By Alec Pruchnicki
Yes, put it on the roof. This is a complicated but not impossible process if both sides work together. There are rooftop farms (e.g., Rosemary’s restaurant), rooftop gardens (e.g., P.S. 41), and extensive green roofs with potential public access proposed for Essex Crossing at Essex and Delancy Streets. These and many others are scattered around New York City, so one on top of Elizabeth Street housing would not be unprecedented.
According to several former contractors I’ve spoken to, a simple garden with shallow lawns and planters for flowers and small bushes might be possible with little or no structural change to an existing roof. For heavier trees, statues, and stone furniture, like those in the street-level garden now, some structural reinforcement of the roof might be needed.
Some method for public access would also have to be arranged. For the safety of building residents, unlimited access by the public might be difficult. But for those who are already deeply involved in the present garden, an identification system, keys, or digital security might be possible. Even Trump Tower allows access to its fifth floor patio. A recent article in the NY Daily News (“The Urban Answer to Climate Change,” dated August 14, 2017) showed the environmental benefits of green roofs in terms of rainwater drainage, climate control, esthetics, and also confirmed that New York City was behind Philadelphia in this area. Philadelphia!
If there is still time, maybe the garden volunteers who do the horticultural work, the new group supported by the Reiver family, and the architects designing the building can collaborate and reach a compromise. This might be a better process than having teams of lawyers fighting in court for who knows how long.
A rooftop garden might benefit more than just the residents of the building and the garden advocates. There are buildings going up all over the City, very often in contentious circumstances. The possibility of a rooftop farm, rooftop garden, or extensive green roof might be a good precedent for communities throughout the City. It’s worth a try. So, build housing on Elizabeth Street already, but put a garden on top of it.
Kill the Zombie Park Already Part IV: Put the Garden on the Roof
By Alec Pruchnicki