Change Maker Series:Interview with Manhattan Borough President Brewer

Last week, we spoke with Manhattan Borough President Brewer as part of our change maker series. The Change Maker series is a conversation with elected officials, nonprofit professionals, and environmental advocates working to mitigate climate change in creative and tangible ways.

Thank you MBP Brewer!

White Roof Project:

During the Bloomberg administration, sustainable building policy was a legislative priority. Do you think that sustainability standards will continue to be a major concern this year?

MBP Brewer:

Yes, absolutely. Some major concerns include working with schools to make buildings more green. There needs to be more oversight. Sometimes it is as simple as making sure that lights and computers are turned off at night. Sometimes it is encouraging more intensive measures such as white roofing and solar panels. As a New York City Council Member I funded a lot of green houses and gardens. This is something that I am very interested in. The latter also speaks to issues of food insecurity. That is a big concern for Manhattan residents. Finally, I am always thinking about asthma and the health related effects of smog. This is something that can be addressed with stricter standards as well. These are issues that I have been working on and that I plan to keep working on as Manhattan Borough President.

White Roof Project:

We think a lot about the connection between smog and asthma. One of the benefits of clustered white roof buildings is a reduction in ambient air temperature. Lower air temperatures trap fewer smog particles, so lowering summer air temperature is one way to help combat rising asthma rates in the city. This is why we like to focus on coating entire city blocks in super hot neighborhoods. 

White Roof Project:

Are there any additional environmental concerns that you plan to address as Manhattan Borough President?

MBP Brewer:

The Manhattan Borough President makes appointments to the Solid Waste Advisory Board. This has nothing to do with roofs and may sound pedantic, but it is actually very important. Issues of waste and recycling are very important to Manhattan residents. The less trash we can put in landfills the better.

White Roof Project Note: The Solid Waste Advisory Board is a non-governmental organization which works in conjunction with the Manhattan Borough President’s Office to encourage and support recycling policy and increase recycling and waste reduction in and around Manhattan.

White Roof Project:

You were instrumental in the passage of Local Law 21 of 2012, which strengthens the roof coating standards to require more reflective and emissive materials. Of course, we support this law. How do you think it is working? How can we strengthen the legislation?

MBP Brewer:

I strongly supported the change to the building code. We do need more data on how the law is working. Groups like yours are well positioned to get that information. You might look at who has gotten permits or ask the City Council for a hearing on oversight. The Housing and Buildings Committee should be interested issue of white roofs and how many roofs have complied with the new code since its passage.

White Roof Project:

The new administration has already shown us that development will be a legislative priority. How do we keep green building standards/ projects on the agenda as we expand development?

MBP Brewer:

There are some standing partnerships in Manhattan that are doing great work. They are seeking to address the whole building envelope. I know of a lot above 96th Street. I just set in on the working group of a partnership that is being run out of the Hunter School for Social Work. This meeting was very productive. It brought people together. Trying not to have silos is very important. There are a lot of good groups doing important work around the city. Creating conduits for these groups to come together to make progress is the way to get communities more involved in sustainability. I think it is important for public officials not to stay isolated in their own departments but to come together and to meet with these groups. For example, environmental and health groups need to work together since many issues they address overlap. There were health officials at the recent environmental group meeting I attended. That dialogue is a step in the right direction. 


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