The High Line
The High Line is a masterpiece of urban reinvention—an abandoned elevated rail line transformed into a horticultural oasis. Opened in 2009, the park holds beautifully landscaped plantings that conjure a calming haven in the midst of metropolitan grit. The popular trail has created a habitat for birds and insects; it’s naturally cooling; and its greenery provides shade and oxygen for city dwellers.
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center green roof
The Javits’ marvelous 6.75-acre green roof, completed in 2014, attracts wildlife, provides insulation that cuts the building’s energy use by 26 percent, and absorbs stormwater, preventing runoff that overwhelms storm drains. Plus, it’s darn pretty to look at. Visitors can arrange a tour at javitscenter.com.
Barclays Center green roof
Barclays Center has life above and beyond sporting events and concerts—literally. On top of the structure is a 3-acre green roof installed 10 feet over the arena’s original exterior in 2015. The roof, whose sedum plants flower in summer, has environmental and noise-dampening benefits. A street-level green roof, also covered by sedum, slopes over the venue’s subway entrance.
Traveling the thousands of miles of NYC’s subway and bus routes is eminently low-impact; if city riders drove instead, they would create 15 million metric tons more emissions each year. The system is more than a century old and has faced major infrastructure challenges of late, but public officials are working to fix them.
Brooklyn Children’s Museum
This museum’s 2008 building earned a Silver LEED certification for its eco-friendly features, which include solar-generated electrical power, recycled rubber flooring and geothermal heating and cooling. The venue also teaches kids about ecology through hands-on exhibits. A leafy 20,000-square-foot terrace holds a native woodland section and other plantings.
Restaurants like Blue Hill and the Fat Radish source from local farms, taking advantage of fresh produce and meats while avoiding the waste of shipping food long distances. Some spots, like Roberta’s and Bell Book & Candle, grow herbs and veggies on-site.
The Gowanus Canal, known for being a Superfund site, is the unlikely center of an environmentally friendly renaissance. Atop the neighborhood Whole Foods, powered by solar energy, Gotham Greens’ rooftop farm grows lettuces sold in-store. Nearby, the Gowanus E-Waste Warehouse sells inexpensive refurbished computers and Big Reuse stocks reclaimed architectural materials and furniture.
Battery Park City
The green spaces managed by the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy are gorgeous places to walk, play Frisbee and relax outdoors. Horticulturalists manage the parks without pesticides and follow rigorous low-impact practices. A large-scale composting operation generates fertilizer and “compost tea”—a special liquid fertilizer made by culturing liquid with compost—used to improve soil and ward off bugs. Think of it as probiotics for plants.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral has a cutting-edge geothermal heating and cooling system, completed in February 2017, that trims the church’s carbon emissions by 94,000 kilograms annually. The underground temperatures of 10 wells, some drilled to a 2,200-foot depth, are used to cool and warm the building, sometimes simultaneously. No doubt Pope Francis gave this project his blessing.
Brooklyn Navy Yard
At Brooklyn Navy Yard, known for soundstages and studios, some 3,000 solar panels generate 1.1 million kilowatts of electricity. It’s part of NYC’s initiative to generate clean power for public buildings. Also in the Navy Yard heights: Rooftop Reds, a 14,800-square-foot vineyard, complete with tasting room, hammocks and superb views of the City—plus it helps absorb stormwater and cool the roof.
The City’s carbon challenge asks buildings to cut greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2025. Nineteen hotels—including the Grand Hyatt New York and The Peninsula New York—have signed on. Through upgrades like high-efficiency boilers, LED lighting and light sensors, these venues are shrinking their carbon footprints.
Bet You Didn’t Know These NYC Attractions Were Green
New York City aims to reduce its carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, and you can see those efforts throughout the five boroughs. Some of the City’s most popular sights showcase innovative efforts to protect the planet: there’s a park suspended above city streets; a sea of solar panels on a museum rooftop; and a geothermal system that warms and cools historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral. For more on these and other green attractions, view our gallery.