Green Justice for John Jay: A Project Proposal for the EPA RainWorks Competition

Green Justice for John Jay
Project Team: Registration Number M47
Dr. Milena Popov, Faculty Advisor, Sustainability & Environmental Justice Minor, Art & Music Department
Charrize Avendano, Fraud Examination and Financial Forensics Kel Blaze, Economics
Nadejda Dimitrova, Philosophy
Karishma Ramratan, Criminal Justice
Julian Useche, Public Administration


New York City is covered with of miles and miles of paved sidewalks and roads, and hundreds of skyscrapers and large buildings made of steel, glass, and concrete. The lack of green space and environmentally friendly infrastructure creates an enormous amount of stormwater runoff. Thus, the city faces severe flooding and pollution issues. Too often, New York’s sewage treatment plants are overwhelmed when it rains and are forced to allow sewage overflow to enter New York City’s surrounding bodies of water, including the Hudson River. The Hudson River is two blocks away from our school, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. At John Jay, we have a few features that help absorb rainwater, including the Jay Walk (a rooftop green space – image on cover page) and some trees along the sidewalk surrounding campus. However, these features are not enough to effectively combat environmental problems. Hence, our project focuses on adding more native plant life throughout the campus to make our college more sustainable, and resilient to climate change. We propose the building of outside vertical gardens and a vine pergola to be watered by eco rainwater catch systems. Additionally, we propose replacing sections of sidewalk around campus with more grass and trees, as well as making the pavement more porous to absorb rainwater. We think that these features will help to curb water pollution, and make the area more green overall. Furthermore, we believe that through the features’ implementation, we can increase community engagement and education about sustainability.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice is located in a central area of New York City, Midtown Manhattan, at 524 West 59th Street. This area of the city is a concrete jungle where green spaces are limited, and trees and grass are not a very common sight – unless one ventures away into Central Park. John Jay College is surrounded by many wide-paved Manhattan streets, which have a sparse scattering of trees planted on them; for the most part, broad, dark gray streets are what surrounds the tall, bustling modern campus. This vast pavement is not designed with environmental issues in mind, and greatly contributes to New York’s major stormwater runoff problem. Sewer overflows are very common in New York, and as a result, the surrounding bodies of water are often polluted with untreated sewage, various litter, toxic chemicals, etc. (The City of New York, 2016; DePalma, 2007; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 2016). Also, since New York is a coastal city, it is at a great risk for flooding and severe storms due to climate change. However, there are not many climate-resilient structures or plants throughout the city for its protection. Likewise, not nearly enough is being done to undermine climate change, and the burning of fossil fuels is pervasive. While John Jay does have some environmentally friendly features, e.g. a partial green roof known as the Jay Walk, including a small vegetable garden, and some trees planted outside the building, these additions are not enough.
Thus, our undergraduate student team has designed some green infrastructure to improve the building both for the environment, and the people that use it. Our team consists of five John Jay students from Dr. Popov’s Introduction to Sustainability class who volunteered to collaborate on the RainWorks Project together. These five individuals have no extensive academic or professional background in architecture, engineering, hydrology, sustainability, etc. We developed our design through reviewing assorted research and literature and collaborating with our faculty advisor, Dr. Popov, and Steve Waxman of the John Jay Facilities Department.
Professor Milena Popov is scholar, educator, and multimedia artist. Dr. Popov received her PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies and an MFA and a BFA in Painting and Education. Popov teaches art and interdisciplinary sustainability and environmental justice courses at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at The City University of New York, and she is a founding member of the Sustainability and Environmental Justice Minor at the college.
Kel Blaze is a student at John Jay and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. At the beginning of the project, he was really interested in the prize. As the course went on, he later found out how fragile the planet really is and how we can save it. Blaze has traveled to numerous countries throughout his lifetime, mostly due to military training. He has several awards and medals such as challenge coins from the commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, LOA’s and

Charrize Cindy Avendano is a senior majoring in Fraud Examination and Financial Forensics. As a PADI Certified Scuba Diver, Charrize has traveled to numerous dive sites throughout the world and has personally witnessed the effects of human activity on coral reefs. This prompted her interest in enrolling in the sustainability course with Professor Popov to learn more about ways to become more involved in making an impact on the local community and ultimately increasing
environmental awareness within the community.He is tri-lingual and a Chick-Fil-A lover. He now believes that climate change is the greatest threat to humanity.
Nadejda Dimitrova is a senior majoring in Philosophy. As a young child, she was inspired by learning about Native American culture which respects and cares for the Earth. She has traveled to all fifty states, experiencing the beauty of nation’s natural environment and recognizing the importance to protect it. Nadejda realizes that the environment, as well as the livelihood of people, is being seriously threatened by climate change and other environmental destruction, and that action must be taken to combat these threats and make the world more sustainable, starting within her own community in New York.
Karishma Ramratan is a junior majoring in Criminal Justice. Growing up in Guyana, nature and wildlife were a crucial part of her childhood. She was accustomed to so much greenery that upon her arrival in New York it was a shock to see little to no trees. She thinks that it is important for New York to become a greener as well as a cleaner city thus emerging into more than the greatest city in the world. She is compelled by her love of nature and the environment to make a difference in her community.
Julian Useche is a Queens, New York native who is currently a junior majoring in Public Administration. Growing up in New York City has made him appreciate how special nature is, because it’s so limited in New York. He cares about making New York City a more environmentally friendly place. He loves spending time at Rockaway Beach in Queens every summer, and is happy to be involved in a project that will help water quality in surrounding New York City beaches. Being introduced to sustainability at John Jay is what motivated him to get involved on campus in making it a greener place.
Since John Jay is a school for justice, our goal is to make the campus more environmentally responsible and exhibit that we are concerned about and take action for environmental justice.
As a group, our student team surveyed the school with the help of our professor to locate potential sites where we could implement sustainability features that would promote the reduction of water pollution. We propose the following ideas to reduce water pollution from stormwater runoff:
● Adding more green spaces and plant life throughout the outside of the campus. There are many paved sidewalks surrounding the campus where these green spaces can be placed. Adding more trees, grasses, and other plant life around our campus will reduce stormwater runoff, beautify the campus, reduce carbon emissions, reduce urban heat island effect, and create higher air quality for our students and the surrounding community. Planting more trees around the school will provide more shade in the summer, and placing benches near those trees will provide a place to rest for students and community members.

● Installing porous sidewalks, grass, and trees alongside the perimeter of John Jay.
Similarly, this will help to mitigate the effects of intense precipitation.

● Building a vertical garden on the Jay Walk and along one of the walls of our roof. These
gardens will be watered using a rain harvesting system and a bike-powered irrigation pump.

● Installing vertical rain gardens on the campus façade. Rain gardens will help to retain water during storms to help mitigate flooding and sewer overflowing, as well as filtering it to improve water quality.

● Creating a vine pergola over a seating area on the Jay Walk. This will be a light way to
add more plant life to the space, and provide shade too.

● Limited outdoor space and weight limit on the Jay Walk
● Bureaucratic restrictions
● Requirement of approval from the New York City Department of Transportation in order
to add the porous sidewalks
● Lack of funding
● Lack of popular support
We believe that all of these initiatives will significantly reduce stormwater runoff and provide other benefits to the environment, the student body, and the community.
● New York City’s gardens are expected to capture more than 200 million gallons of water – we can add to this figure. Plus, trees and vines can cool the city by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. (MillionTrees NYC, 2015)
● Mature trees can absorb (and filter) about 36 percent of the rainfall around them, improving the water quality through their roots.
● “One mature tree absorbs carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 pounds per year… Two mature trees provide enough oxygen for one person to breathe over the course of a year… In neighborhoods with more tree canopy cover, air quality improves by as much as 15 percent… Urban trees in the continental U.S. remove up to 800,000 tons of air pollution from atmosphere annually.” (American Forests, 2016)
● Trees are a strong force against climate change and pollution.
● Vertical gardens, and more plant life in general, will encourage other students on our
diverse campus to become more aware/involved in green movements.
● Allowing students to use the bike-powered irrigation pump will help them to get
● Our project will inform students on sustainability issues and solution.
● Our efforts will set an example for all the colleges within the City University of New
York, along with other schools and visitors to the college and community members.

• Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
• Swamp Milkweed (Asclepiasincarnata)
• Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum)
• Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
• Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytonia)
• Spike gayfeather (Liatris spicata)
• Blue flag (Iris versicolor)
• Prairie phlox (Phlox pilosa)
• Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba)
• Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea)
• Crabapple (Malus)
• Hawthorn (Crataegus)
• Schubert Cherry (Prunus virginiana) • Purpleleaf Plum (Prunus cerasifera)
(New York Floral Association, 2011; Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2012)

American Forests. (2016). Forest Facts. Retrieved from
The City of New York. (2016). Stormwater. Retrieved from
DeBolt, E. (2011). Native Plants for Rain Gardens. New York Floral Association. Retrieved from
_V ol._22_2.pdf
DePalma, A. (2007). When It Rains, Sewage Often Pours Into Harbor. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Figure 0 (Cover Page). Image of the Jay Walk, John Jay’s main green space. Retrieved
from 041d4566c0e6c/1415051441258/?format=750w
Figure 1. Image of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Haaren Hall (Tenth Avenue). Retrieved from Figure 8. An image we can use as a model for a pergola over the Jay Walk seating area.
Retreived from https://s-media-cache- Figure 9. A diagram that we will use as a model for our bike-powered irrigation pump. Retrieved from
GreenBridge Staff. (2012). Native Plants for New York City Rain Gardens. Brooklyn
Botanic Garden. Retrieved from dens
MillionTrees NYC. (2015). Retrieved from
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. (2016). Urban Stormwater Runoff. Retrieved from