By Sabina Mollot
Last summer, Rick Hayduk, the general manager of Stuyvesant Town, announced that the new owner was looking for ways to reduce the 80-acre property’s carbon footprint. This was mentioned after a decision was made not to bring back the heated sports tent that had been in the complex for two seasons. At the time, Hayduk said it wouldn’t be returning due to all the energy it took to keep the nearly three-story tent a comfortable temperature during the winter months, as well as noise complaints from neighbors.
Since then, Blackstone and StuyTown Property Services have made good on their commitment to undertake some environmentally-friendly initiatives. One in October was the installation of a weather monitor to be used by the property’s landscapers to prevent the grounds from getting over-watered. In June, the owner planted 30 new trees around the complex to replace those that had died over time due to disease or pollution.
Most recently, on December 1, a property-wide composting program was introduced in coordination with the New York City Department of Sanitation and GrowNYC, the nonprofit that runs local greenmarkets, including the seasonal one at Stuy Town.
Composting allows people to recycle garbage like food and food-soiled paper, with the refuse then broken down and ultimately used as fertilizer for landscaping.
The program came at no cost to Blackstone, with the DSNY having provided 330 composting bins (three for each of Stuy Town’s buildings). However, it’s safe to say the city has already seen a return on its investment, with the program having immediately been embraced by residents.
On its first week, DSNY trucks hauled away 10,000 pounds of trash that would have otherwise been destined for a landfill, and the results have remained consistent since then. The contents of the compost bins have been getting picked up three days a week.
Rei Moya, the director of environmental services at the property, said this is the first time the DSNY has had to go on a dedicated pickup route for compost in Manhattan.
“They were doing pickups on request,” he said. But, he added, “Stuy Town had been a dream of theirs to get into.”
Moya added that when the DSNY first asked if the property would be producing 5,000 pounds of compost in a week, Moya doubted it. “I was much more conservative. I said 3,500 but the residents proved me wrong.”
In fact, it was residents who’d been requesting the opportunity to have onsite composting. The service had been for some time offered at Stuyvesant Town’s Sunday greenmarket, and had been well-utilized there.
So far, Moya said, the plastic composting bins have been getting used properly 90 percent of the time.
With the other 10 percent, the lids aren’t being shut completely, leaving a narrow gap.
“There’s a little bit of a learning curve but we’re reaching out to tenants,” Moya said.
This hasn’t led to any increase in vermin though and from what Moya’s heard from the DSNY, there have yet to be any complaints of an uptick in vermin as a result of composting in residential buildings.
There’s also been a very low level of contamination compared to compost from other properties, meaning things aren’t getting thrown in the bins that don’t belong there. It helps of course that most food-soiled paper is fine for composting, even pizza boxes. “The only thing that’s not is plastic,” Moya said.
Asked if Blackstone plans on introducing composting to any of its other properties, like the newly acquired Kips Bay Court, Hayduk said that has yet to be determined.
“It’s early to opine,” Hayduk said, adding there’s a number of variables like the interest of tenants at any given property. “We have some very passionate tenants who want to do whatever they can do to improve the environment. You always have to have those passionate drivers.”
Then of course, there are those green initiatives that simply require an owner writing a check. The weather monitor was one. Another was the purchase of 80 smoking urns last summer placed around the property in a – so far mostly successful — effort to keep smokers from puffing away right outside their buildings.
Hayduk added that Stuy Town is participating in the mayor’s carbon challenge, which is aimed at reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.
And this is no simple undertaking. The 29,000-person strong community, on any given day, produces twelve and a half tons of garbage. This translates into two, 30-yard containers full that get compacted on site daily. On a busier day, this means there are two pickup trips for DSNY instead of one. As for recycled material, the property has also been producing more of this in recent years. Blackstone/SPS recently purchased a packer truck for paper recyclables in particular.
“Now everybody orders everything on Amazon, and it’s a lot of cardboard,” Moya said.
The effort to go green also includes previous owner, CWCapital’s, installation of LED lights in common areas like stairwells as well as outdoors, which was completed in 2016. The lights use 17 percent of the energy needed by standard bulbs. The lights in the stairwells, while always on, are dimmer until a person walks through, so the project also required the installation of sensors. “So we’ve got sensors all over the place,” Hayduk said.
The Stuy Town sanitation crew is made up of 35 employees, including a few recent hires to help with composting, and seven vehicles. Additionally, each of those vehicles has an iPad to keep up with maintenance in real time. If someone’s dumped a couch on one of the loop roads or if a sign is down, an employee who spots it then uses an app designed by Moya to have an alert pop up on the screens of other employees. Whoever fixes the problem can then use the app to mark the job as complete.
Although he didn’t have stats on how much energy has been reduced already, Hayduk said there would be continued investment in 2017 on conservation projects.
“We’re constantly looking at ways to reduce energy, ways to reduce our carbon footprint.”
Moya said he hoped Stuy Town could become a model for other multi-family properties as well.
“If we can pull it off, anybody should be able to pull it off,” he said.