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Expanding Green Space: Living Roofs in Harlem

Throughout our studies of the history of environmental justice in Harlem, we became acutely aware of a variety of compounding factors that informed the well-being of community residents. Heat prostration, water handling, energy use, access to green spaces, and climate change are among the key issues that Harlem has faced and continues to face. This proposal seeks to address these issues through an intervention with its historic tenements—a typology that represents a great portion of Harlem’s built fabric. In light of this research, I propose a pilot project in which historic tenements of Harlem are fitted with green roofs. This proposal aims to confront issues of landscape vulnerability with regard to flooding and the inadvertent spread of contaminants through stormwater runoff. Regarding housing inequities, the implementation of extensive green roofs, especially in older tenement buildings, presents a more external, less invasive measure to keep homes cooler during the summer months. Finally, the addition of green space equal to that of these building footprints has the potential to drastically increase Harlem’s usable open space.