Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn pols push for green rooftops

July 20, 2018 By Liliana Bernal Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Green rooftop on VICE Media’s headquarters. Eagle photos by Lilian Bernal

City Councilmember Rafael Espinal introduced a bill on Wednesday that would require new commercial buildings across the city to install green rooftops.

“It’s important that now more than ever, when we have a federal government that’s rolling back all of these environmental policies, that cities as big as New York are being aggressive … by pushing legislation that’s gonna ensure that our city is greener and playing a major role in the fight against climate change,” Espinal said at a press conference hosted on the VICE Media building’s green rooftop.

The bill sponsored by Espinal would require roofs of new commercial buildings to be covered with plants on top of a waterproof membrane, solar panels, small wind turbines or a combination of all three. The legislation would also apply to existing buildings undergoing major renovations on their rooftops.

“In New York City today, only 0.15 percent of our rooftops are green,” Espinal added. “That puts us way behind in the conversation.”

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Councilmembers Stephen Levin of Brooklyn and Donovan Richards of Queens also introduced two separate bills last session that would require new buildings and city-owned buildings to partially cover their roofs with plants or solar panels.    

Green roofs benefit the environment by creating urban hubs for species, reducing the temperature of buildings, saving storm water runoff that is absorbed by the soil and reducing energy consumption with the help of the plants on the roof.

Developers and homeowners could also reduce energy costs and external noise and increase property value.


“Green roofs contribute very little to the overall cost of a project while making buildings more valuable to developers and building owners,” said Steven W. Peck, founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, an association that supports green roofs and walls across North America.

If legislation is passed, New York would join other major cities that require green rooftops by law, including Toronto, San Francisco, Berlin, London, Paris, Copenhague, Tokyo, Denver and Portland, Oregon.

“We witness transformations every day in the rooftops that we convert to incredible green, productive spaces,” said Anastasia Plakias, founder of Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop located in Greenpoint. “We witness transitions from them being hot, inhospitable environments that a pigeon won’t even land on to these incredible supportive landscapes that our migratory and native pollinators can enjoy and that our community can enjoy as well.”

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