State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Greenbuilding in Riverside Park

By Madeleine Dale

Greening a Parking Lot
Green Outlook to Replace Parking Lot – Photo by John Herrold, Director of Riverside Park

The future of green building grows in Riverside Park. The RCTA (Riverside Clay Tennis Association) under the auspices of Riverside Park Fund and NYC Parks and Recreation have proposed the radical transformation of an abandoned highway exit ramp.  The reclaimed pavement will become tthe future site of a wildflower meadow and a carbon-neutral public facility – the Green Outlook. Green Outlook, or GO, began as a modest plan to build composting toilets and evolved into an ambitious design for NYC’s frist sustainable structure.

Construction Site – Photo by John Herrold, Director of Riverside Park

The brainchild of a tennis player who worked for the Landmarks Conservancy, GO was born of necessity. At water’s edge, this area of Riverside Park has no connection to City sewage lines and a high water table rules out a septic tank.  In addition, any structure would have to harmonize with the natural landscape.  As it turned out, obstacles disguised opportunity.

When the RFPs came back, the scope had expanded into an ambitious project. Sparked by inspiration, architects designed a structure to make the Park greener.  The vision proposed a carbon-neutral facility, built of recycled materials, that will operate entirely off the grid by relying on solar energy, storm water recapture, composting toilets, grey water remediation, waste treatment and a green roof planted with native species.

Proposed Riverside Park site at 96th St
Hudson Overlook in Riverside Park – Photo by John Herold, Director of Riverside Park

State of the art technology doesn’t get more basic than composting toilets but that doesn’t make it cheap. The project has a $6M price tag. Heroic efforts by RCTA management and tbe Project Steering Committe, mobilized a community group to raise $40,000 for the feasibility study. Another $200,000 was required to complete the design phase.  Clearly, the idea had wings and local politicians added muscle to attract grants and squeeze tight government budgets. If this carbon neutral laboratory proves successful, expect park facilities in NYC and across the country to adopt the self-contained model.

Construction is still a few years away but the website GO includes a project diagram and details.  Visually and operationally organic, the facility will meet the highest green standards and serve as a future model for carbon neutral construction city, state and nation-wide.  

Madeleine Dale is pursuing a certificate at CERC.

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12 years ago

I feel like hvac independence would help this situation a lot. It needs to be cleaned up. If a group of people got together once a week that could be cleaned really quickly.