Monday, May 31, 2010

Upon The Roof, or the Thrills and Bummers of Writing For gbNYC

So, part of my day gig at The Real Estate Place I Won't Name involves writing and editing short, nominally pithy write-ups of different luxury rental buildings and condominiums in Manhattan. (The rest of the job: suicidal ideation, avoiding being proselytized by super-religious co-workers, hearing stridently hetero agents awkwardly gay-bait one another) This has benefited me in a couple of ways, most notably reminding me how incredibly many places in this city I cannot currently afford to live in and reassuring me that all those places contain essentially the same apartments.

There are exceptions, of course, but the unconscious real estate ogling even resolutely starving-artist fucks like myself fall prey to in NYC recedes somewhat once you've written about a couple hundred luxury condos. I love lower Manhattan, but I'd sooner move to Staten Island than live in one of the depressingly "fully loaded" office-to-condo conversions in the Financial District that were built as Awesome Amenitized Dorms for Finance Douches(tm) before that industry ate cosmic shit. Ditto for the identikit luxury rental spots in Hell's Kitchen built for the same purpose, which attempt to make up in indoor driving ranges and billiards rooms and "residents-only lounges" what they lack in mass transit access or being surrounded by anything but windswept parking lots. This isn't to say that the Upper East Side is the hugest improvement on a windswept parking lot when it comes to, say, bars that aren't total nightmares of beer-ponged sadness. But while it's reassuring to know that our goofy co-op isn't necessarily any less appealing than other places to live in Manhattan, another building-related writing gig of mine does kind of bring home the degree to which living in New York City could be a lot better than it is. That woudl be my daily bloggy work at Green Buildings NYC.

I like the gbNYC work a lot, for the most part: it's interesting to me, for one thing, and the guy who created the site has been my friend since kindergarten. More to the point, it's definitely more useful for me to know and write about green building than about, say, the Mets or the odious Papa John Schnatter. Largely because of the shape into which this city forces the lives of its residents, living in New York is inherently very sustainable -- New Yorkers' per capita carbon footprint is astonishingly small, weird though that may seem -- but a great many of the buildings in New York are old and inefficient and many DON'T EVEN HAVE RESIDENTS-ONLY LOUNGES. The one in which I live is inarguably one of those, and I was actually startled to discover that it was actually not one of the alarmingly many (often quite nice) buildings on the Upper East and Upper West Sides of Manhattan using the ultra-nasty, super-toxic boiler sludge known as Number Six heating oil. My wife and I are planning to have some cocktails on our building's roof tonight before making dinner -- this is rocking hard by our standards, and if we watch some Friday Night Lights afterwards one of us will likely black out from overexertion -- which sounds pretty great until you remember (or are told by me) that our roof deck consists of a dozen square feet of pavers surrounded by a vast expanse of very hot tar paper on which we're technically forbidden to step foot. Upper East Side, man.

Or, "Upper East Side, man, but also weirdly par for the course." All that tar paper is terribly inefficient, of course -- it traps heat and thus both makes the building hotter (taxing our always ready-to-fail HVAC system) and contributes to the Urban Heat Island thing that makes Manhattan a good couple degrees warmer than, say, Queens. But, as with all those buildings rocking Old Number Six -- which is literally an oil production byproduct that's barely used as a heating source elsewhere in the US -- it also just doesn't need to be this way.

Whitewashing the roof would be cheap and help the HVAC out a lot, but a green roof could turn the space into something transcendent (and also cool the building considerably, help with stormwater runoff, etc). Green roofs are also very expensive and, as I wrote at gbNYC earlier last week, not really catching on in New York City. Some of those gbNYC posts can be kind of tough sledding for those who don't ordinarily care about green building stuff -- this one, for instance, is kind of a big deal, but probably won't seem so to you -- but I think this one is a pretty good introduction to what I'm doing over there, and I recommend it. I also recommend living someplace that prioritizes giving residents an awesome lawn 30 stories above the street over giving residents a computerized golf simulator, but good luck finding one.

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