Where Green is White (E. 4th Street between Bowery and 2nd Avenue, Manhattan)

The Lower East Side (LES) of Manhattan has often witnessed the nascency of American social change.  The women’s movement and the labor movement were born here,  and  now the environmental movement is pushing its way out of the fertile LES womb into the consciousness of New York city residents across the boroughs.

The White Roof Project has partnered with the Fourth Arts Block (FABnyc.org) and the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association with the backing of the Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer, to create a “model block” between E. 4th and E. 3rd streets, between Bowery and Second Avenue.  It sounds more simple than revolutionary – paint the black roof white.  However, coordinating the 20 building owners on this single block, $15,000 worth of materials and 150 volunteers to paint 30,000 plus square feet of black roof white isn’t simple at all.  It’s inspiring!  This diverse community is working collectively for the benefit of the E. 4th Street residents and the city as a whole.  LOOK UP and you will see a quiet but potentially very real rooftop revolution in its infancy.

Let’s take a look at what happens when the black roof becomes white.  It’s not just any white paint, but a formulation that reflects back 90% of the sun’s rays, rather than absorbing them, as does a black roof.  On the hottest summer days, a white roof will be 30 degrees cooler than a black roof, making the 6th floor walk-up residents especially happy, plus the AC will need far less juice to keep these homes adequately cooled.

This is a single “model block,” but the vision is to transform black roofs to white, block by block, throughout New York City.  Should the goal of painting all NYC black roofs white be achieved, Scott Stringer reported that climate scientists have calculated the temperature of New York City will “drop by 2 degrees.”  In July, when it’s hot and sweaty out there, a city 2 degrees cooler would be very welcome, indeed!

Combine a little white paint along with a lot of elbow grease and we’ve cooled our city, reduced global warming and consumed far less energy to keep our homes and businesses comfy.  White really is green in NYC.

There will be dates in September to complete the black to white roof transformation of the E. 4th Street “model block.” If you want to be part of this climate change revolution – and spend time on a great roof – click on NYC Cool Roofs (http://www.nyc.gov/html/coolroofs/html/involved/volunteer.shtml) to sign up as a foot soldier in this rooftop revolution.


6 thoughts on “Where Green is White (E. 4th Street between Bowery and 2nd Avenue, Manhattan)

  1. Yes, white roofs save money, and that’s a good kind of green too! But white roofs are also “green” in the environmental sense because, when done over a vast number of roofs, they combat global warming by reducing the temperature of the City overall. Plus they reduce fossil fuel usage (electricity to run the air conditioning). Both of these green benefits help NYC become a more environmentally sustainable place to live.

  2. I asked Alicia Rodgers, Volunteer Coordinator of NYC Cool Roofs, about this and she replied: “To address the commenter’s question about the effects of white roofs in the winter, there have been a few studies on this point. The bottom line is that while yes, you do lose a small amount of radiant heating in the winter, the savings in the summer far out way this loss. It costs much more to cool buildings than to heat them, so in terms of dollars and cents you will still be saving money overall, and since the angle of the sun and length of exposure decreases in the winter, you don’t get as much heat in then to begin with. This means not as much radiant heating to lose in the winter and more to have to contend with in the summer. The only time that white roofs would be a detriment is in colder climates than the US, when the sun’s heat in the summer does not greatly contribute to an increase in electrical use, and therefore the savings in the summer might not out way any losses in the winter.” Thank you, Alicia, for answering this question so thoroughly!

  3. I guess this white into green is mainly green dollars; saving money.
    How do they go really back to green as in plants and growing things?

  4. I was very surprised to learn that a white roof generates so much less heat. Keep up the good work keeping us all informed on “Green NYC”.

  5. I can understand the benefits in summer of the cooler roof, but wouldn’t it be more beneficial to have the black roof in winter to help keep the building warm? I looked into this on the link provided into the cool roofs site and they don’t address this question.

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