Photo of the The Solaire by Payton Chung via Flickr

When we think of Battery Park City our mind envisions the parks, the promenade, the exquisite landscaping and our beautiful harbor. But one thing that might not instantly come to mind is the fact that Battery Park City is also the “greenest” community in Manhattan. In our 98 acres, we have five LEED certified buildings: The Verdesian, The Solaire, The Riverhouse, The Visionaire and Millenium Towers.  And three of these five buildings were developed by the same organization, The Albanese Organization.

In the summer of 1999, the Battery Park City Authority wanted new developers to build in a sustainable way in order to reduce a building’s negative impacts on the environment and its occupants. But, when the BPCA looked for existing environmental guidelines to guide their green endeavors, they found none. So, the BPCA had to define what sustainable meant to them, which led to the creation of the Battery Park City Authority Residential Environmental Guidelines.

At the time, getting developers to accept these guidelines was a challenge. When the BPCA announced it would be taking bids from private developers to build the first green, residential high-rise, nine of New York’s top developers submitted a bid. The winning bid came from the Albanese Organization and their proposed building, The Solaire.

The Solaire was the only sustainable high-rise building in the country to receive a LEED Gold status in 2003 and the first in Battery Park City. In 2009 The Solaire became a LEED Platinum EB building. To understand the full picture of what grants a building a LEED certification, I met with Michael Gubbins, VP of Residential Management for the Albanese Organization, who gave me the grand tour of the system, of the bones of what makes this building function the way it does.

Our first stop was the Microturbines, which drives a generator to produce electricity. It is an energy-efficient method of generating electricity. The Solaire uses 60% less energy on peak demand and 40% less energy overall. Their Waste Water Treatment plant, which cost over $1 million to build, supplies the water for flushing toilets and for the cooling towers. The treatment plant filters the waste water from the sinks, showers and toilets in the apartments. This is done using an aeration system that treats the water to a high standard and filters it. The processed water then goes through an Ozone and UV disinfection process and back into a holding tank for use. Perhaps the most impressive part of their waste water treatment plant is the fact that the processed water also goes through to the Verdesian for use for flushing toilets and for the cooling tower. Because of this, Michael says “we use 55% less water from the city water supply than a typical building”.

Next, we went to the roof top, which is located on the 19th floor of the Solaire, where I saw what has become a staple for the Solaire (as well as for The Verdesian and The Visionaire): blue discs at the top of the buildings. These are solar panels that are made from recycled silicon wafers using chips and CDs discarded by the computer industry. With these panels, these buildings generate 5% of their base electrical load. Over 15,000 recycled computer discs were used in the solar panels for the Solaire and the Visionaire and over 9,000 for the Verdesian.

All of this is maintained through Building Management Systems (BMS), a dashboard located at the front desk of the Solaire where every doorman and maintenance staff has learned about the system through an intensive training program. In this system, the building staff can see any issues that may arise in real time.  Michael took me through the Water Treatment System, the Microturbines and the chillers and was able to tell me how much energy the solar panels are using, how much the building is consuming in the last minute and how much energy it used in the last hour…we were able to see it all, which was all  very impressive.

“We do our building inspections through our iPad everyday,” Michael says. “We also developed an app to do inspections on the buildings and tells us real time when the guys are taking a reading. All of our systems are integrated together which makes us even more efficient.” As Michael and I walked to The Verdesian, he told me: “I can tell you how much energy we used in the last ten minutes.”  Now wouldn’t it be great if the weather man can be that sure if it’s going to rain tomorrow?

In 2006, The Verdesian was build and because of the experience, knowledge and passion that went into The Solaire, there was not much extra incremental cost in building the Verdesian. By then, the Albanese Organization knew the manufacturers, the suppliers and the technologies that were all being driven towards an environmental friendly building. The building was also brilliantly strategized as renters eventually turned to buyers, and The Visionaire, America’s Greenest Residential high-rise condominium, received the highest green standard: LEED Platinum. I adore every moment of living across the street from The Visionaire, which was such a profound architectural structure that I watched go up from the beginning.

Over 5,000 people have toured these three buildings, including former Head of state of the Soviet Union Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev, and now communities all over the world are using Solaire as an example of green development. This was made possible with the partnership of both the private and public sector. But, the Albanese Organization, along with the Battery Park City Authority, were visionaries in seeing green be part of our lives. Mr. Albanese, in your recent passing, I am sure I speak for many when I say thank you for taking risks, thank you for your passion and may God rest your soul.  Thank you.

“You are only successful when you give back to a community” – Mr. Albanese.

—Maria Hadjidemetriou. A Downtown resident for more than 12 years, Maria enjoys life as a mom to her four-year-old daughter and being a Real Estate Sales Agent for the LuxuryLoft Team of Douglas Elliman. Maria enjoys writing (presently working on an animated screenplay), bike riding, kayaking and taking walks with her daughter along the promenade of Battery Park City. She has been an active Board Member for the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation since 1998 and recently an advisor to the Foundation of American Blood Centers (FABC). You can follow Maria on twitter @downtownmomnyc or email her at