You’ve seen the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and it made an impact. You’ve changed your ways. You’ve switched to energy efficient light bulbs and sworn off bottled water. You’re recycling (even composting),and last year you re-insulated your home. You’re making a difference! While going green is relatively easy for the average Joe, if you are a Fortune 500 Company, a billion dollar real estate developer, or a mega-retailer, it is far more complex. How can businesses reduce their carbon footprint? How can they start to reduce their power usage? How will they navigate the maze of tax credits that may or may not apply to their brand new HVAC system? And most important, how can businesses accomplish these greener goals and still remain profitable?Paving the road for sustainable development are the Brooklyn Law School graduates profiled here. Working with the most influential developers and renewable energy providers in New York City and beyond, these alumni are exploring a myriad of innovative opportunities to turn big business green.
Making Green Shine like Platinum
One of the city’s leading lawyers in the field of green real estate is Gary Rosenberg ’74, a founding partner of Rosenberg & Estis P.C., a preeminent real estate law firm in New York City.Over the past 30 years, Rosenberg has grown the firm from a two-man operation to a boutique firm with expertise in development,transactions, leasing, and strategic planning with respect to office, retail, and residential real estate. Since the 1990’s, Rosenberg has worked extensively with the Durst Organization,a leading developer, owner, and manager of commercial real estate in midtown Manhattan with a portfolio of more than 8million sq. ft. of commercial space. But it wasn’t until he developedFour Times Square (the Condé Nast Building) with the Dursts that his real estate focus first became green.
Four Times Square, one of the greenest buildings in the city,was built before the creation of LEED, the globally accepted rating and certification program for design of green building which provides a set of standards for environmentally sustainable construction, at the bottom of the construction market in the mid-nineties. It was the first building under the leadership of Douglas Durst, the family’s visionary heir, and his cousinJonathan Durst, and along with Rosenberg, they championed a new way of thinking about real estate development.
“We developed Four Times Square in a time before the green building movement and we really tried to build in a different way and to make contractors comply with certain requirements,”recalled Rosenberg.
With Rosenberg as draftsman and negotiator, a lengthy list of green standards was imposed on all vendors associated with the Four Times Square project. Construction crews had to agree to recycle the demolition (it could not be dumped in landfill) and to use concrete made from furnace slag as opposed to sand (furnace slag is a waste material from steel that is normally dumped but is now the preferred source for concrete). Recycling shoots that ran the height of the building were built so that porters didn’t have to run the night elevators for hours, and a mandate was imposed to purchase locally rather than abroad. To broadcast its sustainable message,the building’s facade features a giant, energy-saving electronic display that can be read from as far away as New Jersey.Four Times Square won an Audubon Society award for sustainable design and fueled a movement towards sustainable building. “It’s incredibly rewarding to work on a monumental project that’s also environmentally responsible,” said Rosenberg.
Today, Durst has a reputation as the city’s most environmentally conscious developer, and Rosenberg’s name has become synonymous with green development. With the Dursts, he has developed the Helena (601 West 57th Street), the first Gold LEED rated private residential project; the Epic (125 W. 31st Street),another Gold LEED-rated residential project; and most recently,the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, the world’s most environmentally responsible high-rise office building.
One Bryant Park is a 2.1 million sq. ft., 52-story crystalline skyscraper located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan that is the first major office building in New York City to obtain a PlatinumLEED rating. The $1.2 billion project is a poster child for green development. The building boasts the greenest bells and whistles,with everything from waterless urinals, to a natural gas-fired cogeneration plant so they can make their own electricity, and rainwater capture cisterns (used to flush toilets, which help the building use 3-4 million fewer gallons of water than any other comparable building). It even has an ice farm, which Rosenberg explains helps reduce peak electricity usage. Water is chilled in 14-foot tanks located 60-feet below street level at night and turned into icy slush. That slush is then used during the day in air conditioners, which subsequently reduces the need for water chillers. “We reduce our peak electricity usage and lessen the load on the power grid,” said Rosenberg. “If everybody did this it would become very clear that you would not have to turn on the supplemental power plants during August. It’s wonderful to work on this sort of cutting edge technology.”