Celebrating Corporate Commons Three: Silva Cell now in All Five Boroughs of NYC

I often get asked, “Do you have any Silva Cell installations in New York City?” After more than a decade of Silva Cell presence in the Greater NYC area, I am a bit incredulous that it is not more well-known in the industry. The answer is a definitive “yes!” A review of our projects in NYC reads like a list of greatest hits. For years, we have had dozens of Silva Cell projects dappled throughout several boroughs. Now, with the addition of Corporate Commons Three, we are in all five boroughs of the Big Apple: Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. From 2009-2019, Silva Cell projects were constructed in four of the five boroughs, and in 2020 Staten Island joined the mix.

Manhattan hosts two iconic projects utilizing Silva Cells: The Lincoln Center Bosque and the 65th Street Streetscape in front of the Julliard School, as well as the plaza at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That same year the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (USTA) in Queens was completed. In addition to the tennis center, Queens proudly claims the recently completed Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park and Streetscape.  Hunter’s Point is the largest Silva Cell installation in NYC. It’s odd, no one outside of the City has heard of it, but the site is immediately recognizable as what was originally to be Amazon’s new headquarters.  The Bronx is home to the Heritage Field at Yankee Stadium project, completed in 2012. In the fourth borough, Brooklyn, Silva Cells were installed in 2017 in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Overlook. Also, DeepRoot has partnered with the NYC Department of Transportation Plaza Program to install cells at several different projects, including La Plaza De Las Americas, in the Washington Heights neighborhood made famous by Broadway superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Map of featured Silva Cell projects in all 5 boroughs of New York City.

With the upcoming completion of Corporate Commons Three by the Nicotra Group and Being Here Landscape Architecture & Environmental Design, PLLC, we welcome the only major project in the city-funded and built by the private sector. Richard and Lois Nicotra run a premier real estate development company, the Nicotra Group, specializing in hospitality and commercial office properties totaling more than 1 million square feet in Staten Island and Manhattan. What sets them apart from other developers is their commitment to the community in which they grew up, as evidenced by their philanthropic activities through their charitable foundation.

Corporate Commons Three And Silva Cells

“Corporate Commons Three will expand our unparalleled offerings of Class A office space on Staten Island. Physicians, educators, and other professionals will enjoy the upscale environment both in the building and in the adjacent, art-filled ‘town square’ that we created on our corporate campus,” said Lois and Richard Nicotra. They went on, “The ample free parking made possible by Silva Cells, and the woodland view, which is enhanced by the upscale exterior and interiors, will marry beautifully to create a work environment that elevates our tenants’ well-being.” This project is distinctive for incorporating elements of social and environmental justice into the work environment to improve people’s experience. Corporate Commons Three will expand social enterprise commitment and feature Nicotra Group’s second social enterprise eatery, Pienza Brick Oven Pizza Café. “We will gift 100% of the profits to charity from Pienza”, said Lois and Richard. They’ve done this with their current social enterprise eatery, the COMMONS café. COMMONS café has already awarded nearly $1 million in grants to our borough’s nonprofit community and scholarships to our employees’ children and grandchildren.“As we expand our philanthropy, we also continue our dedication to treating our tenants like partners in issues of social and environmental justice, and education, all while demonstrating our commitment to the Urban Forest.”

DeepRoot’s Al Key and Nicotras Group watching the Silva Cell installation on August, 9,2020

A Project Team At The Intersection Of Site And Society

It’s no wonder why the Nicotra’s hired Being Here Landscape Architecture to design the wooded parking lot, bioretention swales, and planting around Corporate Commons Three, as they work creatively at the intersection of site and society, and offer a suite of complementary skills in landscape architecture, certified arborist services, and community-based revitalization consulting.

Patrick Weisel, ASLA, ISA, excels in the practice’s interdisciplinary perspective. The Nicotra’s partnered with Patrick because they share the belief that all life depends on the self-sustaining dynamics of water, air, landscape, and wildlife. They understand that at the same time, healthy work communities depend on vibrant exchanges of ideas, values, visions, and commerce. Patrick also took great care to ensure that the site excavation soil was repurposed, and carefully followed a regimen to test that it was appropriate for use in the Silva Cells. This was a tricky endeavor, as often bioretention soils and planting soils are completely different, but it is the most sustainable approach to soils, eliminating the need to off-haul existing site soil and truck in new soils.

Large Trees Made Possible With Silva Cells

The project consists of 16 bioretention swales, a mixture of 1x and 2x systems, and the DeepRoot Water + Air system throughout. The cells in the parking lot augment the swales in terms of stormwater storage capacity, enabling the Nicotra Group to maintain the required number of parking spaces and control the requisite stormwater volume in the limited defined space. Patrick put it simply when he said,

“Without some sub-surface system, like Silva Cells, parking lot planting islands just don’t offer enough root volume to grow large trees, especially when every inch is needed to meet Staten Island’s expectation for plentiful and convenient surface parking. The Nicotras wanted large trees, but they also wanted every parking spot they could get. Silva Cells made both possible. The system also dovetailed well with New York City’s requirement that parking lot planting beds be designed as bioswales to accept stormwater.”

Aesthetically, the London Plane trees will be a fascinating component of the site. As they grow taller, the trees will be reflected in the 8-story curtain wall of this exciting property designed by CetraRuddy Architecture. Silva Cells will facilitate their having a long and healthy life.

DeepRoot is thrilled to be part of this project as we are aligned in the mission of ensuring large trees are part of the Corporate Commons Three site.  The relation between real estate value and trees is well known. The Nicotra’s and the Corporate Commons Three project are serving their community well with an environmentally focused project that will provide long term benefits from trees and high-quality soils for decades. Welcome to the list, Staten Island!

Silva Cell installation. Photo courtesy of Being Here Landscape Architecture

Installation Summary
Number of Silva Cells: 328 Silva Cell
Total Amount of Soil volume: 
3,400 ft 3
Number of trees and type: 
27  London Plane (Platanus X Acerfolia)
Type of Project: 
Trees, Parking Lot
Landscape Architect: 
Being Here Design for The Nicotra Group
Project Contractor: NJ Paving, Inc.
Installation Date of Silva Cells: August 2020
Project timeline: 
2018-2020