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ARTivism at Work – Saving Our Oceans Through Art

Do you glaze over during scientific explanations? Feel sleepy when steeped in statistics? Find data to be deadening? Many of us do. Which is why more than 300 artists worldwide are donating their time and talent to illustrate how we can save our oceans by painting marine life murals – so far over 300 – across the globe. The murals take difficult-to-convey scientific information and turn it into artwork.

ARTivism is the brainchild of the not-for-profit PangeaSeed Foundation which calls it a marriage between art and activism. Their goal is, through creating original art that is both compelling and educational, to help people understand how they are hurting our oceans and encourage involvement.
The murals are done on underused, otherwise dull buildings and surfaces that are turned into focal points of thought-provoking art to open the way toward understanding the importance of ocean and marine life health. Not surprisingly, the art serves to transcend language, cultural and educational barriers.

We all know a picture is worth a thousand words. The hope of the ARTivism project is that an artwork will be worth the saving of our oceans and marine life.

If you’re interested in learning more, log onto www.pangeaseed.foundation or look at the video here: https://www.facebook.com/OurPlanetbyattn/videos/260932218069549/?fb_dtsg_ag=Adx26U4zzHWoJ5h6f2d5aPcBG8BSFEsLFsB6D1JDVlRhkg%3AAdzAQlHeK-mo8KtgOenNv2OuMmnA2lLvNY6SZFKr9LSs0w

If you’d like to do even more, sponsor a mural as an Anglerfish, Swordfish or Great White Shark. Further information is on the Pangea website.

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Caratoes Portrait by Nate Peracciny (Pangeaseed foundation)


Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

Plates Made from Leaves – Wow!

All you foodies and “greenies” out there – here’s a great PR idea that will help cut down on plastic and position you – and your company – as savvy and eco-friendly.

Following in the long-time tradition of Asian countries, particularly India, a German company is now producing strong, waterproof, biodegradeable plates made of stitched leaves. The leaves are sourced in India because it’s the only leaf that stays a vibrant green after being pressed. After use, it will take about four weeks for them to biodegrade.

It’s one of the interesting things we thought you should know.

Eco-friendly plates are made out of leaves

These disposable plates are saving the Earth 🍃 leaf republic

Posted by In The Know Innovation on Sunday, May 6, 2018


Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

Green Roofs are Soaring: Part II

Having explored the many benefits of installing a green roof, now we’ll explore some of the complications, expenses and long-term commitments when you choose to turn an ugly, underused part of a building’s real estate into a major asset.

Green roofs are a costly undertaking as you can’t simply buy some plants, put them in pots on your roof and call it a garden. You’ll need to know your building’s load capacity; usage (will it only be viewed or be used as garden space?); what part of the roof you will green (exposures will vary greatly); whether to install an intensive green roof which is thicker, deeper, heavier and supports more plants, but requires more maintenance; or extensive which is shallower, lighter and more minimal maintenance; whether you opt for a modular vegetated roof, an alternative to the built-in roof where mobility makes it easier to do roof repairs and is quicker to achieve completion (but costs somewhat more); what plants will be used; and what systems will be used for root barrier, drainage and irrigation.

We hope we haven’t lost you yet because the ROI can be extraordinary which is one of the reasons green roofs and private gardens are also exploding on the residential front.

You are going to need a professional engineer and registered architect to do a structural analysis to determine if your roof can sustain vegetation or needs reinforcement; an architect/landscape designer and/or green roof specialist to design and install the system; and a big budget.
A decision will also need to made on the type of planting and systems to be used – from relatively simple sedum and grasses to a veritable forest – that fit your budget, climate, facility and goals. The latest trend is to go with native plantings.

The Mayor’s Office on Sustainability offers a green roof tax abatement. In 2008, New York City and State passed legislation – now available through March 15, 2018 – of $4.50 per square foot (up to $100,000 or the building’s tax liability, whichever is less). To qualify, your installation must be at least 50% of rooftop space.

Some prominent buildings in NYC that have installed green roofs include Rockefeller Center; the Empire State Building; Javits Center; Brooklyn Academy of Music; the Parks Department’s Five Borough Administrative Building on Randalls Island; Zeckendorf Towers on Union Square; the rooftop farm at the Brooklyn Navy Yard; the New School’s LEED-Gold student center; and the Bronx County Courthouse, the first of its kind in the borough.

The largest green roof in New York City is in midtown Manhattan atop the U.S. Postal Service’s Morgan Processing and Distribution Center.

The funkiest – and award-winning – green roof includes plastic rocks, artificial boxwoods, clear crushed glass and recycled rubber mulch. It’s on top of the Museum of Modern Art and, although visible, it’s inaccessible.

Among the latest news is Macy’s interest in creating a rooftop restaurant and garden at Herald Square; the green wall at the top of The Knickerbocker Hotel; and, though we know it’s not the roof although it’s green, the renovation of the glass pyramid Apple store uptown which is expected to include a grove of potted trees.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

Green Roofs are Soaring: Part I

You’ve maximized your building’s energy efficiency. Retrofitted the lighting. Upgraded HVAC. Switched to green cleaning products. Have a top-notch recycling program. You’re good. You’re green. Nope.

As New Yorkers, we are disinclined to look up, but if you want to be part of the next, great green building revolution, look to your roof.

Green roofs are gorgeous living architecture – visible, beautiful, usable and valuable to tenants and building owners, as well as migratory wildlife. With the exception of going solar, greening a property’s roof may well be the last, grand, green frontier, and New York City building owners are embracing its worth.

‘Developers and architects see the value in rooftop spaces and terraces planted with beautiful, functional gardens,” says Howard K. Freilich, president and CEO of Blondie’s Treehouse. “We are seeing a steady stream of new projects in Brooklyn and throughout New York, with a real focus on native plantings.” Freilich should know. His Manhattan-based firm is one of the largest horticultural firms in the U.S. known for innovative designs and excellent customer care.

The benefits of green roofs are numerous and quite compelling. The U.S. Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) has in-depth information on how green roofs reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect. New York City is a vast summertime heat island with a negative impact on energy, water and health. Vegetative roofs act as building insulators, reducing energy usage and the extent and cost of air conditioning and heat as well as reduce air pollution and greenhouse gasses. According to the EPA, “On hot summer days, the surface temperature of a green roof can be cooler than the air temperature, whereas the surface of a conventional rooftop can be up to 90 degrees warmer.”

Then there’s stormwater management, no small issue in New York City. Green roofs help control runoff as vegetation absorbs water that, as runoff, contains a high amount of pollution and contaminants. With so much of the City’s surfaces impervious, runoff can cause sewer overflow which empties into the city’s waterways.

Green roofs can also extend roof life, reduce AC and heating costs, serve as a stormwater management tool and fire retardant, reduce noise, contribute to air quality and greatly enhance a property’s marketability and value by providing viewable or useable garden and recreational space. They can also be used for sustainability points for certifications and give an owner bragging rights on their building’s green profile.

In Part II, we’ll explore some of the challenges of building a green roof and some of the City’s prominent buildings which are already featuring – and championing – green roofs.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

159 Years Later, Olmsted & Vaux Were Right about Central Park

In 2000, Edward Rutherfurd wrote an epic book entitled “New York: The Novel.” Beginning with the early settlement of the city, it covered centuries of expansion and development through the eyes of fictional families interwoven with historical figures. I found the beginning of the book to be particularly interesting as it described the wilderness that was then Manhattan, called Mannahatta – island of many hills – by the indigenous Lenape people. (We would bet the farm you had no idea until now how Manhattan got its name.)

The development of commerce and northward ho of the population intrigued me less than the descriptions of Manhattan au naturel, if you will. Hills, yes. But also ponds, streams, springs, salt marshes, forests, wetlands and, from the tip of Manhattan through Harlem, oak trees in tremendous density and prodigious wildlife – turkey, elk, black bear, wolves, deer, ducks, and beavers. The latter were killed on such a vast scale in early New York that the population was decimated, although its abundance is commemorated on the seal of the City of New York with two beavers (we bet you didn’t know that either).

In 2007, to the astonishment of everyone, including the hard-working people who have been cleaning up the Bronx River since the 1970s, a beaver was discovered to have built its lodge by a river bank near the Bronx Zoo. Jose, as he became known, was the first beaver seen in New York City in more than 200 years.

But I digress. With all due respect to Jose and his new companion, Justin (after Bieber; I kid you not) this post is to bring to your attention the remarkable healthy effects of Central Park on the city and its people.

Central Park was the first major, planned and landscaped public park in the U.S. Originally 750 acres and expanded to 853, hidden among its verdant, winding paths are prehistoric rock formations, waterfalls (all man-made), bridges, fountains, bodies of water, benches, monuments, statues, gardens, gondoliers, a boathouse, a zoo and a castle.

The original creators of Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, understood that this immense, protected park would be an inspiration, a form of escape, mentally and physically from the relentless urbanization of the island, a place of serenity and healthy endeavors for the city’s occupants, and stand as a symbol of civility. They were right on all counts in 1858 when they presented their plan, 159 years ago.

The Central Park Conservancy (“Official Caretakers of Central Park”) recently published a blog post about “How Central Park Keeps New York City Healthy.” We urge you to go to their website (centralparknyc.org) and read how the trees (more than 20,000) increase oxygen and keep the city cooler; provides outdoor access for healthy exercise, as well as solitude; and is a thriving habitat for a range of wildlife.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

Water, Water Everywhere. And Damn It’s Good to Drink.

We New Yorkers take it completely for granted. It’s the pure, sweet, good-tasting water we drink, cook with, shower, bathe and wash our hair in. It is, according to every resource we found, the best drinking water in the country.

The “champagne of drinking water”, as recently called in The New York Times, comes from a protected and pristine source, the Catskill/Delaware Watershed and, less so, the Croton Watershed.
Amazingly, it travels to NYC via a 100-year-old Catskill Aqueduct that runs more than 1,000 feet below the Hudson River. Along the way, it is monitored, treated to prevent lead pipe corrosion and with chlorine, subject to ultraviolet radiation to limit the harmful by-products of chlorine, and tested on a daily basis.

Living may be hard in New York City, but the water is soft. With low amounts of calcium and magnesium, it is less likely to dry out your skin and can feel almost silken when you bathe in it. Then again, our soft water doesn’t lather like in those TV commercials of gorgeous women washing their hair in tropical waterfalls.

Hard water, on the other hand, will lather profusely but then dry out your hair and skin. That would account for why when you’re on vacation in a hard water area like, let’s say, California, it’s not the sun, sand or surf that’s making your hair dull and styling difficult.

In another blog piece, “New York City: The Unlikely Green Utopia”, we summarized the many green qualities of the city that contribute to a very high environmental profile. One of those qualities was its drinking water, “world-renowned for its quality, each day more than 1 billion gallons is delivered…to the taps of 9 million customers.”

Compare that to Las Vegas where residents get hernias manhandling cases of bottled water because their tap water, rated among the nation’s worst, includes two types of radium, arsenic and lead (but doesn’t exceed legal limits for contaminants).

The quality of a city’s drinking water, except in extreme cases like Flint, Michigan, would not be a factor in any company’s decision to locate in a city or buy a building there. Yet New York City’s water quality is part of our mythology. You know how that goes. King of the hill. Top of the heap. A Number One.

No article about NYC drinking water can be written without discussing…bagels. Do we have the best? Yes. Ask why and most people and The New York Times will say it’s our water. But, foodies, and even the Culinary Institute of America, beg to differ. They say it’s not the water but New York City bagel bakers’ practice of fermenting the dough overnight and then boiling it before baking that makes our bagels soft, light and chewy with a delightfully thin crust. Got cream cheese?

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

How Green The City Garden Grows

Do you find it hard to believe green urban renewal is going on amid the congestion, noise, concrete, steel and sharp edges of New York City?

Look up my friends, and you might just see the mostly hidden but growing (pardon the pun) trend of rooftop gardens. Not just green roofs, but farms where you get dirt under your fingernails and grow food in the midst of our manicured, designer martini world.

It’s a movement being led by 21st Century hipsters, urban pioneers who are growing produce in up and coming neighborhoods, for both the community and restaurants that follow migrating, trendsetting populations.

As a commercial real estate appraiser, and the only one with a LEED-AP, BD + C designation in New York City, our property valuations consider the measureable worth of green spaces in and around a building. Landscaping adds approximately 7 percent to the average rental rate for office buildings, according to the National Resources Defense Council.

But the property value benefits of urban farming, both rooftop and ground level, have little to no empirical data. Obviously, parks and green spaces enhance the appeal and health of a city. But in a city as densely populated as New York, competition for available land is so intense that community gardens make no financial sense in many neighborhoods.

That’s why the value of ground level community gardens is significantly greater as a contributing factor to improving disadvantaged neighborhoods. As one example, in Detroit’s inner city where many buildings have been abandoned, the Michigan Urban Farming initiative is giving new life to those neighborhoods.

Here, GrowNYC’s program “builds and sustains community gardens, urban farms, school gardens and rainwater harvesting systems..” If you want a community garden, ask them for help (grownyc.com). It’s also a superb resource to find a community garden near you.

As for rooftop farms, roofs, unlike ground level spaces, are not sellable assets. A green or garden roof is an outstanding way to build value – if not actual revenue – from underutilized space. Though the city is not swimming in urban rooftop farms, growing season – May to October – is the time to ferret them out.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard Farm run by the Brooklyn Grange covers an extraordinary 68,0000 square feet. It’s the largest urban farm in the world and holds Wednesday tours. Brooklyn Grange also operates a one-acre rooftop farm on top of the 6-story Standard Motor Products Building in Long Island City.

At the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, you can shop for veggies from the on-site market every last Sunday of the month and even help with planting and harvesting. Gotham Greens at Whole Foods Market in Brooklyn also offers monthly tours of its large-scale rooftop greenhouse.

In The Bronx, Arbor House, a recent development of affordable multi-family green housing, includes a fully integrated rooftop farm. Using water harvested from the roof, it provides fresh vegetables to building residents and the community. As does another Bronx development, Via Verde, with its 5,000 square foot rooftop farm. Bronx Borough President Reuben Diaz Jr.’s office has financed more than 13 green roofs in the borough. And, if the Hunts Point rooftop garden ever gets off the ground (proposals were first submitted in 2012), it will dwarf the Brooklyn Navy Yard with its 10 acres and 200,000 square feet.

On the chicer side – no getting your hands dirty here – the Westin New York Grand Central Garden offers chef-led tours of its 41st floor private garden where organic everything (right down to the eco-friendly ladybugs) is grown for their own food & beverage use.

Today’s urban gardens give an entirely new twist to the mid-19th Century advice of “Go west, young man”. Perhaps the 21st Century urban version of Manifest Destiny is to “Look up young man – or woman.” Not to mention, “If you build it, they will come.” And plant. And harvest. And shop. And eat.
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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

New York, The Highly Unlikely Green Utopia

Architectural marvel. Magnificent buildings. Stunning skyscrapers. Electric. Eclectic. Exhilarating. Energetic. Exhausting. We could go on with New York City descriptions but the one you don’t often see is Environmentally Cutting Edge. Then again, unless you’re in a field where green, sustainability, climate control, energy and such are your focus, New York City’s leadership in progressive environmental policies may not ping on your radar screen.

“Anyplace that has such tall buildings and heavy traffic is obviously an environmental disaster – except that it isn’t,” said John Holtzclaw, a transportation consultant for the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, in an article entitled “Green Manhattan”, published in The New Yorker over a decade ago. His opinion still holds up to scrutiny though you may not think so in rush hour traffic when you’re being splashed with dirty water while inhaling exhaust fumes. Your vision of a perfect environmental landscape is more like verdant valleys, majestic mountains and meandering streams. But reality is that the density, towering buildings and limited green space of Manhattan create a sound environmental model.

Covering every why and whereof on the subject would require a book which is why we’re going to touch base on a short list of the good, the bad and works in progress.

New Yorkers experience pollution because building, street and population density concentrates pollutants which sadly lead to the city having a high childhood asthma rate and high cancer risk from airborne chemicals.

But all the news is far from all bad. According to the book The Big Green Apple: Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York City, “gasoline consumption in the city is at the rate the national average was in 1920.” To put that into perspective, in 1920 there were 7.5 million cars and trucks in the U.S.; In 2014, there were 256 million (and yes, it does seem like they all want to go through the Lincoln Tunnel at the same time). The city also has one of the largest fleets of hybrid busses in the country, as well as the most hybrid taxis to help alleviate the concentrated pollution.
Busses and taxis aside, because we are a mass transportation-based city, greenhouse gas emissions are already well below the national average but, realizing the threat climate change can mean, Mayor Bill de Blasio has set a goal of reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. This also includes reduction of energy usage and legal requirements for energy efficiency in buildings. At the same time, apartment and commercial office buildings are extremely energy-efficient structures.

New York City is a leader in green. LEED certification, the goal of many buildings, has become a driving force in setting green standards. The Solaire, a residential building in downtown Manhattan, was the first green residential building in the U.S. Many others have since followed its lead.

Prominent commercial buildings that broke new ground in green and sustainability include Conde Nast Tower in Times Square, 1 World Trade Center, Bank of America at One Bryant Park, Hearst Tower, The (new) New York Times Building and The Empire State Building. Although they are very difficult to realize, Net Zero or Zero Energy buildings are on the rise in the city, as are installations of solar panels.

And then there’s New York City’s famous water, a result of the purity of filtering in upstate protected areas. According to nyc.gov, “Each day, more than 1 billion gallons of fresh, clean water is delivered from large upstate reservoirs—some more than 125 miles from the City—to the taps of nine million customers.” To reduce waste, the city has also installed sprinkler caps on hydrants that provide city children with a refreshing outdoor summer shower.

And let’s not forget the city’s Greenmarkets, over 100 in the five boroughs, where farmers bring fresh produce to residents and restaurateurs on public spaces.

We live in a city of where government, companies, developers, residents and activists have come together with a mutual goal of creating one the world’s most livable, environmental progressive and healthy cities. With a nod to former Mayor Ed Koch’s trademark quote, ask me “How’re we doin’?” and I’d say “damn good.”


Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C
President, Metropolitan Valuation Services