Kids Press for Green Roofs on City Schools

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A group of young environmentalists said they are hoping to get green roofs built on top of all of New York City's public school buildings. But they'll be happy to start with one in each borough.

Students from the non-profit group Global Kids have launched a petition asking Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott to support a green roof pilot program to help reduce the city's reliance on fossil fuels used to heat the buildings and connect students to the natural world around them.

“A green roof would help the kids have better grades because it’s proven. Seeing green will help you do better,” said Shazeda Omar, a 17-year-old student at Benjamin Banneker Academy. “Also teachers will have facts and information right there on the green roof to show the students.”

The students note that green roofs reduce stormwater runoff and keep buildings naturally cool in urban areas. Over time, the roofs could save money which offsets some of the costs of installing a green roof, said Molly Delano, director of human rights education at Global Kids.

“We know that green roofs cost money. But we also know that they save money, so we have been doing research so that the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority together can learn the best cost-saving techniques,” Delano said.

The estimated cost of installing a large green roof is $80,000 to $1 million, said Fiodhna O’Grady, Green Roof Director at the Salk School of Science, but the costs depend on the kind of building and the roof’s current condition.

“It all depends, and with public schools, you’re dealing with the School Construction Authority, which currently does not have a green roof installation policy in place,” O’Grady said.

The students have not yet received a response from the Department of Education. They plan to continue gathering signatures for their petition in person and online. Currently, they have more than 900 signatures.