Will An Imagined Carbon Sink Change Roosevelt Island?

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A “carbon sink” now proposed for Roosevelt Island, if built, would change the community and New York architecture forever. But imagination can sometimes overwhelm resistance.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island News

Intro: Roosevelt Island Carbon Sink

Think, if you can, about a 160-floor tower eating up Roosevelt Island, from the Queensboro Bridge to Four Freedoms Park. If you can do that, you’re closer than most of us to this possible future.

If you can’t, consider this…

“The Mandragore,” as designed by rescubika, a French firm.

But what is a “carbon sink” to begin with?

(See renderings of how it would look, inside and out and towering over Manhattan from the distance here.)

It’s a new and improved way of considering the future with buildings far less likely to crush the environment.

“Broadly speaking, a carbon sink is a reservoir that absorbs more CO2 than it releases, effectively reducing carbon from the atmosphere.” Rescubika adds, “The project is a response to the ‘city of tomorrow’, a city that will consider its carbon footprint and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Think fewer fires, and think a reduced likelihood of hurricanes and flooding away New York City.

Why it can’t happen…

Called “mandragore” — sorry, rescubika doesn’t believe in capital letters — the residential tower “takes inspiration from the human-like form of the mandrake plant.”

But its inspiration may track imagination into impossible.

Remaining south of the Queensboro Bridge would be only FDR Four Freedoms Park, and it’s a like a splinter stuck in mandragore’s foot.

Imagine Cornell Tech gone, and Brooklyn Bridge Park North, formerly Southpoint, a memory of community passed.

Neither erasure is likely, and either requires a radical shift on how we think about Roosevelt Island.

And even if we can make that paradigm switch, consider forward-thinking builders dealing with RIOC. Two things come to mind.

First, the state agency is a slug, essentially boggled, after ditching art-loving Susan Rosenthal, by creativity not linked to campaign contributions. And second, if the community decides to like it, RIOC won’t. It’s in their DNA.

But this suggests possible strategies on both sides of the issue.

But wait a minute… why shouldn’t we do it?

When you think about the environmental ignorance putting us at risk of stronger storms and ravaging forest fires, you understand that change is key to our survival.

And change of this kind, radical now that we wasted decades of opportunity, may be our best chance.

The design firm says it best…

“the project also looks at a political concept called ‘energy sobriety.’ this idea promotes changes in lifestyle and societal transformations to achieve carbon neutrality. with this in mind, each apartment will have an office room for people to be able to work from home, reducing commuter traffic.”

“Energy sobriety…” one of the great ideas that may save our planet.

Conclusion: Carbon Sink for Roosevelt Island?

The idea is fanciful, a wild, wise adventure that may not fit, but we need ideas like this moving us off the stalemate ruining the world.

We now know that gentle persuasion, logic and reasoning will not budge enough people off their self-satisfied butts, and immediate gratification still spoils the future.

But maybe imagination this powerful can dismantle some of that stodgy resistance.

Sure, displacing Cornell Tech seems nearly impossible, although burying the now neutered Brooklyn Bridge Park North has a nice ring. After all, we’d get some trees back, countering RIOC’s defoliation campaign.

The most likely and best benefit, though, is probably jostling imaginations, and we might actually envision a healthful future.

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