Council Members Rafael Espinal, Donovan Richards, Stephen Levin Launch Campaign to Green New York City Roofs

Council Members Rafael Espinal, Donovan Richards, and Stephen Levin today formally introduced a package of legislation aimed at expanding green roofs in New York City. The bills represent a concerted legislative effort to combat climate change and provide more sorely-needed green space in New York City. 

A green roof is a roof that is partially or completely covered with plants and a growing medium on top of a waterproof membrane. Multiple studies have found that green roofs offer a variety of benefits for the environment. They reduce urban heat island effect by cooling down the surrounding atmosphere. They also mitigate stormwater runoff, which decreases water pollution. In some cases, green roofs can also be used for urban farming to provide more healthy, locally grown foods and jobs to our neighborhoods.

Building owners and homeowners would also benefit from green roofs. The added insulation they provide can cut cooling and heating bills of the building's upper floors. In addition, they provide a new amenity for residents that can increase property values.

“The time to fight climate change is now,” said NYC Council Member Rafael Espinal. “By greening every single rooftop in New York City, we will make a strong commitment to doing our part to protect the planet. In the most famous landscape in the world, New York City could turn our concrete jungle into a green oasis."

“For one of the greatest tools in the fight against climate change we need to look upwards,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “Green roofs are an incredible innovation that reduce ambient temperatures, save energy, and reduce the strain on our sewer system, thereby preventing waste from being dumped into our waterways. Solar panels will also be crucial to jumpstarting our renewable energy generation right here at home. This set of legislation demonstrates a serious commitment to protecting our environment, and I applaud Council Members Espinal and Richards for their leadership on this issue.”

“New York City must be leveraging every opportunity possible to reduce our carbon footprint and our rooftops represent prime real estate for that very goal,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “Installing solar panels or green roofs on every roof possible would be a major boost for our environment, long term quality jobs, and even save businesses and property owners thousands of dollars in energy costs. I’d like to thank Council Members Espinal and Levin for their partnership on this package of legislation.”

Legislation sponsored by Council Member Rafael Espinal, would require that the roofs of certain buildings cover all available space with a green roof system, solar panels, small wind turbines, or a combination of all three.

Legislation also sponsored by Council Member Espinal, would require the Office of Alternative Energy to provide information about green roofs on their website.

Legislation sponsored by Council Member Donovan Richards, would require that the roofs of certain new buildings be partially covered in plants or solar panels.

Legislation sponsored by Council Member Stephen Levin, would require that the roofs of city-owned buildings be partially covered in source control measures, including green roof or blue roof systems, or a combination of both.

“As the Executive Director of the New York City Community Garden Coalition and as a member of the People's Climate March NY I applaud these initiatives. Putting green infrastructure and creating green space on buildings is another step towards making New York City a leader in climate mitigation. There is more we can do such as making community gardens permanent and creating more green open space. These three bills begin the commitment to make climate action a part of city policy and dialogue,” said Aziz Dehkan, Executive Director, New York City Community Garden Coalition.

"Stormwater Infrastructure Matters (SWIM) Coalition enthusiastically supports the installation of more green roofs across the City. Green roofs help reduce energy demand in buildings, reduce Urban Heat Island effect, purify the air, create habitat, and capture and manage the stormwater runoff that currently overloads our sewer system causing sewage overflows into our waterways," said Julie Welch, Program Manager at the Stormwater Infrastructure Matters Coalition.

"With this legislation New York City joins a growing family of cities that are using rooftops to manage stormwater, generate clean energy, reduce the urban heat island, provide green jobs and generate much needed recreational spaces," said Steven W. Peck, GRP, Founder and President of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, the green roof and wall industry association which is having its annual conference,,  in New York from September 24-28, 2018.

“When we install a green roof, we see immediate social, economic, and environmental benefits that can truly transform a building. From the nourishing food our farm grows for its local community, to the native plants providing habitat for pollinators and people alike on the green roofs we've built across the city, we are excited that Council Members Espinal, Levin, and Richards are in advocating for the implementation of green roofs as a means to a more livable and resilient New York City,” said Anastasia Plakias, the founder of Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm located in Greenpoint.