Since first taking office, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has made environmental protection and preservation something of a personal mission. Eco-advocates have applauded his ambitious PlaNYC initiative with its goal of cutting the city’s emissions and cleaning up its air and waterways, including making 90 percent of New York City’s waterways suitable for recreation.
Part of Mayor’s sweeping plan also involves installing sidewalks and parking areas paved with more porous concrete designed to capture excess rainwater and runoff. The proposed green surfaces would eliminate 40 percent of the existing runoff into the area's waterways and are projected to save taxpayers $2.4 billion dollars in clean-up costs over the next 20 years.
On top of all that—literally—the PlaNYC initiative is also encouraging both commercial and residential NYC buildings to ‘green’ their rooftops by incorporating plantings, solar arrays, rainwater collection points, and other eco-friendly elements into space that is usually left bare and unexploited.
“We have about 1.5 billion square feet of roof, and a lot of it right now is a tar desert,” says Laurie Kerr, senior policy advisor at the mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. “For people who want to use that rooftop space for urban agriculture, for green roofs, for “blue” roofs [to encourage water reclamation], passive or active recreation, even bird habitats, it’s important that we do what we can to make that feasible.”
The city currently does just that by providing an incentive for buildings that add green roofs, providing of course they get the proper permits beforehand and pass inspection once finished. “The Green Roof Abatement tax reduction program was signed into law in 2008,” says David Bragdon, head of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability in the mayor’s office. “The abatement is $4.50 per square-foot of green roof.”