Supers. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them unless you know how to do basic home repairs. For the most part, superintendency in a New York City apartment building is a pretty thankless job — no one’s trying to see you unless their bathtub exploded or kitchen is on fire, at which point they’re not really going in for pleasantries so much as they are manic, high-intensity edict-dispensing (e.g. “you extinguish this kitchen right now!”) The good news for supers, though — besides the fact that smoking-cigs-on-the-stoop is still very legal — is the fact that they have a very strong union in the 32BJ local of SEIU. And the good news for everyone else in New York is that 32BJ and Mayor Bloomberg are working together to bring 1,000 supers (for starters) up to speed on the most current green practices as part of a labor-management partnership called One Year, One Thousand Green Supers.
While 32BJ is best known as The Doorman Union, it also represents janitors and, yes, supers and has become a major political force as the largest private-sector union in the city. 32BJ has also aligned closely with Mayor Bloomberg over his past two terms — they endorsed him back in July, and 32BJ president Mike Fishman has long been close to the Mayor — which made it less surprising to see them partnering with him in this particular enterprise. Beyond the political angles (which we’ll leave be because this isn’t gbHalfAssedNYCPoliticalAnalysis, you know?), the One Year, One Thousand Green Supers program seems like an eminently worthwhile idea, and another smart green step for a Mayor who (whatever you think of him) has done very good work in this area. Bloomberg called it a “smart, practical effective way to help make the Big Apple green” at the ceremony announcing the launch of the program, and it’s hard not to agree. A city full of LEED-certified buildings is only as green, after all, as the people running those buildings — and those living and working in those buildings — let them be. Given that 47 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions — some 77 percent of New York City’s total output — currently comes from buildings, there’s obviously some room for improvement there. And the fact that a McKinsey survey estimated that a greener real estate industry could save New York something like $230 million a year in operating costs provides enough incentive to suggest that this time, in this arena, some change might actually come.
The One Year, One Thousand Green Supers (OYOTGS? Y/N?) program has gotten a seal of approval from both the USGBC and the Building Performance Institute, which is nice, but the endorsements of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations (which will be glad to see building-service workers be better trained) and the Realty Advisory Board (which will be happy to save some dough should buildings actually improve energy efficiency by the 20 to 40 percent the DOE estimates) may prove more important. The course itself isn’t described in great depth in the press release from which I’m getting a lot of this info, but the general outline — a 40-hour class in which supers will learn the basics in best energy-efficient practices, with some field exercises and electives in everything from water reuse to green roofs — sounds pretty progressive and pretty cool. It may take awhile to see a real impact — supers and building reps from 40 buildings have already been trained, and that number should look more like 300 by year’s end — but the incentives seem to run in the right direction for all involved in this case, which means we may see some actual real and valuable change in an important area. Proof, if you needed it, that supers are good for more than extinguishing flaming kitchens.