NYC Parks Green Roof Development + New Youth Sustainability Corps




Photo credit: NYC Parks/Malcolm Pinckney

NYC Parks Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff announced, in response to increasingly frequent storms like Hurricane Ida, a commitment to expand Parks’ green roofs by 50,000 sqft–bringing the agency’s total to 250,000 sqft–and the creation of a brand new Youth Sustainability Corps (YSC) giving NYC school students hands-on training in green job skills. This marks a major step forward in greening and stormwater management atop City owned buildings and reaffirms Parks’ commitment to a greener future for New York City.

The new 50,000 sqft of Xero Flor 2” extensive sedum green roof systems will save the City $8.65 million dollars while absorbing 1.5 million gallons of stormwater each year–the same amount of water it takes Parks to fill 15 intermediate-sized pools–and decreasing temperatures on Parks black rooftops by up to 90 degrees, down from 170 degrees. These six new green roofs will be planned and developed by Parks’ newly created Youth Sustainability Corps, part of the Department of Youth & Community Development’s (DYCD) Work Learn Grow program and funded by the City Cleanup Corps economic recovery program. As members of Parks inaugural YSC class, its 30 New York City  students will receive targeted sustainability project training, explore green careers, and develop hard and soft skills, with a focus on the environment, that are critical in preparing them for the workforce. The Youth Sustainability Corps will wear a uniform t-shirt designed specifically for this program in partnership with Fashion Institute of Technology’s Design and Technology Lab, an extension of the FIT’s Center for Innovation.

Photo credit: NYC Parks/Malcolm Pinckney

“New York City’s future depends on us taking immediate steps to combat the effects of climate change and the threat of extreme flooding like we saw last summer during Hurricane Ida,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff. “As a leader in City green roofs, Parks is stepping up to add 50,000 square feet to our already robust system of green roofs, and to train the next generation of green innovators with the Youth Sustainability Corps. We’re grateful to our partners at the Department of Youth & Community Development and the Fashion Institute of Technology, for supporting our vision to invest in young New Yorkers and inspire them on a path to green careers.”

“DYCD and the Work, Learn, Grow (WLG) program are proud to partner with NYC Parks on this exciting new initiative that introduces young people to green careers, environmental justice, and opportunities to repurpose rooftops and help us better weather our rapidly changing environment. Students interning with the Youth Sustainability Corps will get hands-on training while gaining work readiness skills and exploring careers with in-demand industries,” said DYCD Commissioner Bill Chong.

“At FIT, sustainability is a way of life, one fueled, in part, by the enthusiasm and passion of our students—who were delighted to contribute to the Green Roof project,” said FIT President Dr. Joyce F. Brown.  “The design they created for the new Youth Sustainability Corps t-shirt reflects Commissioner Fialkoff’s inspiring vision for this project—and it makes me very proud.”

“Our goal was to create a recognizable image for Green Roofs, allowing participants to walk away from the program with something to remember it by and be proud to wear,” said FIT students Cailey McKenna and Osvaldo Aguilar. “We focused on reflecting leadership, boldness, equity, and the educational importance Green Roofs has for the future leaders of sustainability. The illustrative graphic is reflective of the layered substrates which allow the Green Roofs operation to be possible. When paired with the main GR graphic, the two work together creating an impactful visual that can be changed and used across all forms of media and applications.”

Photo credit: NYC Parks/Malcolm Pinckney

Commissioner Fialkoff was joined during the announcement at the Jackie Robinson Recreation Center in Harlem by Ben Furnas, Director, Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability, Valerie Mulligan, DYCD Deputy Commissioner of Youth Workforce Connect, Dr. Joyce F. Brown, President of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Emily Nobel Maxwell, New York Cities Program Director for The Nature Conservancy, State Senator Robert Jackson, and Assembly Member Al Taylor.

“NYC Parks is showing the world how it’s done with sustainable green roofs,” said Ben Furnas, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability. “These green roofs sequester carbon, combat urban heat islands, and help reduce energy use in buildings. What’s more, young New Yorkers will work on these exciting climate projects as the green economy continues to grow in New York City.”

“As the impacts and threats of climate change become more frequent and intense, nature-based solutions such as green roofs are essential for New Yorkers,” said Emily Nobel Maxwell, New York Cities Director for The Nature Conservancy. “Less than 0.1% of New York City’s 1 million buildings have green roofs, so we are thrilled to see the Parks Department take this bold and ambitious step to both expand green roofs and establishthe associated training programs to tap into the city’s enormous potential. Growing green roofs and the nature-based workforce needed to support them helps to address climate and environmental challenges and will grow our green economy to ensure a healthier, more sustainable future for New Yorkers.”

Photo credit: NYC Parks/Malcolm Pinckney

Green roofs provide a host of benefits to the city including stormwater capture, ambient temperature reduction, insulation, improved air quality, and increased biodiversity. July 2021 was the hottest month on record according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. As New York City deals with the effects of climate change, our green roofs are essential in reducing the city’s heat island effect, by lowering energy demand and cost required to cool buildings.

This year, NYC Parks has partnered with DYCD, the Mayor’s Office of Youth Employment, and the City Cleanup Corps to develop the very first Youth Sustainability Corps (YSC), a specialized Parks green job internship program within DYCD’s Work Learn Grow program where students gain work readiness, explore careers in the green economy, and receive targeted employment training and skills development with a focus on environmental justice and the City’s overall recovery. Parks’ YSC students will work 75 hours on weekends and school breaks through March 5, 2022, getting technical training from NYC Parks’ experts on sustainable facilities to plan out the innovative green roof infrastructure. They will get hands-on experience in the full scope of green roof installation, and learn about systemic environmental challenges and a broad range of sustainable solutions NYC Parks is piloting. These program components combined and funded through Mayor de Blasio’s City Cleanup Corps economic recovery program, will serve 30 young people from New York City schools with 225 hours of program, for a total earnings of $3,375 per student.

NYC Parks has also partnered with Fashion Institute of Technology’s Design and Technology Lab, an extension of FIT’s Center for Innovation, to create an impactful design that captures the Green Roofs initiative’s forward thinking and will serve as a uniform for the Youth Sustainability Corps.  Students and faculty who worked on this project were a cross section of majors and expertise from across the college. Working in a team environment outside of their traditional coursework, students engaged in experiential learning under the mentorship of the faculty and the DTech team. Students identified the core values of the program as equity, sustainability, future leaders and education and sought to capture these principles in their designs.  We are grateful to FIT and President Dr. Joyce F. Brown for their partnership and continued commitment to innovation and sustainability, diversity, and inclusion.

Since 2008, Parks has taken green space to new heights by building green roofs on 33 facilities across the city. Parks currently maintains more than 200,000 square feet of rooftop systems, including native plants, sedums, green walls, hydroponic towers, a vegetable and herb farm, and honeybee hives. When the additional 50,000 sq ft of green roofs are installed, one quarter of all Parks flat rooftops will have green roofs. The total 250,000+ sqft of green roofs will capture nearly 8 million gallons of stormwater annually, keeping the water from entering the City’s already overstressed sewer system.


Photo credit: NYC Parks/Malcolm Pinckney

Beginning April 2022, the new green roofs will be built at the following locations:

  • Brooklyn: Prospect Park Garage (12,500 sqft)
  • Bronx: Kwame Ture Recreation Center (4,500 sqft) and St. Mary’s Recreation Center (17,500 sqft)
  • Manhattan: Sheltering Arms Pool House (5,500 sqft)
  • Queens: Rockaway Beach 17 Street Operations Building (6,500 sqft)

Staten Island: Midland Beach Playground Comfort Station (2,500 sqft)

At a cost of only $14 per square foot, Parks’ green roofs are an economical feature that result in cost savings over time. The estimated cost of installing this additional 50,000 sqft is only $500,000 and will provide projected savings of approximately $8.65 million to the City.

“New York City continues to advance innovative ways to fight climate change while also beautifying our city and investing in our future,” said Jainey Bavishi, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency. “We’ve proven that it’s possible for large cities to commit to green initiatives that cool our neighborhoods, absorb stormwater, and make our communities more resilient and sustainable for generations to come.”

“Participants in the Youth Sustainability Corps will learn by doing, and earn while learning,” said David Fischer, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Youth Employment (MOYE). “Even better, they will gain exposure to a field projected to see enormous job growth in the years ahead. MOYE is delighted to partner with Parks and DYCD on this exciting initiative.”

“We’re thrilled to celebrate the launch of and to provide funding for the Youth Sustainability Corps which builds on the work of the City Cleanup Corps (CCC) to refresh and revitalize public spaces citywide, and will help to ensure New York City is among the cleanest and greenest cities in the country,” said Chris Neale, Acting Director of the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, who leads the City Cleanup Corps. “We’re seeing firsthand how jobs, hands-on experience, and career tools are empowering over 10,000 New Yorkers employed by the CCC, and we are pleased to partner with Parks and DYCD to support the students participating in this paid opportunity.”

“As we work to make our city more resilient to the changing climate, it is imperative that we build green infrastructure wherever we can and the Parks Department is to be commended for this commitment to greening their own facilities and managing stormwater on-site,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza.  “By keeping stormwater out of the sewer system, these green roofs will help to reduce localized flooding and any overflows into local waterways – a winning combination!”

Youth Sustainability Corps (YSC) – Schools


Brooklyn Technical High School

New Utrecht High School



The Bronx High School of Science

Hostos Community College

Lehman College

Eximius Preparatory Academy

Computer Science High School



A. Philip Randolph Campus High School

Harlem Prep High School

City College of NY

Borough of Manhattan Community College

Baruch College



Francis Lewis High School

William Cullen Bryant High School

John Bowne High School

Aviation High School

Did you know that the Javits Center has the largest Green Roof in New York City?