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Fordham Bedford Housing receives Home Depot greening grant

Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation, on Grand Concourse, has just been handed $75,000 and will at last be able to move forward in outfitting an affordable living facility for the elderly with a green roof and expansive ground-level garden.

Serviam Gardens is a 243-unit (all one-bedrooms) complex at E.198th Street and Bainbridge Avenue. The complex, which was finished in October and already has residents moved in, is a low-cost housing development for senior citizens and consists of three buildings connected to each other. In the middle building, which is lower than the adjoining two, there is a community lounge on the roof floor that looks out onto a roof that FBH says will soon be all greened out. When the green roof is all done, residents will be able not just to look at it, but actually walk out onto the green roof and enjoy its renewable soil, plants and grass.

But the green roof is just half of the dual project that this mega grant will go to fund. FBH is also initiating a comprehensive landscaping project on the grounds that will surround the entire quarter-mile radius of the building.

The $75K comes from the Home Depot Foundation, which selected FBH from a number of competitive applicants. This year’s round of Home Depot grants will support the building of over 1600 healthy, affordable homes, 31 playgrounds, and the landscaping of 48 acres in total. Many organizations in the greater New York City area have won one of these before, but rarely has it been a Bronx group. Paula Drake, who works in corporate communications for Home Depot, says that the grants go to projects that have serious, committed sustainability aspects. “What they wanted to build here, that’s what caught our attention,” said Drake. “One of the neat elements is the green roof, because residents will really enjoy that. That plan will include planting trees that won’t just be beautiful to look at, but in an urban environment they also help clean the air and make the building a healthier place to live.”

Rosanna Viera, senior project manager with Fordham Bedford Housing, says that everyone with the organization was ecstatic. “It was like, ‘Okay, so this is actually going to happen.’ Such a relief.”

Serviam Gardens actually sits on the campus of the Academy of Mount St. Ursula, an all-girls private high school. Esther Yang, in project design and management for FBH, says that it’s this detail that makes the green roof and ladnscaping so important. “The school sits on a lush 10-acre campus,” says Yang, “and we really wanted to tie into the pre-existing landscaping, which is so beautiful. So both aspects [the roof and landscaping] have a host of social and environmental benefits, and they’ll also make the building fit in more with its location”

In addition to the new projects will be some smaller perks for residents: deck terraces and public roof spaces. Seniors will also have a chance to participate in gardening outside on the ground level.

It’s all happening in partnership with Robin Key Landscape Architects, who came to FB through the DesigNYC program, which means the gardening they do will be free of charge, though there are other costs associated. Meanwhile, a team of architects, led by Jack Coogan, continues to work hard hammering out the details of the green roof.

“This is a huge endeavor,” says Yang. “Usually nice landscaping is the first thing to be cut from budgets, so it’s lucky we got this money. We’re so excited.”

Reach Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383.

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