Students placing plant beds on the new green roof at St. Mary’s Recreational Center in Mott Haven. Courtesy of NYC Parks.

Thirty New York City students have built a 2,000 square-foot green roof on top of St. Mary’s Recreational Center in Mott Haven, the first of six to be built under a new city youth training program.

(Para leer una version del articulo “en español, vaya a esta versión.) 

As members of a new Youth Sustainability Corps, and with help from NYC Parks green infrastructure experts, the high school and college students installed vegetation to help control stormwater and reduce cooling costs in the rec center. New raised planting beds will be used to grow seasonal vegetables.

Between them, the six projects will add 50,000 square feet of green rooftops in the cit.

The Youth Sustainability Corps was launched in December 2021 in partnership with NYC Parks, The Department of Youth and Community Development, the Mayor’s Office of Youth Employment, and the City Cleanup Corps.  It offers internships and training to students interested in working in environmental justice.

“As Parks has been a leader in green roofs and workforce development in New York City, we’re proud to leverage our expertise in both to teach the next generation, and give them a head start on a future in green careers,” said Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue.

Students worked 75 hours on weekends and during school breaks installing the green roof, but also attended training sessions in how to install a green roof, and learned about challenges facing the city’s environment, and solutions the Parks department is piloting.  With funding from the City Cleanup Corps, the students earned $3,375 over the course of the program.

Valerie Mulligan, a deputy commissioner at the Department of Youth and Community Development, said the green roof projects will benefit the environment and save the city money for years to come. Mott Haven is located along what has been termed “asthma alley,” because of the record levels of air pollution that contributes to environmental inequality.  

According to the National Park Service website, a green rooftop is vegetation planted atop a flat or modestly slanted waterproofed roof.  Such systems are lightweight, sustainable, low maintenance and relatively inexpensive. NYC Parks estimated that each roof costs $14 a square foot to install and that the total cost will be $500,000 – an investment the department said would produce $8.65 million in savings to the city over time. 

The youth training projects, once completed, will bring the total area of green roofs overseen by the parks department to 250,000 square feet, an amount that the department said would capture nearly 8 million gallons of stormwater annually, helping to prevent the city’s stormwater system from becoming overstressed.

The remaining five green rooftops will be built in the following locations, starting in April:  the Prospect Park Garage in Brooklyn, Kwame Ture Recreation Center in the Bronx, the Sheltering Arms Pool House in Manhattan, the Rockaway Beach 17 Street Operations Building in Queens, and the Midland Beach Playground Comfort Station in Staten Island. 

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