The December holiday period is noteworthy not only for end of year festivities, but for charitable giving, hospitality and caring. But what about the rest of the year? What cities rank highest in the country for volunteer work, donations to charities, being compassionate?

You guessed it, because most likely if you’re reading this (point of origin: New York City), you’re a New Yorker by birth, geography or spirit. And you know your tribe.

Forget that Travel + Leisure Magazine has repeatedly named New Yorkers the rudest people in America; we are also some of the most generous and kind. Caring, in fact, according to new research by Wallet Hub on “2018’s Most Caring Cities in America.”

Their methodology compared the top 100 most populated U.S. cities based on levels of caring for the community, the vulnerable, and in the workforce. They then did evaluations using metrics for each category ranging from crime rates to energy efficiency, child and adult poverty rates to pet shelters and rescues, and the number of social workers, physicians, doctors, special-ed teachers, firefighters and paramedics.

End result: Out of 100 U.S. cities, New York is #2. Yes, we said #2. Madison, Wisconsin was #1.

It may be difficult to believe that we are not a number one, top of the list. Guess we’ll just have to try harder.

See the report here:

https://wallethub.com/edu/most-caring-cities/17814/#methodology

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

According to a recently released UN report, the ozone layer is recovering from being depleted, first noted in the late 1970s and at its worst in the late 1990s.

Since then, with greatly reduced use of aerosol sprays and coolants containing man-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the ozone layer has been recovering at between 1-3% annually.

While progress has been made and we have more to look forward to, we won’t be doing a victory dance for a totally restored ozone layer until well past the mid-century mark at about the year 2060, which is where your grandkids come in.

Starting at about six miles above earth and continuing for another 25 miles, the ozone layer protects Earth from UV rays that cause skin cancer, have been linked to causing cataracts, negatively affects plant development, the early growth of marine life such as fish, shrimp, crabs and more that reverberates down the marine food chain, and biogeochemical cycles such as those from greenhouse gasses.

Were it not for the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which phased out CFCs, we would be looking at a very different scenario – the destruction of two-thirds of the ozone layer.

But, there is one great unknown. Ozone depletion is a double-edged environmental sword. The ozone layer is one part; the other is the ozone hole, which is the amount of ozone in the stratosphere around our polar regions. It seems the depleted ozone hole (which peaks in the fall months; is gone in December; and returns in spring) has shielded Antarctica from the greater effects of global warming.

Scientists don’t know how the polar regions will fare with restored full ozone, especially in light of the many initiatives to halt and repair global warming, but they do know what a depleted ozone layer would do the Earth.

We should know what to expect fairly soon or, most certainly, by 2060.

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

Kudos to the city and state governments, private and public sectors, building owners, office building tenants and residential occupants. The New York Times in its “Calculator” section has once again confirmed that New York City is one of the nation’s greenest cities.

Most of the credit, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy which recently released their 2017 report, goes to New York City’s government and its “One City: Built to Last” plan.

The ambitious plan includes energy and water retrofits, energy efficiency plans, supporting clean energy, expanding solar, increasing code enforcement and raising standards. The report also cited the City’s “upgraded fleet of energy-efficient municipal vehicles.”
One would think of New York City with its density, skyscrapers and heavy traffic as a least likely to be green environment. Yet it is that very density, tall buildings and limited green space that creates a sound environmental model. Our most significant category that still needs work is air pollution, although we have come a long way.

The report is below. New York came in second in rank, just after Boston, scoring 79.50 points out of a possible 100, and was followed by Seattle, Los Angeles and Portland to round out the top five greenest American cities.

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

The goal of biophilic design – and all increases to green space in any building – is to enhance creativity and encourage collaboration that results in less burnout and more turnout of new ideas through physical proximity to nature.

In Part One of this article, we explored the many options of adding green infrastructure to commercial buildings and the benefits that accrue to property owners who do so.

Here, in Part Two, we’ll explore more benefits as well as costs of gray vs. green infrastructure.

What savings and increases in property value can one expect when investing in green infrastructure? Let’s take a snapshot of one major project – installing a green roof. You’re 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 plantings and systems to be used – from relatively simple sedum and grasses to a veritable forest – that fit your budget, climate, facility and goals.

That being said, what is the ROI? For one thing, the estimated life of a green roof is twice that of a conventional roof, avoiding that replacement cost (especially if you wisely install a green roof at the end of the current roof’s life expectancy). You’ll have energy savings because of the green roof’s insulating qualities and reductions in heating and cooling. There will be tax credits which vary. Your rents and length of tenancy will probably increase. You may have a reduction in storm water fees. Taking a long-term view of two or more decades, savings for a medium-size office building can be $1+ million.
But, how you calculate makes a difference. Will your cost analysis figure only the initial costs of installing green infrastructure, or will you include the costs of design, installation, operation, maintenance and replacement?

Regardless, the comparison of green vs. gray infrastructure is both art and science because there are intangible benefits such as the difficulty in valuing enhanced safety, or habitat improvements for beneficial wildlife, or greater office worker productivity. Put another way, there is a difference between cost analysis vs. cost-benefit analysis.

As a commercial real estate appraiser and the only one in New York City with a LEED-AP BD+C credential, I can tell you that in determining building value, green infrastructure has become a growing part of assessment. I also believe that it is only a matter of time before lenders will require green analysis in their underwriting considerations.

Trees, shrubs, gardens, fountains, permeable pavements, bioswales, planters, green walls. All contribute tremendous benefits to property owners, tenants and communities.

To explore the topic further, epa.gov has in-depth information on green infrastructure as well as help with finding resources in your community and collaborating with partners.

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

Going green, in its many ways, is a recurring theme of mine. Whether green roofs, biophilic design, green trends, low-cost tips for going green, greening offices, conference rooms and lobbies, laying permeable pavements and planting trees, greening the office building and environment and green infrastructure creates value.

What kind of value and how much depends on what you’re including and how you’re calculating, and we’ll get back to that in Part Two of this post.

But, for now, let’s explore how property owners benefit financially and from the health and environmental perspective by investing in green infrastructure.

If you’re a commercial property owner, when you invest in green infrastructure, you are investing in increasing your rents, length of tenancies, property value and NOI through energy savings, government tax credits, private financial incentives, reduced maintenance costs, water reduction and even on-site safety.
Enlightened companies – and there are many – can be swayed by the beauty, cleaner air and relaxation opportunities of locating their offices within a building with a green roof, living indoor green walls and private gardens. But they can be swayed even further by the body of knowledge that indisputably proves workers take less sick days, stay at their jobs longer and are more productive when working in green buildings, especially with offices designed along sustainability best practices.

As baby boomers continue to retire, the office environments of their era are being retired with them. To attract new talent, companies are embracing workplace strategies that appeal to younger generations’ work styles – freedom to roam, informal settings, alternative work areas, natural light and other green elements.

Take, for example, Amazon’s recent expansion of its Seattle headquarters – three glass spheres that house 40,000 plants from 400 species, creating an indoor rain forest. Instead of conventional offices (and, heaven forbid, cubicles), there are attractive wooden walkways open to the sphere with unexpected stopping and meeting points where employees can chance upon tables, chairs and lounges. The company, known for its challenging work ethic, hopes that the headquarters’ unusual design and extensive greenery will spark new collaborations, ideas and products.

Amazon may be the current poster child headquarters of biophilic design, but other leading companies including Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google are also trendsetters with regard to testing and adapting green design – sometimes right down to carpet configurations, colors and designs in their facilities.

The goal is enhanced creativity and collaboration, less burnout and more turnout of new ideas by enriching physical proximity to nature.

In Part 2 we’ll explore more benefits as well as costs of gray vs. green infrastructure.

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

New York City has always been a magnet for the best and brightest. But a new study, done in China but relevant to New York City – in fact, relevant to 95% of the world – indicates that being a part of the city that never sleeps means paying a price in, of all things, intelligence.

The study, undertaken as part of the China Panel Family Studies done over four years, is the first to take men and women of all ages into account with regard to the physical and mental damage done by air pollution.

According to nyc.gov, air pollution is a problem for all populations, but especially so for New York City residents. A publication “Air Pollution and the Health of New Yorkers:

The Impact of Fine Particles and Ozone” states that as air pollution is never listed as a cause for hospitalization, statistical methods had to be used for their conclusions.

The report analyzed fine particles from on and off-road vehicles, fossil fuel combustion and heating commercial and residential buildings, commercial cooking, road dust, demolition and construction. Ozone was analyzed from April 1st – September 30th as ozone levels greatly increase during warmer months.

The conclusion: “Current exposures…cause more than 3,000 premature deaths, more than 2,000 hospitalizations due to respiratory and cardiovascular causes, and approximately 6,000 emergency department visits for asthma in New York City annually.” A 2016 MIT Senseable City Lab study concluded much more generally that our air is toxic.

Lest you are feeling disheartened by our current air quality, back in the mid-1960s, New York had the filthiest air of any big city in the country. On Thanksgiving weekend in 1966, 200 people died because of the haze of warm temperature smog.

The up note is: we have come a very long way from those noxious, sulfurous days including achievable goals for the PlaNYC goal of “cleanest air of any big city” by 2030.

Meanwhile, back in China, their study showed that toxic air produces a significant reduction in intelligence equal to losing a year of education. The effects are worse for anyone age 64 and older, for men more than women (I know this comes as shock to you, but male and female brains work differently), and for those with lower education levels.

All we can say to all this is stay smart, my friends. Support the City’s efforts to reduce air pollution through their reduce and retrofit programs, monitoring, new codes, emissions control and conversion to alternative, cleaner fuels. Intelligent life depends on it.

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

Think what you will of the New York City Council, you’ve got to give them credit for one of their latest initiatives – a bill to require all new construction, buildings undergoing major renovations and those remodeling their roofs to install a green roof, solar or small wind turbines.

Addressing all of the above would be too lengthy in one take, so we’ll offer a snapshot of how green roofs benefit various groups – the city, property, general public, property owners and building tenants. As New York City’s only LEED-AP BD+C commercial real estate appraiser, I have long advocated installing green roofs from the strictly business point of view of increasing building value.

As an ardent environmentalist, I also champion green roofs and biophilic design for the many ecofriendly effects they deliver.

To build a green roof, there are codes, conditions and complexities that are challenging. Considerations include load capacity; percentage of garden vs. useable roof space; structural feasibility and capacity; waterproofing; types of plantings (extensive or intensive); modular or built-in; purpose (to use or view); climate such as access to full or partial sunlight. Then you can design, install, irrigate and otherwise maintain it. All this is to say: you’re going to need experts as in a structural engineer, architect, and professional landscaping company.

Understandably, affordability is a big factor. It’s a major capital expenditure that will provide excellent ROI, but short-term costs must be met. Those who oppose the new bill do so on the basis of cost: whether it can be done and, if it is, that installations will lead to higher tenant rents.

Councilman Rafael Espinal of Brooklyn, the bill’s lead sponsor, acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times that “green roofs are often considered a luxury and buildings that have them may be sold at a premium. But passing these bills would make green roofs the norm across the five boroughs, and in turn, make it more cost-efficient for anyone looking to buy or rent an apartment.”

Tracking back to the “what’s in it for me?” question with regard to greening rooftops, the city benefits by having cleaner air, water, lower carbon emissions and a healthier wildlife environment.

The general public benefits by the decrease in the number of people using city plazas, parks and streets who are, instead using private roof gardens.

Roof gardens also help to mitigate the Urban Heat Island Effect created by surfaces like dark roofs, concrete and asphalt and resulting in temperatures as much as 20 degrees hotter than areas less dense. Additionally, with green roofs acting as storm water management systems, fewer pollutants will flow into the city’s waterways.

The property benefits from extended roof life, reduced AC and heating costs, more fire retardant surfaces, lowered noise and better air quality.

Tenants benefit from a very desirable amenity being added to their place of work or residence that is private, well cared for, nearby for relaxation and entertainment, and adds to productivity.

For property owners – commercial building owners, as well as individual owners of co-op and condo units – a roof garden adds value. It is different in form, but not in concept, from any major capital improvement.

Which brings us full circle to cost. If the City Council bill passes, property owners will have to bite the bullet on budget. But, there is help available. Though the Property Tax Abatement for green roofs is currently dormant, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) offers a green infrastructure grant program for private property owners in the city.

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PHOTO: This 55ksf extensive green roof was created by Brondie’s Treehouse, Inc. and serves multiple functions.


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

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

Can you even imagine 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic? 80,000 tons of it plus fishing line and other assorted trash? In a watery scrapheap twice the size of Texas?

It’s the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located between Hawaii and California that has long been a cause of great environmental concern for the ongoing viability of marine life.

Now, a not-for-profit company named The Ocean Cleanup, founded by its CEO, 23-year-old Boyan Slat of The Netherlands, will soon launch its technology into the Pacific with the goal of reducing the patch by 50% within five years.

The technology was extensively tested using a 200-foot long pipe with a hanging skirt that drifts with the tide. Solar-powered, it is self-directed and finds optimum pick-up sites using an algorithm.
According to The Ocean Cleanup, “On September 8th, 2018, the 600 meter long Array 001 (note: 600 meters is just shy of 2,000 feet) will make its way out from Alameda, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and out into the Pacific ocean.”

As there never seems to be a solution without critics, many conservationists prefer effort to be expended in reducing ocean waste rather than cleaning it up. Others have expressed concern that it will entrap marine life.

The Ocean Cleanup responds by saying the pipe and its skirt are passive, moving very slowly with the tide, allowing plenty of time for marine life to escape under its skirt. They are in agreement that their goal of ridding earth’s oceans of plastics by 2050 will require a joint effort of both clean up as well as source reduction.

You can see the technology for yourself in the video or by logging onto https://www.theoceancleanup.com/

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PHOTO: Ocean Cleanup


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

New York City’s urban density and the astronomical cost of every square foot of real estate, precludes garden-grown food except in pockets of community gardens, the small backyards of homeowners, and growing number of rooftop farms.

But, among them all, the only water-based resource is Swale, a 130-foot long floating barge where a growing garden of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs are offered to the public for free harvesting.

Artist Mary Mattingly founded Swale with a grant from A Blade of Grass whose mission is to nurture socially engaged art that furthers social change.

Mattingly is a noted artist who builds living systems, making Swale an extension of her artistic innovation and advocate for growing food on the City’s public land – 30,000 acres of parks where people are currently forbidden to pick fruits or other greens. In fact, Swale is the only legal facility for foraging in the city.

Swale offers learning, harvesting and volunteering opportunities. Having begun in 2016 at the Concrete Plant Park in the South Bronx (one of the City’s most fresh produce-poor areas) and moving to Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 in 2017, Swale can currently be found at Brooklyn Army Terminal, Pier 4 at 58th Street,

Saturdays and Sundays from 12PM – 6PM through August 1st.

Log onto the Swale website (swaleny.org) for Mattingly’s point of view with regard to use of public land and waterways, organizations she is partnering with, directions on how to get to the Brooklyn Army Terminal pier and parking, and what’s on board the barge this summer, from the apple persimmon and plum canopy to asparagus, lavender, lettuce, oregano, Swiss chard, kale, wild leek and much more.

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