August 3, 2008 at 11:56PM
by Alexandra Zissu
After yet another mini tussle with my building's management over asking them to use green materials for work that genuinely needs to be done, I found myself surfing the website for The Riverhouse, a new LEED-certified gold building in New York's Battery Park City. Imagine living in an eco building!? It has twice filtered air, a wastewater treatment plant on site, solar-powered energy, and will even boast a highly organic outpost of City Bakery (a personal favorite) plus a New York Public Library branch. I love to swim but don't often - I'm not comfortable in highly chlorinated pools. Their "green" lap pool beckons me from its online rendering: dive right in. I'm gushing. I don't care. It's a fantasy.
It's so ecofabulous, Leo DiCaprio is said to have bought an apartment. But he's not what entices me. I have the site bookmarked because it's the ultimate family building: from the no to low-VOC finishes to the filtered water to the City Bakery snacks, living there would really take the guesswork out of being an organic mom. My life would be so much easier, I thought as I drooled over various floorplans, if I didn't have to lie in bed smelling the heinous fumes from the cleaning product being used to mop my hallway floors. After a while, asking management to switch the products to greener versions to no avail gets exhausting. There would be no such requests at The Riverhouse!
This surfing isn't entirely recreational/masochistic. We are in the market for a bigger place, as most New Yorkers always are. But their prices, sadly, are out of our range. Still, I really wanted to see this Mecca in person. I figured it might be tortuously jealous-making so put it on the bottom of my endless to-do list.
Then a few weeks ago, Josh Dorfman AKA The Lazy Environmentalist emailed to say he'd opened an "eco pop up store" at the building. This means he furnished a sample Riverhouse apartment with items from Vivavi, his eco/modern furniture showroom. That was all the motivation I needed. How cool to see an entirely eco apartment filled with entirely eco couches, tables, rugs, beds, and the like. I made an appointment, and on a very rainy recent Saturday, my organic family and I traipsed downtown to the not-hugely-impressive-from-the-outside building, and went up into elevators lined in yet-to-be-finished FSC stamped wood, to the highly impressive sales office. We were offered organic tea and City Bakery cookies and the visit was uphill from there.
As suspected, all of the things parents striving to be green ask me about on a daily basis were already answered under these roofs. If they lived here, no mom or dad would have to email this organic mom asking about safe air filters, "good" paints, green renovations, the best water filters, safe materials for baby nurseries, where to find a non-toxic indoor playroom for snowy/rainy/too hot days, or even about energy efficient appliances like fridges, stoves, washer dryers, or "good" toilets. For someone who basically walks around questioning the safety of everything all day long, being at The Riverhouse was like taking a day off. A spa moment.
Oh the very thought of working out in a gym with double filtered air! Though of course I'd rather go two steps outside their door and exercise along the Hudson River. My own lowly gym is so gross in comparison. If and when I go, I inevitably manage to get on a machine for less than three minutes before someone starts wiping down the surrounding equipment with a bucketful of seriously stinky cleaning product. And their yoga studio, where I spent a huge amount of time pre-parenthood, and some time now, gives out onto a parking garage. Thinking about the fumes that must creep through that door isn't exactly what I like to do lying in savasana.
The Riverhouse, on the other hand, was a construction zone that didn't smell. Not at all. This bodes very well. I'm not saying I didn't have a moment of concern when we went into one very dusty and unfinished apartment (with glorious views of the Hudson River) with my daughter. I held her in my arms instead of letting her run around and didn't stay in there long. But even in there it didn't smell. Not one bit.
Oh and just to torture myself, I'll list a few more I-want-them amenities they offer here: free bike storage; media café; Zip Car on-site service, billiard room (and I don't even play pool); humidified air during the winter (!!!); eco-friendly materials throughout; planted roof terraces to catch rainfall to be reused for irrigation, cooling tower water and more; double pane glass windows; etc. etc. The sales rep told us the building is about 70ish percent sold and only around 20 percent of that number bought there because of the green offerings. I guess that means green really has gone luxury. Still, I cannot imagine not moving there for that alone.
If that last 30 percent goes quickly, apparently there's another building down in Battery Park, The Visionaire that will be LEED platinum? I must make an appointment.
Meanwhile, I'm really hoping this is the future of buildings. Not only for new ones, but also for old ones when they're renovated. Time for me to stop writing - I have to go play Lotto.