Right in the heart of New York City’s newest up-and-coming neighborhood is a 7-acre green roof, on the fourth level of the Jacob Javits Convention Center. And on a rainy Tuesday in August, I got to tour that roof.
The roof is planted with sedum, a low-maintenance, mostly green plant with shallow roots. Thus, the soil doesn’t have to be very deep to reap the benefits of landscaping. A green roof provides insulation to the building below it: It’s cooler in the summertime and not as cold in the winter.
A structure the size of the Javits Center certainly benefits from this. It’s 760,000 square feet, most of it raw space that is specially configured for each event that it hosts. Much of the exterior is glass. When it was built, Javits’ glass was dark and unpatterned. Birds would fly right into the glass, thinking that their reflections were other birds. The Javits Center replaced that with clear dotted glass, saving many an avian life.
Instead of dying, birds are nesting on the roof. Ten bird species are said to be living there. The Javits staff are also using plants and sound to attract bees and bats. The hope is that the bees would pollinate, creating even more foliage. I’m not sure why they want bats. Bats are creepy.
The Javits Center has always been located at West 34 Street across the street from the Hudson River. The neighborhood was ugly and a little frightening. Recent years have seen the area renamed Hudson Yards because of the train storage there, with shiny new buildings going up all around. One subway line was extended west to the neighborhood.
The massive complex will get even bigger with the next renovation, as will their green roof. Free tours last about an hour; more information is available on their website: http://www.javitscenter.com/attend/green-roof-tours. The tours are suitable for children as well as adults. There is a waiting list, which is why I didn’t think twice about attending in the rain. I suggest you schedule your tour so that you have time to walk along the Highline, whose entrance is right across the street from Javits. It’s a beautiful path above and along the river, extending from West 34 Street to West 14 Street.