Green Initiatives & Sustainable Technology
WSFSSH has a history of “greening” our buildings, to both reduce our impact on the earth and our environment and to save money by operating our buildings more efficiently. Over the last decade we have implemented a number of environmental sustainability initiatives, focused on improving the energy efficiency of our building portfolio.
WSFSSH has spent $3.9 million on 14 of our buildings utilizing our own resources plus funding available for capital improvements through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), the New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and HUD’s Green Retrofit Program. WSFSSH has:
- replaced windows, ventilation systems, and boilers;
- installed energy management systems, Energy Star appliances, energy efficient lighting, water saving devices and occupancy sensors;
- experimented with rainwater catchment systems, solar and green roofs
For our newer projects:
- WSFSSH’s portfolio of small Harlem brownstones was gut renovated in 2009 using high efficiency measures
- The Claremont, a new construction building with 119 units in the Bronx (opened in 2010) was designed to meet Energy Star requirements
- The recent rehabilitation of Borinquen Court, a 145 unit HUD assisted building in the South Bronx was renovated to Enterprise Green Communities Rehabilitation specifications.
Into the future:
- WSFSSH is investigating net-zero and passive house options for projects in the pre-development phase.
Living Green Challenge:
To push ourselves as far as we can moving forward, WSFSSH launched its Living Green Challenge in 2012 to reduce energy and water consumption across our entire portfolio, as well as to reduce our waste production by 15-20%. Energy and water metrics, to measure the impact of retrofitting and efficiency measures and to track ongoing consumption supported the challenge. The plan was to introduce environmental sustainability to tenants and staff across the entire organization.
The implementation of the Living Green Challenge Initiative was paired with the formation of the Living Green Team. The Team is comprised of staff from across the organization that have shown initiative in championing and implementing green measures within their own spheres of work. The Team meets monthly to learn best practices, to brainstorm, and to pilot initiatives.
The Numbers Tell Part of the Story:
WSFSSH uses the online tracking program Wegowise to track our energy and water use and carbon dioxide emissions. By the end of 2014 WSFSSH:
- Reduced electricity consumption by 631,000 KwH, or 11.34%
- Reduced gas and oil therms by 64,700, or 8.86%
- Reduced water consumption by 9,170,000 gallons, or 14%
This saved WSFSSH $511,000 over 2013 and 2014. These consumption reductions, plus the purchase of 100% Renewable Energy Certificates to offset our owner electricity expenditures reduced our carbon footprint by 35% in 2014.
Living Green Is About So Much More Than Energy Metrics
It is about providing WSFSSH staff and building residents with opportunities to adopt green living practices in their everyday lives. At WSFSSH we:
- Reduce the use of paper products; most buildings that offer communal meals now serve them on washable dishware.
- Divert about 1000 lbs per week of food waste from landfill: with the help of GrowNYC seven of our buildings participate in the NYC Department of Sanitation’s Manhattan multi-family building organics pilot.
- Train staff and residents in recycling; dozens of trainings have reached hundreds of residents. Mastering NYC’s complicated recycling rules is not easy!
- Organize and label trash and recycling areas in our buildings to make it easier to do it right.
WSFSSH now provides almost 42,000 meals a month. Four of our buildings have a full meal program as part of their design, and our senior center provides breakfast and lunch 5 days/week. In the face of increasing food poverty, we have added regular meals to programming at many of our buildings. Some buildings provide breakfast and lunch 5 days/week, others provide dinner twice a week, still others provide some combination of meals each week.
WSFSSH’s full-time Registered Dietician ensures that WSFSSH residents are eating a wholesome and well-balanced diet. Our dietician supports tenants in all of our buildings by offering nutrition, cooking, and weight loss workshops, diabetic support groups, and one-on-one nutritional counseling.
In addition to building new housing, WSFSSH is strongly committed to the preservation of low income housing.
Preservation of WSFSSH Buildings:
WSFSSH has successfully preserved several of the buildings in its portfolio as permanent affordable housing.
- Marseilles Apartments: In 2004 WSFSSH financed the purchase of the Marseilles Apartments, a 135-unit HUD-assisted elderly housing project. The Marseilles opened in 1980 and was WSFSSH’s first project. However, it was originally financed through a limited partnership of which WSFSSH owned only a 0.2% general partnership interest. Thanks to the forward thinking of WSFSSH’s general counsel, language was inserted in the original partnership agreement which gave WSFSSH great leverage when it bought out its partners in 2004. The project is now 100% owned and controlled by WSFSSH. WSFSSH is currently in the process of refinancing the Marseilles to ensure its continued maintenance and success. (View the building)
- Fania Gersham Apartments: In 2006 WSFSSH successfully refinanced Fania Gersham Apartments, a 29-unit HUD-assisted elderly housing project. The project opened in 1988 and was originally financed under HUD’s Section 202 program. Under the 2006 refinancing the HUD mortgage was paid off and $700,000 in building improvements were undertaken using tax credit equity and bond financing. (View the building)
- Year 15 Preservation: WSFSSH has successfully preserved its three earliest tax credit projects which have reached “Year 15”, the year when the tax credit investor can exit from the project. At Kowal House (73-unit SRO) the Year 15 process resulted in an additional $465,000 recapitalization of the building which paid for new kitchens, public hallway improvements, energy efficiency measures and greater handicap accessibility. (View Kowal House) At the Westbourne (128-unit SRO) the Year 15 process is resulting in a $2 million renovation of the building. (View the Westbourne) At Euclid Hall (274-unit SRO) the Year 15 process is resulting in a $1.25 million renovation of the building. (View Euclid Hall) All three of these buildings are 100% controlled by WSFSSH and are now permanently preserved as low income supportive housing. WSFSSH is also in the process of taking a fourth tax credit building, the Ben Michalski Residence, through the Year 15 process with the same goal of permanently preserving it as low income supportive housing.(View Ben Michalski Residence)
At-Risk Housing Portfolios in the Community:
With assistance of several of its funders, WSFSSH has authored several studies of at-risk housing portfolios, including:
- HUD-assisted and Mitchell-Lama rental housing on the Upper West Side
- HUD Section 202/811 rental housing for seniors and the disabled in New York City
- Privately-owned Single Room Occupancy (SRO) buildings on the Upper West Side.
These studies have helped to identify buildings which we and other non-profit housing organizations may wish to target for purchase and preservation. Both the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD) are now using the methods of our studies to track and preserve properties that may be at risk of foreclosure or opt-out in the future.
Supportive Congregate Housing
In the wake of the Adult Home scandals of 2002, WSFSSH staff and residents created the Supportive Congregate Housing model, a permanent housing model for individuals who experience significant difficulty with activities of daily living. Such difficulties may result from serious and persistent mental illnesses, physical frailty, the trauma of homelessness, or mild cognitive illnesses. The Supportive Congregate Housing model provides 24-hour supportive services within a structured environment. The services provided in this setting support the integrity and independence of each person in an effort to support the residents’ choice to live safely and with dignity within the community. In December 2010, WSFSSH turned this model from vision to reality with the opening of The Claremont, a 115-unit building located on College Avenue in the Bronx. (View the Claremont)
Special Project/Steps Project
WSFSSH, in partnership with Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, West End Presbyterian Church, and the NYC Department of Homeless Services has sponsored a special project each winter since 2011/2012. Homeless men, often men who slept on the steps of various churches and synagogues, are invited to come into this winter program. Guest spend the night in special accommodations at West End Presbyterian Church, then are invited to eat breakfast and dinner at WSFSSH’s Valley Lodge Shelter. Valley Lodge staff build rapport and invite the guests to connect with services and assist them in obtaining identification and benefits. Each year a number of guests move into permanent housing, some directly from the program, while others move officially to Valley Lodge to receive various services until they move to permanent housing.