Environment / Health

New green roof cools and cleans

Maya Rajamani

The Point’s new green roof.

The Point’s new surface took just three weeks to install

Unobstructed views of the awe-inspiring city skyline greet visitors to the roof of The Point Community Development Corporation at the corner of Manida Street and Garrison Avenue. But with the installation of a new green roof, visitors can now marvel at what’s right under their feet.

The vegetation-covered roof is the third installed in the Bronx so far by New York Green Roofs, a firm that specializes in sustainable architecture. Although the installation took only three weeks, it took The Point five years to raise the $200,000 it needed to construct the 7,200-square-foot surface.

Maria Torres, The Point’s co-founder and president, said it was well worth the wait.

“We’re trying to make the Bronx greener,” she said. She hopes the new surfaces will reduce runoff after storms and cut down on flooding problems that have plagued the community center in the past, while helping keep the buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, helping to cut energy costs.

With funding from the Bronx River Watershed Initiative and the state’s attorney general, stemming from a lawsuit against industries that have polluted the river over the years, and a grant from from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, The Point and the architects decided a lightweight green roof would work best on the main building, and a smaller, more intensively-planted roof fit the bill on the adjacent sound studio.

“You can’t just throw a really heavy system on top of the roof because the roof might fail and come crashing down,” said Amy Falder, a partner at New York Green Roofs.

For the roof of the main building, Falder and her team chose the lightest weight system possible. It consists of several layers of permeable fabrics, topped by a layer of soil and a mat of pregrown vegetation. For the much smaller sound studio, they planted grasses and flowering perennials.

Falder says another benefit green roofs can provide is cleaner air. Hunts Point has asthma rates eight times the national average.

“Anytime you have vegetation, it takes in carbon dioxide, so it’s cleaning up pollution in the air,” she said.

The new roof is not The Point’s first foray into sustainable technology. Previously, the center had installed solar panels on the old roof and set up rain barrels around the site to collect runoff from rainwater for its plants and gardens. Torres hopes the new roof will serve as a teaching tool for the many young people who attend the center’s after-school programs every day.

“We like to discuss a lot of environmental issues with our kids here. This is putting that into practice,” she said, adding that local businesses and organizations may also be inspired to follow suit.

Local environmental non-profit Sustainable South Bronx had installed a green roof on top of its BankNote building headquarters on Lafayette Avenue, before the new owners removed it to allow for renovations.

“It’s very important that we have these up,” said the group’s deputy director, Annette Williams. “We’re happy more people are looking into green roofs and green technology.”

While The Point’s green roof is still patchy in places, Torres expects it will grow in quickly.

“It’s had a long journe. It’s like a baby. When they first come out it’s a lot of shock,” she said, while surveying the roof.

But even in its early stages, the newly planted greenery has brought vitality to a formerly barren surface.

“It’s a concrete jungle out there, especially in the South Bronx,” Falder said. “Any patch of greenery is important to the community. It makes people feel better.”

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