Super-green restaurant set to open its doors in E. Harlem with 45 environmentally friendly features

Super-green restaurant set to open its doors in E. Harlem with 45 environmentally friendly features
Monday, December 3, 2012

A new super-cool, super-green, super-environmentally friendly restaurant set to open in East Harlem on Dec. 10 has a super-ambitious mission: Helping to safeguard the Earth.

The new Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar at 509 E. 117th St. in the East River Plaza says it is on track to become the first eatery in the city to win a prestigious gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

A so-called LEED award, for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, would mean the 350-seat dining spot meets demanding benchmarks for conserving water and energy, using sustainable materials and curbing waste shipped to landfills.

“Our goal is very simple: We want to help to save the planet!” said Zane Tankel, founder and CEO of Apple-Metro Inc., which owns and operates 25 Applebee’s restaurants in the city and another 10 in Westchester County.

“And then we want to invite schoolkids here, and take them on tours and show them what we’ve created, so they can do their bit to help to save the planet, too,” he added.

What are the features that make for an environmentally friendly restaurant? This place has at least 45 of them.

For starters, there’s a greenhouse on the roof. Then, there are machines that collect rainwater, and channel it through environmentally sensitive pipes, to empty toilets whose water consumption is reined in by flushometers.

The chandeliers, countertops and bar are all made of bamboo, one of nature’s most renewable resources; there are motion sensors that turn off the lights if nobody is in each room.

Even the foam in the walk-in cooler and the carpeting in the dining room are recycled, and a vertical indoor garden, a “living wall,” will be festooned with lush plants and shrubs.

These green goodies don’t come cheap, though, and they don’t come fast. A typical Applebee’s costs about $2.5 million and takes between 90 and 120 days to build, Tankel says, but the East Harlem project took a year to plan, more than six months to build and cost more than $4 million.

“Did we have to build it this way? No, of course not,” he said. “But we feel an obligation to our community in Harlem.”

There are only 11 LEED-certified Gold restaurant projects so far in the entire U.S. — and this is the only one based in New York City, the Green Building Council says.

There are four rankings: certified, which is the entry level; silver, which is one rung higher; gold, a greater honor, and platinum, the greatest honor of all.

Restaurant brass say they’ve been assured by consultants with expertise in the LEED process that they’re on track for a gold certification, but that the award isn’t expected to take place until after the restaurant is up and running.

Proceeds from Applebee’s VIP opening party on Dec. 8, two days before its official opening, will be donated to the Harlem Jets, a national youth football team.

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