Earlier this year, SSBx was one of two green workforce organizations chosen to implement NYC °CoolRoofs, a collaboration between NYC Service and the NYC Department of Buildings that promotes and facilitates the cooling of NYC’s rooftops. From July through October, SSBx’s social enterprise — SmartRoofs — employed a dozen BEST Academy graduates five days a week who cleaned and coated roofs from the Bronx to Manhattan to Brooklyn.
The results? A resounding success.
“Sustainable South Bronx were a wonderful addition to the NYC °CoolRoofs program this season,” says Wendy Dessy, Partnerships Manager at the Mayor’s Office/NYC Service. “The SSBX team coated 268,654 square feet of rooftops this season and helped prepare buildings for the program’s volunteer days. Their hard work, dedication and enthusiasm helped us exceed our goal and coat 1,192,931 square feet of rooftops this season.”
The application of white, reflective paint to the roofs helps reduce cooling costs, cut energy usage, and lower greenhouse gas emission. For the BEST grads, it was a chance to participate in an exciting project while gaining valuable job experience. The fact that they were helping the environment made the work more rewarding. “We felt we were making a difference to the city, keeping the energy cost down. We really could feel that,” says Pierre Moore, a BEST B4B 2012 graduate who worked on °CoolRoofs all summer. ”We had a lot of people come out and ask about what we were doing. We told them we were there to clean the roof, paint it, and save you guys energy and money on your heating and electric bills. They were really interested and very grateful. Especially the supers and building owners.”
For B4B graduate Yolanda Regis, this was her first job doing physical labor outdoors. Formerly a retail store manager, Regis was promoted to Crew Leader mid-summer. “I wasn’t afraid to try because I like to learn new things, and I’m a worker,” says Regis. “But at first, I thought, ‘Man, I’m not going to be able to carry those buckets up and down the stairs.’ But then I got to the point where I was able to lift two buckets. It was like ‘Wow! I can do this.’ It was empowering.”
Residents were thrilled with the project. “I just wanted to send out a big thank you to all the volunteers of Sustainable South Bronx who made the dream of making our buildings a ‘greener’ place to live come true,” wrote Troy Martin, a resident of Hamilton Co-Op in Brooklyn. “Everyone was so friendly and hard working and we could not have gotten this done so quickly without your help. Thank you all!”
For Regis, the summer in the sun had a second, more personal benefit. “I’d been really struggling with my weight, and I lost 15 pounds doing CoolRoofs. I feel healthier. I have more energy. My blood pressure was borderline and that went down. And I can take these skills to the next job.”
The next job, for Regis, was helping with Hurricane Sandy, tearing down sheetrock, skimming oil off water and hauling away debris from Battery Park. “I had the strength to do the work because of CoolRoofs,” says Regis. Read about our BEST graduates’ work to help with hurricane clean-up here.
For more information about °CoolRoofs and SSBx’s social enterprise, SmartRoofs, contact SSBx Executive Director, Michael Brotchner, at firstname.lastname@example.org.