Brooklyn Navy Yard installs new green roofs to combat flooding

green roofs
The Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Ian Bartlett

The Brooklyn Navy Yard just got a little greener, as the waterfront industrial complex has installed three new environmentally-friendly rooftops.

The new furnishings feature 23,000 square feet of structure planted with ornamental grasses, perennial wildflowers, and sedum, which will absorb rainfall — replacing previously impermeable rooftops that would often foster flooding from the nearly 2.5 million gallons of rain in a typical year. 

“The city’s Department of Environmental Protection Green Infrastructure Grant program encourages property owners to do their part to manage stormwater and help keep it out of our sewer system,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “This project is a wonderful example of a partnership between government and a strong community leader to build the green infrastructure, which has enhanced the sustainability of the Navy Yard and is already helping to improve the health of the East River and New York Harbor.”

The new project also seeks to create and maintain biodiversity in conjunction with supporting the local ecology, which is often overlooked in big cities, but triggers significant consequences, according to Borough President Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor.

“Green roofs are a critical tool in reducing urban heat island effect, promoting biodiversity, as well as reducing stormwater runoff and flooding. These new installations at the Brooklyn Navy Yard are critically important as we confront the effects of a rapidly changing climate. I look forward to working with DEP to promote this needed infrastructure throughout our borough,” said Adams.

The 33rd Council District, which encompasses the Navy Yard, along with the surrounding bodies of water, are heavily impacted by stormwater drainage, and these new green roofs will help the cause.

The green roof at 3 Flushing Ave. and 25 Navy St. on Admirals Row now includes 11,736 square feet of intensely landscaped roof and will handle approximately 1,800,000 gallons of stormwater annually. 

Kelco Construction was the prime contractor under the supervision of New York Green Roofs. The DEP grant of $351,788 and the Steiner NYC contribution of $537,000 was paid to the project.

The building at 399 Sands St, near Admiral’s Row in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, will now feature an 11,465-square-foot sedum green roof. Brooklyn Grange was the prime contractor for that project, with landscape design by Michael Van Valkenburg Architects. The green roof was fully funded by a DEP’s grant of $344,881 and will manage approximately 660,000 gallons of stormwater annually. 

Steiner NYC is one of 33 partners to whom DEP has committed funds under the grant program. In total, DEP has allocated more than $13 million to its grant program partners, who in turn have contributed nearly $7 million to matching funds. Non-profit organizations, private homeowners, and businesses are entitled to grants for the modernization of roofs with green roofs for the management of stormwater on private property. DEP accepts applications continuously throughout the year. 

Projects that are profitable, reproducible, and provide adequate funding or other contributions will be considered.

The push to retrofit Brooklyn’s buildings comes amid a series of devastating floods, including last month, when the remnants of Hurricane Ida submerged large swaths of the borough, leaving at least a dozen people dead in New York City.

Adams, who is very likely to become the city’s chief executive next year, has highlighted storm resilience as part of his political platform

“Let’s face it, we screwed up the planet. Folks, climate change is here,” Adams said late last month. “We are facing a series of issues that are impacting the quality of life. It’s impacting our health, it’s impacting our public safety.”