Javits Center Expansion Includes Sustainable Rooftop Farm
$1.5 Billion Expansion Project for NYC’s Javits Center is Complete
By Samantha Butts
The Javits Center’s rooftop garden is another sign of life returning to semi-normalcy following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In mid-March 2020, the center was used as a makeshift, fully functional hospital to treat 1,095 COVID-19 patients. Then the center transitioned its efforts to become a mass vaccination site where it distributed over 646,000 vaccines.
Now, the Javits Center is finally returning to its original use: a convention center just in time to use its new expansion.
This isn’t the first time that the center has responded to calls for help. Following the 9/11 attacks, the Javits Center hosted first responders and their families. And in 2017, the center housed Puerto Ricans who had lost their homes in Hurricane Maria.
The Javits Center has a history of giving back, and now it’s shifting its focus to economically rebuilding New York City through hosting widely appealing exhibits and conventions. The completion of its expansion couldn’t come at a better time.
A HUGE Expansion in the Huge Javits Building
The new expansion boasts 1.2 million square feet of new space for special events, exhibits, and rooftop gatherings. Even with two months of halted construction due to the pandemic, the project was still completed on time and on budget ($1.5 billion) in August 2021.
The project added a 54,000 square foot special event space along with 200,000 square feet of new meeting room and pre-function space. The expansion also included a one-acre rooftop farm greenhouse.
Javits Center now extends six city blocks in Manhattan. Taking up space from 34th street to 40th street between 11th and 12th Avenue.
The center’s mission was to be able to host large-scale events that boost economic activity. Tony Sclafani, Chief Communications Officer at Javits, says they are now able to host the largest events in New York City. Sclafani says, “the expansion really is a game-changer for [them] because it allows [them] to reach new audiences and new industries.”
Since their re-opening the feedback from customers has been extremely positive, says Sclafani as the center offers breathtaking views of the Hudson River and the city skyline along with the larger event spaces.
Striving for Sustainability
From 2009 to 2014, Javits Center went under renovations which fueled their desire to be more sustainable. In the renovation, they implemented bird-friendly glass with dotted patterns to prevent collisions.
The center also built a 6.75-acre green roof, making it the largest green roof in New York state.
The green roof became a natural habitat welcoming 35 different bird species, five bat species, and five beehives where they harvest honey.
After their successful renovation in 2009, the center wanted to see how far they could take sustainability. According to Sclafani, the expansion has “taken sustainability to the next level.”
Along with increasing their sustainability, Javits wanted to reduce their impact on the community. The center is accomplishing this with its new truck marshaling facility which allows the center to now host all of its event trucks.
The facility contains four levels and spans more than 600,000 square feet. This is relocating 20 to 30,000 trucks off local streets, which will help reduce congestion and pollution while increasing the safety of pedestrians and vehicles in the neighborhood.
In another attempt to achieve sustainability, the company created Javits Cares. Sclafani says Javits works closely with event organizers to donate the items used during an event to a local nonprofit.
In the past, the center was able to donate the chairs from an event to a local school’s band program.
“We see it as giving furniture, food, other items a second life,” Sclafani says. “A repurposing of these items to make someone’s life a little easier.”
The new rooftop farm and its roof-to-table menu is another example of Javits Center’s sustainability efforts.
The Sprouting Rooftop Farm
With the expansion came the one-acre rooftop garden. The center partnered with Brooklyn Grange, an urban farming company, which manages the farm day-to-day.
The center expects to grow up to 40,000 pounds of produce each year. They hope to plant up to 50 different crops this spring and all of the produce will be incorporated into the meals served at the center.
Accompanying the farm on the roof is an apple and pear orchard as well as a greenhouse for microgreens and vegetables. Sclafani says, “we’re creating a roof-to-table experience for our visitors, and we’re very proud of that.”
The rooftop farm was finished in September 2021 allowing for a productive fall season. Many of the events held since the center’s re-opening provided meals made with ingredients from the rooftop farm.
During the New York Comic Con in October, the Javits chefs made pesto sauce from their roof-grown basil.
At the end of December, when there were no more events for the year, the center donated 275 pounds of leftover food to Rethink Food, a local non-profit that provides nutritious meals to the community.
Upcoming Events and a Need for Normalcy
From August to December in 2021 since their re-opening, the center held 48 events, including New York Comic Con, the Armory Live Program, the Robin Hood benefit, and the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.
This year, the Javits Center is excited to be holding more events and gaining new audiences. This month, the center hosted NY Now, a market that brings together designers, brands, and buyers. NY Now will return to Javits for their summer market from Aug. 14-17, 2022.
The center will also be hosting the International Vision Expo, a show dedicated to eyewear sunglasses, from Apr. 1-3, 2022.
Later in April, the center will host the New York International Auto Show from Apr. 15-24. The auto show is finally returning after being canceled for the past two years due to the pandemic.
As time passes from the start of the pandemic the demand for in-person events continues to strengthen and grow nationwide.
“People want to meet in person, share ideas, and conduct business in a safe and comfortable environment,” says Sclafani and that’s what the Javits Center is providing.
Javits Center is fully complying with all city and state regulations regarding COVID-19. The center is requiring proof of vaccination to access any event and requires face coverings for all who enter the building.