GRaS Grows in the South Bronx (the “Green Roof at Smith”)

There’s a new epidemic in New York City.  LOOK UP and you will see that it is all around us.  It’s spreading into the most unlikely corners of the boroughs of our great city.  Apparently it is more contagious than we thought.  It’s the green roof epidemic, improving our city one roof at a time.  Here’s an actual case study:

Early 2009:  Hector Polanco, student at Smith Technical High School (the original PS 1 opened in 1806) in the South Bronx, joins the Science Club run by teacher and earth and environmental engineer, Nate Wight.  A field trip to see the green roof at School of the Future in Manhattan is a club activity.  Hector catches the green roof bug and returns to the South Bronx.

Late 2009:  Hector’s infection is so serious, it spreads to the rest of the science club.  He must have a green roof at Smith.  Sustainable South Bronx, a nonprofit organization with an environmental mission, is called in.  The drafting students at Smith are called in.  The carpentry students at Smith are called in.  This infection is spreading across the student body and into the South Bronx neighborhood.

Later 2009:  The 1,500 square foot Green Roof at Smitih (GRaS), phase I, is begun.

2010:  GRaS, phase I,  is completed.  But the infection continues to rage and a weather station is added.

2011:  Water harvesting is added on the adjacent roof elevation.  The students design and build a small slanted “roof,” with grooves that direct rain water into three large containers.  A small solar panel on this rain catching roof powers the pump that gets the rain from the barrels to the hoses used to water the green roof, resulting in less run off into the overtaxed NYC sewage system.

The Future:  Plans are being formed to plant the adjacent roof elevation and make it green.  Hector was accepted into a prestigious free training program at Best Academy  where they have seven roof installation classes, including classes on installing green roofs and solar arrays.

The green roof bug is out of control with no end in sight!  Predictions are that it will continue to spread across New York City until we have better air quality, less sewage overflow after heavy rain storms, better biodiversity, healthier locally grown food and happier residents who are working in the outdoors and fresh air on their roofs.

p.s.  I went to Riverbank State Park on a brutally hot day, so looking forward to a swim in one of their three rooftop pools, but there had been a large fire nearby and it shut down the entire park that day so I left dejected and instead bought watermelon from the man under the tent at 148 and St. Nicks – a delicious booby prize for my missed swim.  As many more hot days are expected in August, I will return and soon after that let you know the surprise of the rooftop built Riverbank State Park.


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