should really bugger off. The bank is more worried about being sued than the actual use of the roof.

  3. #18
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    Mayor touts white rooftops ... but city lags

    September 24, 2009

    New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants New Yorkers to paint their rooftops white to make buildings cooler and more energy efficient, but the city hasn't painted hundreds of its own buildings.The Bloomberg administration has long been aware of the advantages of white rooftops.

    The mayor's much-hyped 2007 environmental plan noted the benefits of the practice, and the city's overhauled building code in 2008 included cool roof requirements for most new buildings and renovations.

    But the city still hasn't started painting 1 million square feet of roof space on municipal buildings like homeless shelters, police precincts, fire stations and sanitation garages.

    Even so, Mr. Bloomberg invited environmental guru Al Gore to appear with him Thursday in Queens to raise awareness about what he said is a relatively simple building makeover. The mayor and former vice president even grabbed rollers and painted part of a roof together.

    Mr. Bloomberg said the benefits of coating a roof with reflective white paint are well known. It can reduce temperatures by as much as 60 degrees on the roofs, and by 10 to 20 degrees inside, cutting energy bills and reducing carbon emissions.

    "It is quite amazing — the payback on these kinds of investments really are very quick and make an enormous difference," the mayor said.

    The city has identified some 300 buildings that could benefit from the simple makeover, but nothing has been done.

    Officials say they are waiting for results from a pilot program in Queens, which is what Messrs. Gore and Bloomberg were touting Thursday.

    Volunteers have begun painting 100,000 square feet of rooftop space there — not city buildings — and Columbia University's Center for Climate Systems Research will study the energy and cost savings.

    The environmental and economic advantages of white roofs have been known for years.

    Arthur Rosenfeld, a member of the California Energy Commission, documented the effectiveness of reflective roofs in a study 15 years ago. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently encouraged Americans to embrace the practice.

    The mayor, who sought to cast himself as a national environmental leader while testing the waters for a presidential run in 2008, has said repeatedly that the city is trying to reduce its own carbon footprint.
    The majority of carbon emissions caused by city government operations come from its buildings, according to a study by the city.

  4. #19

  5. #20
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Oct 2002


    ^ Wow.

    Six Stories Above Queens, a Fine Spot for a Little Farming


    Soil mix was hoisted on Thursday to a 40,000-square-foot roof where tomatoes, peppers and greens will soon be growing in Long Island City, Queens.

    The stretch of Northern Boulevard near 36th Street in Long Island City, Queens, is about as far from bucolic as it gets: Old industrial buildings loom, traffic whizzes by, car dealerships line the street. Off in the distance, Manhattan’s skyscrapers glitter, the trains rumble, and the closest thing to a meadow is a small patch of plants the Parks Department has named Triangle 37.

    But six stories up, on the roof of one of those old buildings, an ambitious farm began to take shape on Thursday. Called Brooklyn Grange — the group behind it settled on the name before they settled on their borough — it will grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and leafy greens amid the air-conditioning units and water tower perched on the 40,000-square foot-roof.

    Rooftop farms have been appearing recently across New York and the nation, but few have the scope of Brooklyn Grange, a for-profit venture started by Ben Flanner, a transplanted Wisconsinite, and the operators of Roberta’s, a popular restaurant that has become something of a farm-to-table clubhouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

    The group plans to sell its vegetables — selected for their ability to thrive in the sunny, windy conditions of an open city roof — from a stand at the farm, and to a few restaurants.

    But any garden is only as good as its dirt — in this case, almost a million pounds of Rooflite Intensive, an engineered soil mix that contains no actual soil. All day, a crane hoisted bag after enormous bag of the medium, each weighing more than a ton, up from the street at 37-18 Northern Boulevard.

    After slicing open the bags and emptying them into bins perched atop motorized buggies, workers ferried the mix — over and over again, making hundreds of trips — to the other side of the roof, where another group spread it out eight inches deep over layers of root barrier, felt and drainage material deployed to minimize the need to water and protect the skin of the roof.

    This is the second roof farm for Mr. Flanner, who was far too busy checking soil depth, overseeing his largely volunteer crew and addressing concerns of the building’s owner to speak to a reporter. Last year, he ran a 6,000-square-foot pilot project in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to see if a roof farm could work as a business, but he needed the larger space to turn a profit in the long term.

    After a plan for a 25,000-square-foot space fell through, Mr. Flanner and his group found Jeff Rosenblum and Acumen Capital Partners, which had been planning to plant the top of the Long Island City building since Mr. Rosenblum bought it a few years ago.
    “I guess it was really one step beyond what we were trying to accomplish,” said Mr. Rosenblum, who hoped the plantings would increase the office building’s energy efficiency and the lifespan of its roof.

    Well into Thursday afternoon, the flurry continued, with buggies whizzing by, precariously, as workers unfurled more bedding material in anticipation of the 9,000 seedlings at Roberta’s awaiting their transplants, starting as soon as this weekend. Many on the crew — a largely young and earnest group of the partners’ friends — had learned most of their skills on this job.

    “It’s really nice to be a part of something that’s really just positive,” Chris Kent, a filmmaker who had been working since 8 a.m., said during the lunch break, describing himself as someone with a black thumb. “There’s not a lot like this that’s going on.”
    Jesus Rojas, the building superintendent, surveyed the action and shook his head, adding, “Only in New York, right?”

  6. #21
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    Little Green Thumbs

    Roof farms sprout on schools across New York City

    by Alex Ulam

    The Fifth Street Farm Project, located atop the Robert Simon school
    complex on the Lower East Side, is the latest student farm to arrive in the city.

    The Fifth Street Farm Project has it all: It addresses childhood obesity, storm water runoff, and climate change. By grassroots organization of teachers, parents, and green roof advocates, the project’s plan calls for a roof farm atop the Robert Simon Complex, a massive public school building on the Lower East Side that houses elementary schools P.S. 64 and the Earth School, as well as the Tompkins Square Middle School.

    A plan for the new rooftop farm.

    Construction is due to commence this fall, and by next spring, school children should be planting vegetables on a 3,000-square-foot roof deck with spectacular views of the surrounding neighborhood. This experiment in urban agriculture, led by the World Trade Center Memorial designer Michael Arad, will be integrated into existing school courses on science and nutrition. The children will also have the opportunity to eat the food grown on the roof in their school cafeteria.

    There is a lot of discussion about roof farms taking place at public schools throughout Manhattan. At several schools, parent groups are developing proposals and hiring architects. In addition to the schools at the Robert Simon Complex, plans are moving forward for roof farms atop P.S. 6 on the Upper East Side and at P.S. 41 on West 11th Street in Greenwich Village.

    People involved in roof farm advocacy say they are motivated by concerns about what children are eating at lunchtime. “We are hoping to get rid of all the crappy food in the cafeteria,” says Alison Hazut, principal of The Earth School. “There’s still a lot of fried stuff happening.”

    In spite of all the good intentions, there are formidable technical hurdles and political challenges to building a farm on top of a school. “There’s a lot of bureaucratic craziness,” said Susannah Vickers, director of Budget and Grants in the office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, which is contributing $500,000 toward the cost of the $750,000 project. “The School Construction Authority (SCA) is bound by a lot of regulations having to do with construction and school kids,” she added. “Things as arcane as the warranty of the roof—they have to do boring samples and engineering reports—and oftentimes the roof substructure is not able to support the new use.”

    A 3,000-square-foot roofdeck will support the farm, making it one of
    the largest green roofs in the city.

    Indeed, parents and teachers at The Earth School, which already has a small agricultural program at ground level, have been talking about building a farmable green roof for years. However, the idea appeared to be going nowhere until Arad, whose child attends the school, got involved in the fall of 2008. “We needed a leader who really understood construction and architecture,” said Hazut, “and Michael had the language to speak to the SCA.”

    Arad’s first idea, a low-budget concept for filling hundreds of plastic wading pools with dirt and placing them on the roof, didn’t get off the ground. After another plan involving prefab planters failed to get funding, Arad went back to the drawing board and designed a workable solution for a smaller deck based on the way that heavy equipment such as HVAC is typically supported on roofs. Stantec Architecture was hired by the SCA to develop that concept with input from Arad’s group.

    Rooftop farms are not entirely new to New York City's students.

    The final plan involves cutting through the roof slab and stubbing up columns from a hallway in the center of the school. On top of the stubbed columns, two long steel beams will be placed as a foundation for a 20-foot-wide deck that will rest about four feet above the actual 60-foot-wide roof slab.

    The Fifth Street Roof Farm will grow only a very small portion of the food served in the cafeteria, but it should play an important role in educating young taste buds. “The challenge was doing a green roof at a school and marrying it to this idea of a farmable roof,” said Arad. “You could do an extensive green roof here quite easily and walk away. But it wouldn’t engage school children like a roof farm can.”

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