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Brooklyn Councilmember Introduces Bill to Transform NYC’s Concrete Jungle into Green Oasis

The legislation requires new buildings cover available rooftop space with a green roof, solar panels or wind turbines to reduce the city's carbon footprint
Councilmember Rafael Espinal introduced legislation to mandate green roofs on all new NYC buildings. Photo credit: BK Reader

Today, City Councilmembers Rafael Espinal, Donovan Richards and Steve Levin introduced a package of legislation aimed at reducing the city's carbon footprint and environmental pollution by expanding the number of green roofs across the city.

Espinal, who represents Brooklyn's 37th District covering parts of Bushwick, Brownsville, Crown Heights, Cypress Hills, and East New York, gathered representatives from Brooklyn Grange, the People's Climate March- New York, Stormwater Infrastructure Matters, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities and other environmental advocates on Vice Media's rooftop in Williamsburg, where the building had already employed solar panels, ample green space and a lush garden.

Vice's Rooftop in Brooklyn
Vice's rooftop garden, a first look at what NYC's green future could look like. Photo credit: BK Reader

The legislation requires new buildings cover all available rooftop spaces with a green roof, solar panels, small wind turbines, or a combination of all three, pushing New York City to join the global effort to cool down cities and reduce their carbon footprint.

"I am introducing a bill today to create more rooftop spaces like the one where we are [at] here today," said Espinal. "By greening every single rooftop in New York City, we will make a strong commitment to doing our part to protect the planet."

Vice rooftop garden in Williamsburg
Vice's rooftop garden also provides produce that is used for the company's cafeteria. Photo credit: BK Reader

A roof is considered "green" when it is partially or completely covered with plants on top of a waterproof membrane. Aside from the social-emotional benefits for New Yorkers having added green recreational space, science proves that the environmental benefits are plenty: reduced urban heat island effect by cooling down the surrounding atmosphere; decreased stormwater runoff and water pollution; and reduced air pollutants that cause or aggravate conditions like allergies and asthma.

Green roofs can also be used for urban farming to provide more healthy, locally grown foods and jobs. Additionally, the added insulation can lower cooling and heating bills; and the installation of solar panels or wind turbines generates alternative, sustainable energy, reducing the country's dependency on fossil fuels.

Anastasia Plakias, founder of Brooklyn Grange
Anastasia Plakias. Photo credit: BK Reader

"When we install a green roof, we see immediate social, economic and environmental benefits that can truly transform a building," said Anastasia Plakias, founder of Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm in Greenpoint. "From the nourishing food our farm grows for its local community, to the native plants providing habitat for pollinators and people alike... We want to witness the transformation of New York City to a more equitable, livable and resilient city."

Several cities, including Toronto, San Francisco and Denver, have passed laws in recent years requiring buildings to install green roofs. New York City may be next, if the bill passes the City Council.