This green roof happened almost by accident – the Morgan was scheduled for a new roof and the architect in charge, Shalini Mohan, had the outlandish and forward thinking notion to not just redo the roof but to redo it as a green roof. The Post Office had set some high targets for the DOE-mandated energy saving goals and were open to considering one-of-a-kind options at key buildings or sites in significant locations. As a result, in time, Shalini was given support by the US Postal Service who has this green-thinking policy in place. She hired Elizabeth Kennedy as the talented and detail-oriented landscape architect, and got to work on the transformation of the roof. To the delight of the workers at the Morgan and the residents of the Ohm luxury condo building that overlooks the project, the roof opened in July 2009.
You can LOOK UP all day long but you won’t see the expansive green roof atop the Morgan mail processing center from street level. Tucked away seven stories above midtown Manhattan, this 2.5 acre green roof is the largest in NYC and the second largest in the United States. It exclusively serves the employees of the Morgan, a 2.2 million square foot facility that runs at full capacity after the usual 9-5 business hours sorting our mail for next-day’s delivery. To serve the night owls who work there, the green roof is fitted with lights and benches for enjoying evening meal breaks with sweeping views of midtown Manhattan and cool breezes off the Hudson River.
The roof is planted primarily with low-growing sedum, the “workhorses” of green roofs, but there are rows of young, tall, handsome trees growing in boxes alongside the benches. While the sedum thrives without much irrigation help, the trees are struggling a bit because of the strong winds off the Hudson. As they mature, they’ll provide wonderful shade for the day shift mail sorting employees on their lunch breaks.
Not only does this roof reduce storm water runoff, insulate the building and create biodiversity, it also is expected to last twice as long as a conventional roof, up to 50 years. It serves as yet another reminder of what a huge impact one original thinker can have on our city of 9 million or so people.
Next time, I’ve got what I believe is the oldest green roof in NYC. I found it this weekend serendipitously, just by LOOKING UP. Give me a few days to fact check and I’ll share this centuries-old beauty with you.