A Bronx organization is giving second chances to their own rooftop, which absorbs water that might otherwise overwhelm the city's sewer system, and to former inmates, who help find jobs and housing through the organization. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
A couple of years ago, the roof of the nonprofit Osborne Association started showing its age.
"Our staff began to prop up umbrellas over their desk to catch water pouring in on them whenever it rained," said Mark Walter, building committee chair of the Osborne Association.
So they installed a new roof. But this one is decidedly different. It's the nation's first Blue and Green roof system. It's designed to protect not only the staff, but the city's overburdened sewer system, too. It's helping keep New York Harbor clean by absorbing water that might otherwise overwhelm sewers during a storm, carrying sewage into local waters.
"The green planted area absorbs storm water in the soil and the plants respire it out, so a lot is absorbed by the plants itself," said Carter Strickland, commissioner of the city Department of Environmental Protection. "The blue trays here really delay the onset of that storm water into the sewer system."
Designers say the modular system is better suited for older buildings that can't take the weight of a traditional green roof.
The plants, in this case, create a habitat for honey bees in the Osborne Association Urban Bee Keeping Project. It supports a catering business that employs inmates, who learn skills that can help them when they return home.
"We want to be able to market our honey as a way of also being able to create new jobs," said Elizabeth Gaynes, executive director of the Osborne Association.
Just like the roof is getting a second chance, so are many of the people working on it and throughout the Osborne Association building. That's because former inmates find jobs and housing through Osborne.
Edward Finch, 28, maintains the honey bee hives and is also acquiring other skills.
"I do a little bit of electrical work, sheet rock, construction things," he said.
They're skills that are already helping him towards a future as an engineer and perhaps starting his own business, and they're skills he might not have acquired if it wasn't for the second chance Osborne provided.