Tuesday May 29th I took my Intro to Greenroofs and Living Walls class on a bonus field trip to Riverpark Farm, the USPS Morgan Facilities and PS 333 to visit their rooftops. All three of these places are not open or accessible on the weekend when we normally have our field trips so it was nice that a few of my students where able to skip work for a few hours and join me during business hours on a weekday.
We started at 12:30 with Riverpark Farm at Alexandria Center (430 E 29th St. New York, NY 10016) and joined their weekly public tour. If you would like to visit the space to check out their farm they have public tours each Tuesday through October. Chrissa gave my class and I a great tour. She told us about the stalled construction sites policy in Manhattan. About how the farm is a collaboration between the Alexandria Center for Life Science – New York City who is the property owner and Riverpark Restaurant which operates the farm. We lingered at the chefs table in the shade before wandering the well tended garden where kitchen staff would periodically come and take fresh clippings of different herbs and return indoors to continue for their prep work for dinner service. We then walked back past the construction fence into the “back of house”, or the working yard, where there was lots of things going on. There was a partial hot house row, sub-irrigated planters some starts just about ready to transplant, composting, vermiculture and more. It is quite a special place Zack Pickens, Riverpark’s farmer, was making some planter boxes out of shipping pallets and took a few minutes to come and say hello.I wanted to throw in that I met Jonathan and Thomas of ORE Design at a Brooklyn Green Drinks last year some time and they told me about this project, which they designed. How they started with the idea of portable milk crates and kept tying to improve the design but always ended up back with simple milk crates. Sometimes simplicity is the best way.
After the farm, we travel via the M23 crosstown bus to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Morgan Processing and Distribution Center which is located on the other side of Manhattan on West 29th Street. This historic landmark is the largest postal processing and distribution center in New York and handles all Manhattan and Bronx bound mail. The greenroof is the largest in Manhattan with approximately 2.5 acres of rooftop space and just under 70,000 square feet of that area covered with intensive green roof layers, soil and vegetation. David S. granted us access to the government building with strict security and escorted us to the rooftop. As lick would have it, the rooftop gardener, Haven, of Outside Design Build, Inc. was busy at work and took some time out of his rounds to give us a little perspective from the maintenance side of things. Columbia University also has research stations atop the roof including a weir that takes real time measurements of soil temp and conductivity plus rainwater runoff quantity and quality. There is also an environmental monitoring station that measures wind speed and direction, light reflectance (albedo), ambient air temps, evapotranspiration, and carbon dioxide exchange among other things.
Our final destination was the greenhouse/classroom atop PS 333 located at on West 93rd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam. The project was designed by Brightfarms who is currently in the process of building the largets rooftop farm in NYC the world(!) in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The greenhouse/classroom is a NY Sun Works project. There are also a few apple trees Erik and I planted int he fall of 2011 near the play yard on the ground level. While that is another satroy all together that is how I met Sedsil at Sun Works and why I could get my class in to visit this space. So back to our visit, we where supposed to arrive at 2:50 but had a little too much fun at both of the previous stops and didn’t arrive till 3:30, which was just in time to gain access into the building but too late to get the full guided tour. We really appreciate the greenhouse classroom teacher Shakira, staying late and giving us the two minute version of the tour and then letting us take a leisurely self guided tour.The greenhouse is not actually a greenroof but it is interesting to see what can be done on top of a rooftop space all the same. There was a stacked hydroponic system that could definitely be considered a living wall. But before I go to deep into justifying this site visit on a greenroof and living wall class tour lets just dive right in. The Children’s School in the Upper West Side has a wonderful resource for its students in this classroom. All the sciences are incorporated into the curriculum and taught here. There is an aquaculture tank which they grow fish in. The “dirty” water from this tank is used in the hydroponic system, the fish poo and pee are nutrients which the roots absorb and are used to feed the plants. When the two systems are utilized in a synergy like this the practice is called aqua-ponics. There are also two large rain barrels, or cisterns, that capture the water that falls on the greenhouse. There is also a passive cooling system which incorporates very closely space waves of metal which have water recirculating down them in front of a large window. When the air comes in this way it is cooled by the water and creates a very cool breeze. unfortunately the pump was broken on this day and it was not working, but it wasn’t that hot to begin with. There is also a bike generator, vermiculture composting, some rock wool seed starts, some Windowfarms style water bottle hydroponic plants and loads equipment for testing and analyzing every little thing. The kids who call this their classroom are definitely lucky to have this resource available to them. Here is even more info on the greenhouse classroom, FAQs for Greenhouse Project.pdf
This was a fun trip and the last thing my spring 2012 Intro to Greenroofs and Living Walls will do together as a class. I had a blast teaching the course and look forward to fresh faces and bright eyes next fall. untill then…
SCHOOLS OUT FOR SUMMER!