White Roof Project off to summer start in LIC

By Chris Engelhardt

With scorching temperatures anticipated this summer season, city nonprofit White Roof Project kicked off an initiative Wednesday that will include the resurfacing of some of Astoria and Long Island City’s blackest rooftops with a solar-reflective white coating that is intended to save residents money and reduce energy consumption.

To combat rising temperatures, 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. The group teamed up with neighborhood sponsors USPowerGen and Great White Coatings to identify some of the most vulnerable buildings in Queens and will come together to paint low-income and nonprofit organization roofs in an effort to conserve energy and keep buildings cooler.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), along with officials from White Roof Project, USPowerGen and Great White Coatings, gathered outside Trinity Lutheran Church in Long Island City to officially launch the project. Trinity Lutheran Church, a nonprofit, was selected as the first building to have its rooftop redone as part of the project.

“This is one of the most beautiful buildings in the community, and I can’t think of a better place to start,” said Vallone, who emphasized that a primary goal will be to draw attention to the effort and to make members of the Astoria and Long Island City communities aware of the project. “It’s an effective, efficient way to save money and energy.”

Vallone said not enough people know about the initiative, but in his experience “when they hear about it, they love it.”

“It’s efficient, and it’s inexpensive, and it will save money and help save the environment,” he said.

John Reese, senior vice president of USPowerGen, said the organization was pleased to partner with the White Roof Project and Vallone, and that USPowerGen sponsored the resurfacing of Trinity Lutheran Church.

“This is part of an overall philosophy of environmental improvement and energy efficiency,” he said. “This is also making residents cooler in a low-cost, efficient way.”

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.

Rachel Laiserin, executive director of the White Roof Project, said the hope is that the new project will help educate citizens on the benefit of white roofing, and generate greater interest in the nonprofit’s mission.

“We’re proud to do our first project in the Long Island City/Astoria neighborhood,” she said. “These populated and industrialized neighborhoods have felt the impact of searing heat in the past,” she noted, referring to the 2006 blackout that plagued Astoria. “With climatologists predicting another super-hot summer sure to strain our power grid, we’re proud to help residents take one step toward a more sustainable future.”

Asked how many buildings the project would cover this summer, Laiserin said the painting season starts at the end of May and runs until October, and that officials will tackle as many roofs as possible.

“We’re looking to do as many as we can,” she said. “It’s estimated that air conditioning costs and energy costs during the summer period can be reduced between 20 [percent] to 30 percent. That’s a big benefit.”

Reach reporter Chris Engelhardt by e-mail at cengelhardt@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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