New bills aim to promote spread of green rooftops
by Meghan Sackman
Jul 25, 2018 | 394 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On top of the media company Vice’s headquarters in Williamsburg sits an unsuspecting garden oasis.

This green rooftop contains a wide variety of plants and flowers, as well as a vegetable and herb garden, that serves the staff not only fresh produce, but also a natural creative workspace and environmental benefits.

With its solar panels and native East Coast plant species, it provides more than a beautiful view of the Williamsburg Bridge. The green roof also contributes to the environmental well-being of New York City.

New legislation introduced by Council members Rafael Espinal, Donovan Richards and Steven Levin aims to spread rooftops like these across the city.

Last week, Espinal announced a bill that would mandate green roof systems, wind turbines or solar power on commercial buildings. Meanwhile, legislation introduced by Richards and Levin would require green roofs on the rest of the buildings in New York, including residential buildings.

Together, the elected officials are trying to help New York fight climate change.

“It’s important that we look at creative ways to deal with issues of climate change,” Espinal said. “The city invests a lot of money in cleaning our waterways and reducing air pollution, but I think that we can simply just look up for the solution. The solution is here on our rooftops.”

Espinal said there is a lack of awareness of the benefits of green roofs, as well as a lack of knowledge about city programs that provide an incentive for developers to include a green roof.

Green rooftops reduce the “urban heat island” effect by cooling down the surrounding area, absorb massive amounts of storm water that would otherwise enter the sewer systems, and decrease heating and cooling bills.

Steve Peck, founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, used Toronto as an example of success with green roofs. Toronto became the first city in North America to require all of their buildings to have green roofs nine years ago.

The accumulated 4.5 million square feet of green space has collected 27 million gallons of storm water annually.

Peck pointed out that other cities have followed this example, including Berlin, Paris, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon.

Aziz Dehkan, executive director of the New York City Garden Coalition, said green roofs are a great solution to environmental stresses.

“We’re behind, and we shouldn’t be,” Dehkan said. “We should be leaders in green infrastructure, we should be leaders in land farming and community gardens.”

Advocates argue there is little added cost to include a green roof in a development, and the new amenity can actually increase property values in some cases.

A study in Portland, Oregon, showed that rooftops with green roofs were five to six percent more valuable in the marketplace than those without them.

“In a rapidly changing climate and historic environmental injustice, we need to use public policy to move proven technologies like green roofs into the marketplace,” Peck said. “That way, we can ensure that our cities remain healthy and livable well into the future.”

Nikki Jackson is project coordinator of Kingsland Wildflowers, a green roof at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“Anything that is using native plants indigenous to the East Coast will attract those biodiverse pollinators and migratory birds,” Jackson said.

Anastasia Plakias is co-founder and vice president of Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, which built and manages Vice’s green rooftop. The group also created a green rooftop on an affordable housing unit in the South Bronx, where residents can grow their own produce.

“We want to see access to these green spaces for the entire community,” Plakias said. “We need all of the key stakeholders in real estate development in the community and, most of all, at City Hall to create this vision and make it a reality.”
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