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The Plants and Insects that Inhabit NYC’s Green Roofs

on September 5, 2023 at 2:01 pm under , , , , ,
Photo: The Via 57 West roof garden on top of the residential tower at 625 West 57th St. - Courtesy The Durst Organization

Gotham’s green roofs—gardens, farms, and planted green spaces—help the city absorb excess rain water during storms and cool the air. They are home to an assorted mix of bats, bees and plants—plus migratory birds that use roofs as rest stops before flying across the continent. The city might look like a concrete labyrinth from the ground, but its skies are teeming with life.

Green roofs cool the air, absorb rainwater, and provide crucial feeding grounds for migratory birds. You can spot monarch butterflies, birds such as the blackpoll warbler, native prairie grasses, and rarely, the tricolor bat…

“The story that plays out on a green roof is so fascinating to me. The [roof] was once this useless space devoid of life,” says Dustin Partridge, the director of conservation and science at NYC Audubon. “But then you install these green spaces, and they end up providing this habitat that would otherwise not be there.”

NYC Audubon monitors a handful of green roofs on commercial buildings—including the Javits Center—as part of the Green Roof Researchers Alliance, a consortium of more than 60 researchers including The New School, Columbia University, and The Durst Organization, a developer. But green roofs have become a popular installation for residential buildings too.

“[Green roofs] offer such a Swiss army knife of benefits,” says Anastasia Plakias, co-founder and chief impact officer of rooftop farming business Brooklyn Grange. “It’s an investment that improves quality of life for neighborhood residents, migratory and native wildlife has pollinators, and improves quality of life for residents in the building tremendously as well.”

If your building doesn’t have a green roof, you might still be able to spot a handful of plants and animals around the city. (Or, you can score a tax abatement from the city to install one).

Read on for a list of some of the coolest flora and fauna to flock to NYC.

Read more: Secret gardens: The plants and insects that inhabit NYC's green roofs


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