'Greenest Building Opens
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hailed the opening of New York City's "greenest" building last Thursday when he cut the ribbon on Queens Botanical Garden's revolutionary new Visitor & Administration Center. The Visitor & Administration Center is the first building in New York City designed to achieve platinum status, the highest possible ranking, from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Surrounded by a score of top city and borough officials, the mayor highlighted the "high performance green building" as a prototype for future buildings and an important asset in PlaNYC 2030, the city program for reducing carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by the year 2030. "Seventy-five years ago, this was part of the Valley of Ashes described by F. Scott Fitzgerald," said the mayor, "Today it has the first platinum-rated building in the metropolitan region and a symbol of renewal."
The Visitor & Administration Center is a veritable encyclopedia of green building technology. The center's auditorium is covered with a planted green roof that minimizes storm water runoff and reduces the urban heat-island effect, the nighttime heat that radiates from roofs and parking lots. The center's main roof has solar panels that generate 20 percent of the building's electricity; a geothermal heating and cooling system uses 55-degree water pumped from an aquifer to maintain interior climate; graywater from the center's sinks and shower is cleaned and recycled for use in the buildings public toilets; compost toilets for the garden's administrative staff will generate fertilizer for the garden; and bioswales on the surrounding landscape capture storm water to reduce pressure on the city's overburdened sewer system.
Designed by BKSK Architects in Manhattan, the building is on track to receive a platinum LEED® rating from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. "The new structure, which has been in the making for more than 15 years, has been called one of the most environmentally advanced construction projects ever launched in New York City," Queens Botanical Garden Executive Director Susan Lacerte, who is celebrating her 13th year in that office, said. Joan Krevlin, a partner at BKSK, added: "We see the Visitor & Administration Center as a built expression of the Queens Botanical Garden's mission. While providing an iconic and welcoming gathering place for the community and a tool for interactive education, the building echoes and
sustains its surrounding landscape."
"The new structure is definitely a garden building," Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said.
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, City Councilmembers John C. Liu and Leroy G. Comrie, QBG Board Chair Frank Macchio and Lacerte assisted Bloomberg in the ribbon cutting. More than 600 people attended the event, including 200 children from P.S. 40, Jamaica, I.S. 5, Elmhurst, and I.S. 10, Astoria, city Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Lewandowski, Queens Parks Deputy Commissioner Estelle Cooper, Ruth Kleinberg, QBG director of education, former QBG Board Chairman Henry Wan, the team of engineers who worked on the project from its inception and hundreds of Queens residents, many of whom use the Queens Botanical Garden facilities regularly. The ribbon cutting was preceded by a performance of the Queens Botanical Tai Chi.
Marshall praised her predecessor, former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, for starting the project and said, "It's not unusual that it's in Queens- it's a special borough."
Liu called the Visitor & Administration Center "a shining example of how to preserve the environment for the next 200 or 300 years".
Comrie, chair of the Queens Councilmember delegation, said, "When you're head of a delegation, you do what your members tell you, but in this case it was easy to support this building because it's such a contribution to the city."
Also present for the ribbon cutting were Councilmembers Joseph Addabbo, James F. Gennaro, Larry B. Seabrook and Thomas White, city Department of Design and Construction Commissioner David Burney, AIA, Assemblymembers Ivan C. Lafayette, Margaret Markey, Catherine Nolan, William Scarborough and Ellen Young, city Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin, state Senators Frank Padavan and Toby Ann Stavisky and Shulman.
The former Botanical Garden Administration Building, a brick and stone building with a low-pitched roof, was constructed in 1963. According to Benepe, its most distinguishing features was the fieldstone wall in its auditorium, which was fashionable in the 1960s.