White roofs head to Astoria

Members of the White Roof Project douse a city rooftop in reflective paint to reduce the strength of the sun. Photo courtesy the White Roof Project
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A city-based nonprofit has set its sights on parts of Astoria and Long Island City to combat rising temperatures, armed with no more than buckets of white paint.

By resurfacing some of the borough’s blackest rooftops with a solar-reflective white coating, the environmentally-focused White Roof Project has worked in conjunction with the city’s CoolRoofs initiative to reduce the sun’s strength in various hot spots throughout the city — with parts of western Queens next in line.

Heather James, a board member at the White Roof Project, said Astoria landed on the group’s radar after heat-related deaths caused by power outages became noted problems in the past, including a widespread blackout affecting more than 170,000 residents in 2006. The blackout darkened the parts of the northeast and the city.

The group teamed up with neighborhood sponsors USPowerGen and Great White Coatings to identify some of the most vulnerable buildings in the borough.

“Any measures that we can take to reduce energy consumption in the neighborhood are important to reducing the risk of such brownouts during peak load times,” James said. “White roofing is one such measure. The neighborhood also has a number of low-rise, flat-roofed buildings — good candidates for white roofing — and has been a victim of environmental injustice due to the importance of its location to power transmission services.”

A 2006 report released by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority showed that neighborhoods like Long Island City were some of the city’s hottest areas during the daytime. The report identified parts of the city most affected by urban heat — a problem usually found in dense neighborhoods with an abundance of tar rooftops and heat-absorbing blacktop on buildings and streets.

And with summer just months away and 2012 in the books as the hottest year on record for the continental United States, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said whiter rooftops were just what his part of town needed to save money and resources.

The councilman signed on to the cause along with state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) when the White Roof Project solicited community input with plans to move into the borough and white-out low-income buildings and nonprofits.

“With temperatures and energy costs both rising, white roofing is a simple way for people to save some green while being green,” Vallone said. “I am proud to be working with the White Roof Project and the Astoria community on this initiative, and I am hopeful that it will save residents money, help our environment and prevent more blackouts like the one we suffered eight years ago.”

The White Roof Project focuses mostly on low-income buildings and nonprofits because they are most typically strapped for cash, James said. The nonprofit has already worked to white-out hundreds of rooftops in other parts of the city and also serves as an advisory hub for building owners looking to save money throughout the country, administrators said.

Anyone looking to volunteer with or contribute to the White Roof Project as it continues to scope out the city’s blackest tops can visit them at

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Posted 8:50 pm, April 25, 2013
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Reader feedback

Matt from Long Island says:
Here's a micro doc I produced based on this group and their efforts. Please take a look!
April 29, 2013, 6:27 am

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