Taking Care of Residents, the Building and the Planet

Martin Robertson brings eco-conscious living practices to the building he manages in Brooklyn.

| 18 Oct 2023 | 12:55

When Martin Robertson’s wife wanted to join the Park Slope Food Co-op he was skeptical. “I would joke with her about it,” Robertson said. “Like, ‘If I’m stacking boxes, I should be getting paid for it.” But since joining, he says he’s learned about community, sustainability, and volunteering -- all lessons he has applied to his job as Building Manager at 306 Gold Street.

The building is a multi-family condominium in downtown Brooklyn with “different people with different lifestyles, who ultimately have to work together to live. I really do see myself as part of a family. I see this building, though it has 303 units, as just one big house with a bunch of different rooms.”

Robertson’s journey to working as Building Manager was a long one. After growing up in Brooklyn, he joined the Army Reserve for a GED, just missing Operation Desert Storm. “It was just good timing. At the time I probably would’ve liked to go to war, but in retrospect – man, I’m really glad I didn’t.”

After serving he went to Morehouse College, then Emory University, but tuition was expensive. He picked up a job in construction to pay the bills.

It was an English teacher who first suggested he try working as a super. He came into class with paint on his clothes, and the teacher asked “Have you ever thought about being a super?” And just like that, the question of what Robertson would do for the next 15 years was solved.

He began as a super, working in buildings throughout New York City, before becoming a building manager.

Sustainability is one of Robertson’s key initiatives at Gold Street. He has instituted composting throughout the building, started a recycling initiative for metal, and even brought a ReFashion clothing donation bin into the basement. At 32BJ he teaches classes in Green Living.

“We haven’t been given the planet, we’ve been loaned it. We’re just stewards before we pass it onto the next generation. And I believe we’ve done the next generation an injustice by how we’ve treated the planet,” said Robertson. “I believe it’s my responsibility – in whatever position I’m in – to do whatever I can to bring about the change I want to see.”

About the Green Award
The Green Worker Award is presented in memory of William “Bill” Aristovulos, who worked in the building service industry for more than 34 years. He was a long-time champion of green buildings, at his building and throughout New York City.
Bill was the very first “Green Super” at 32BJ, the building service workers’ union. He was also the union’s first member to become a green instructor. His building projects as a Green Super ranged widely from installing energy-efficient lighting systems, an air conditioning chiller, and a condensing boiler, to water conservation and tenant education, even before these projects were considered popular “green” strategies. His air conditioning chiller project alone saved his building $20,000 in energy costs per year and prevented 300 pounds of dangerous refrigerant from entering the atmosphere annually, while his water conservation project of installing low-flow toilets in every apartment reduced his building’s water consumption by 30%.
As an instructor at the 32BJ Training Fund, Bill taught almost 200 sessions and included the best practices of energy-efficiency in building operations and maintenance in every green and non-green class that he taught. Through the green courses, he taught more than 300 members how to make their buildings greener. Bill’s active involvement in the green building movement led to an invitation by (at the time) Vice-President Joe Biden to participate in a Green Jobs Town Hall.