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NYC's Building Superintendents Go Green

By Erin McHugh
February 14, 2013

There’s a new kind of building superintendent in New York City. They’re union, they’re environmentally conscious – and they’re graduates of a program called 1,000 Green Supers. The Thomas Shortman Fund of building service union 32BJ, the largest property-service workers union in the country – with more than 70,000 members in New York City alone – is intent on creating a more environmentally sound New York, one building at a time.

There's a new breed of environmentally conscious building superintendents in New York City thanks to a recent program called 1,000 Green Supers.
Photo © Jean-Pierre Vilespy/flickr
There's a new breed of environmentally conscious building superintendents in New York City thanks to a recent program called 1,000 Green Supers.
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About half of the cost of the program is covered by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act through the Department of Labor. This 40-hour class is designed to help building workers learn how to increase their building’s efficiency and train to be smarter in a greener world, keeping up on new products, labels, and practices. Students in the course also learn how to find and fix energy waste and prepare a cost-benefit analysis for their landlords or co-op boards.

“The union told me about the 1000 Green Supers program,” said Manhattan building super Elliot Rivera, “and so I signed up for their first round of classes. I want to find any way I can to make a difference in the building.”

The program stresses ways to save energy, like improving HVAC system performance, reducing water usage, and improving indoor air quality. “The most valuable thing I learned about was lighting,” continued Rivera. “We’ve changed the kinds of bulbs we used, and the fixtures, too. The occupancy sensor lights we installed cost $385 a unit – but it’ll save money in the long run. In the last year alone, I’ve cut $27,000 from the building’s electricity bill.”

Rivera runs a co-op building, and so reports to a board of directors: they’re pleased as both landlords and residents. “It can be hard to get tenants on board. In my case, though, since these are coops, once I started reporting what I learned from 1000 Green Supers, they got interested in keeping the rest of the staff on their toes. They began to report things to me themselves, like the doormen keeping the lobby doors open with the air conditioning on.”

As for tenants, “Everybody is just more aware these days of being green,” said another Manhattan super. “Getting residents to recycle, report leaks, drafts, running toilets – all that goes a long way towards making a difference.”

1,000 Green Supers has already bested itself, graduating its first 1,068 students in May of 2011, and are continuing its commitment to a greener New York. For more information, go to www.1000supers.com, or contact 32BJ’s Thomas Shortman Training Fund at 212-388-3220.


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