Parks Department’s green roof program is in full bloom

Max Lerner cuts sod for installation of a green roof atop the restrooms at the Beach 9th Street Playground in Far Rockaway. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Its portfolio currently includes more than 200,000 square-feet of foilage.

Max Lerner cuts sod for installation of a green roof atop the restrooms at the Beach 9th Street Playground in Far Rockaway.
Max Lerner cuts sod for installation of a green roof atop the restrooms at the Beach 9th Street Playground in Far Rockaway. Photo Credit: Polly Higgins

Grass is not only growing on the fields of New York City’s parks.

The agency now maintains over 200,000 square feet of green roofs on their buildings providing habitat for wildlife, sucking up carbon and soaking up stormwater.

In recent weeks, the city Parks Department has added 500 square feet of vegetation on roofs of structures at the Seaside Playground in Rockaway and the Beach 9th Street Playground in Far Rockaway as well as 4,000 square feet at Liberty Pool facilities in Jamaica.

“When you absorb rainwater on the roof, it creates a cooling effect,” said Artie Rollins, assistant commissioner for citywide services at the Parks Department. “That helps with the heat island effect around the building.”

Rollins said green roofs actually help reduce heat around the building. Rollins said on a 90 degree day, black surfaces on rooftops can heat up to 160 degrees.

“Installing a green roof on the same surface will reduce the temperature to 80 degrees,” he said.

Green roofs are becoming more common as building owners look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and better manage rainwater.

Legislation signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this year requires green roofs or other environmentally-friendly measures on the roofs of some new residential and commercial buildings.

Most of the green roofs constructed by the Parks Department are comprised of drainage mats topped by lightweight soil designed to absorb water, Rollins said.

Then they are covered with native plants and sedum, a ground water succulent.

“Over the next five years we plan to install another 750,000 square feet to bring us to 1 million,” Rollins said.

Officials estimate it costs about $25 to $75 a square foot to create a green roof. They believe the initiative will save the city hundreds of dollars in energy costs, reconstruction and other expenses.

The Parks Department has been showcasing its 45,000 square foot green roof at Randall’s Island to school groups and visitors. It produces a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers in several different green roof systems.

“We farm tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, corn,” said Rollins. “When we harvest it, we bring it to soup kitchens in the city.”

Lisa L. Colangelo