Blue and Green: Blue Sea Development’s Forest Homes Mark Another Green Triumph In The Bronx

A few decades ago, the Bronx was a collection of smoldering ruins and intractable social problems. Today, it’s home to a green building renaissance.

To a certain degree, every gbNYC post on green building in the Bronx follows a certain template. I mention that the perception of the Bronx doesn’t so much include the idea of it being a green mini-metropolis so much as it does being a super-squalid urban ruin. Then I link to the “In The South Bronx of America” photos by Mel Rosenthal. My first post on the LEED for Neighborhoods certification awarded to the Bronx neighborhood of Melrose Commons is kind of the ur-text of the gbNYC Surprisingly Green Bronx genre — if you’ve read that one, you’ve read more or less read everything I’ve written about the Bronx at gbNYC. Which, I know, is besides the point, unless you’re working on some sort of senior thesis about my blogging here. In which case, obviously, 1) good luck and 2) you should really pick another thesis topic.

The point itself being that I have been writing about the Bronx a lot over the last year — whether because it’s home to NYC’s only LEED for Neighborhoods ‘hood (and because I love LEED for Neighborhoods) or a host of impressive green low-income housing and charter schools or a LEED Silver mall or a bumper crop of ambitious green development projects. (And there are things I don’t cover enough, like Sustainable South Bronx) That’s probably still not as much as I write about some other neighborhoods, but it’s far more than anyone would expect given the fact that the Bronx is the poorest borough and thus was something of a forgotten entity in the mega-development-happy boom. I would bet almost any amount of money that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has never been anywhere in the Bronx but Yankee Stadium (and maybe Stan The Man’s Baseball Land, if he had to check his bag or wanted an A.J. Burnett t-shirt), but his vision of a greener, more efficient New York City is finding perhaps its truest fulfillment in the Boogie Down. I’d love to write — or failing that, read — a big-picture discussion of how this unlikely green revolution has unfolded. For the time being, though, it’s tough just to keep up with all the good green news coming out of the Boogie Down.

In The Ecologist, Gwen Schantz offers an in-depth look at Blue Sea Development’s green low-income Forest Houses, in the South Bronx’s Morrisania neighborhood. The building, which is pursuing an as-yet unspecified level of LEED certification, looks like another green triumph for Blue Sea, which can already claim credit for building NYC’s first Energy Star, LEED Silver and LEED Platinum affordable housing developments. Schantz delivers on the green building dork-porn side of things, breaking down everything from the energy-efficient elevators to the 10,000 square foot hydroponic greenhouse on the development’s roof.

“Set against the vast majority of New York City housing – affordable and otherwise – the Forest Houses development will be a sustainable wonder, but it is significant that the building is rising in a low-income neighbourhood,” Schantz writes. “The variety, availability and price of green materials and technologies has improved dramatically over the past few decades, facilitating the expansion of a commercial green building sector that goes beyond high-end green buildings for the wealthy. ‘When we started out you could count your options on one hand,’ says Bluestone.” That’s the sort of big-picture context that it’s nice to see in a you-won’t-believe-this-crazy-green-building piece, but it also sort of buries the lede — you’d need at least two hands, and several fingers of a friend’s, to tote up all the green building successes in the Bronx over the past year-plus. Not since KRS-One figured out that rap would never die has Bronx set a trend this positive, or this decisively. It might — might — even be enough to entice Bloomberg to the borough sometime.

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