January 8 2013
Happy New Year! May 2013 bring exciting and challenging changes to your life. It certainly has already for me!
One of the most enjoyable, successful, well rounded projects I was involved in was the Bronx County Courthouse. Having recently moved from Harlem to Maryland back in 2006, I was still very familiar with the Bronx. In fact, my apartment building supervisor saw me running, one day as he told me later, and he wondering to himself, “What a crazy white woman would be running in the Bronx?” Unfortunately, this trip was not for leisurely running, or checking out a local band, or even hanging out at the park with friends.
Our pre-construction meeting was pretty entertaining. We had project managers, site supervisors (NJ Union roofers) running around, BOEDC funders, and the design team. The first thing we had to work through was fixing the leaky roof above the judges’ chambers. We were guaranteed NOTHING was going to happen until they were happy… and stayed dry.
The roof was already aging, but the desire to install a 10,000 sf green roof on a concrete deck, with 10’ parapet walls was an ideal pilot project that had been fully funded. The building was a very active County Courthouse and was located across from the old Yankee Stadium. We only had access on weekends and when the Yankees were playing Away. There were 2 weekends in June selected for installation.
The owner’s rep from BOEDC was very involved, even wanting to plant plugs right along side us. She was generally interested and had lobbied for the project long before we were the selected contractor. She was also interested in the maintenance and the success of the roof, so we stayed involved with each other for many months after we completed the project.
While the security guards were meant to be intimidating, I found them to be quite nice and friendly over time, and some were even curious about what we were doing there. The first part of the installation was laying out the root barrier, protection, drainage, and filter fabrics, creating the perimeters and craning up soil. I’ll admit the craning was pretty fantastic- we had a permit to close off the block and the crane had to reach 100’+ feet up and over.
And, while I thought the craning was pretty awesome, I’ll admit I was more entertained by our crews! All the stereotypes of the NJ and NY construction crews- yelling at each other, friendly loud swearing banter, and generally on time for work and their breaks- were all true! We also had a Hispanic crew that worked in a very different way- quiet, small chit chat, and working hard until they were done. What a dynamic! I don’t know that any crew members cared about what we were doing (specifically for the greater good of Greening the Bronx) but they were there to get paid and be efficient to get the job done.
The NJ guys gave me the nickname of Martha Stewart on the first day I was able to swap my construction hat for a sun hat. I should have guessed they would make fun of me for wearing it, and when I find a photo of my awesome hat, I will post it! BTW, that name stuck on every roof we worked on in the future. When I’d show up to a site I would hear someone yelling, “Yo, Hey Look! Martha Stewart’s back!” Some guys questioned how they were “supposed to plant those F#$’ing flowers” but I gained their respect overtime. I took the responsibility for driving a full crew cab truck from the Bronx through Washington Heights while following the site super towards the interstate into NJ. That was a tight fit. Oh, and I had to communicate using a Nextel direct connect… “10-4 Good Buddy!”
Part 2 of this story begins with me bringing up over 100’ of Netafim irrigation hose on Amtrak from Baltimore and squeezing on the #4 subway during the NYC rush hour…And meeting hot NYC firemen. But, you will have to wait for it :)