Green Roof Cooperatives, On the Way in New York!

Authors: Janae Shields

Janae Shields is the Executive Accounts Manager at Goodwill Industries, NY and a Green For All Academy Fellow.

On June 17th I met with Kate Shackford from the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC) to discuss green job opportunities that could benefit the public assistance population I service at Goodwill Bronx’s Back to Work program. During our meeting I learned of Ms. Shackford’s passion for green roofs. She gave me a tour of the Bronx’s only green roof that is open for public viewing, located on the 9th floor of the courthouse. She also provided me with the contact information for Peter Philippi, expert green roofer from Germany. Check out for more information.

The same day, I was introduced to Sonia Pichardo from the Green Worker Coop & Rebuilder’s Source. The Green Worker Coop offers a 16 week training course that prepares low-income people from the Bronx to be members of a worker cooperative, a business model in which all workers are equal owners. The training includes marketing, strategizing, business plan development, team building and many other business essentials. Additionally, many of the people who go through the training are ex-offenders. Sonia and I discussed possible ways we could offer training like this to our population at Goodwill. We were both very excited about the idea of helping ex-offenders on public assistance become successful business owners in their own communities. We discussed developing a creative marketing co-op and a green roofing co-op. I then arranged a meeting between Sonia, Peter Philippi, and myself to discuss the idea. 

On June 26, 2009 Sonia, Peter, and I met on the green roof at the courthouse and discussed the possibility of developing a training program that would create real pathways out of poverty. I explained the high asthma rates and pollution problems that exist in the Bronx to Mr. Philippi. He was eager to assist because he understands that green roofs improve air quality and we need that in the South Bronx more than anywhere else in the city because the high asthma rates are directly related to the poor air quality. We are not likely to reduce the quantity of trucks that frequent the Hunts Point, but we can increase the amount of plants we have. 

We are now in the process of developing a Green Roofing training curriculum that can be taught concurrently with the Co-op training so that at the end of an approximately 16 week long cycle our students can go from being on public assistance to starting their own worker cooperative. We are also seeking funding for this training. Ideally, Goodwill will sponsor the Green Roofing portion of the training and Green Worker Coop would deliver the Worker Co-op portion. Peter Philippi has agreed to be the expert guest instructor for one week toward the end of the training course, and will also oversee the curriculum development for quality assurance.

We are well on our way to making Green Roofing Worker Cooperatives a reality!

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