New York City-based policy makers and green advocates often strike a self-congratulatory tone when recounting how the city is already the greenest in the U.S. thanks to strong population density, good public transit, and limited car ownership by New Yorkers. Yet, ask New Yorkers whether they enjoy living in such close proximity to their neighbors and whether they appreciate the high costs of monthly parking that make car ownership prohibitive and it readily becomes apparent that the policy wonks are describing a situation that has little do with sustainability and even less to do with concerns for quality of life.
Now, if New York City’s policy makers were to make their claims about the city’s leadership role as the center of urban sustainability and green innovation based on the entrepreneurial activities underway here, their claims would ring significantly less hollow and would in fact be true. For it is here that green residential building demonstrates in the largest numbers the possibilities for leading outrageously cool lifestyles that are aligned with a cleaner planet. Take for instance the Solaire, Versdesian, Visionaire, and Tribeca Green apartment buildings that line the downtown skyline from Tribeca to Battery Park City. Or the nearby green condos at the Millennium Tower Residences or One River Park Terrace. All of these residential towers are or will be LEED-certified and also include advanced systems for healthy living with regard to their state-of-the-art air and water filtration systems. Midtown Manhattan has the Helena and Archstone Clinton green residential towers. Roosevelt Island has The Octagon with the largest solar array of any building in New York City. Harlem has the Kalahari and 1400 on 5th which provides mixed-income housing opportunities attesting to the fact that healthy, green living presents options for the many and not simply for the wealthy few.
New York City’s creative energies are also evidenced in Brooklyn’s growing leadership role as a hub of contemporary sustainable furniture design. Firms like Brave Space, Cambium Studio, Bettencourt Woodworking, and Delano Collection work with renewable materials with a modern aesthetic such as bamboo. Scrapile, Moe Design Studio, and Niche Design transform reclaimed materials into stunning creations. Argington, Oeuf, and Igloo Play are at the forefront of an emerging movement that emphasizes healthy, environmentally smart furniture for children using materials such as FSC-certified sustainable wood or particle board that is free of toxins and made from recovered wood.
Back across the river in Manhattan, Q Collection, a leader in design-driven, environmentally smart furniture, has its headquarters and showroom. Modernlink is in Soho and utilizes bamboo for its furniture to achieve a strong contemporary aesthetic that is both powerful and elegant. And David Bergman crafts his Fire&Water line of eco-friendly lighting on the Lower East Side.
New York City has always been known for its dynamism and creative energy that attracts bright, entrepreneurial talent from around the world. That talent is turning this city into a bastion of green innovation and with it the promise of increasingly enticing ways to align our urban lifestyles with a cleaner planet without sacrifice and with a strong nod toward design.
*Josh Dorfman is the Founder and CEO of Vivavi, a Brooklyn-based provider of contemporary sustainable furniture, and Modern Green Living, an online resource that enables homeowners and renters to find available green residences and locate green building professionals throughout North America. He is also the Producer and Host of The Lazy Environmentalist radio show airing on the Lime Channel of Sirius Satellite Radio. His book, The Lazy Environmentalist: Your Guide to Easy, Stylish, Green Living, will be published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang this Spring.