By Victoria Merlino
After a major push from the City Council to make the city’s buildings some of the most sustainable in the country, the Queens Chamber of Commerce convened a panel of experts on Wednesday to demystify the measures for building owners and managers.
The new laws seek to expand the city’s capacity for solar energy by requiring building owners who apply for new construction, extensions or major roof modifications to install solar panels or “green” roofs, depending on roof feasibility, as well as limiting buildings’ carbon emissions. Buildings larger than 25,000 square feet will be required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, or face a fine.
The set of bills, collectively called the “Climate Mobilization Act,” is being heralded as a “Green New Deal” for New York City.
“If you’re a building owner here today, and you’re worried about fines, I don’t want your money. I want your carbon,” Councilmember Costa Constantinides told the audience. Constantinides, who led the charge on the set of climate bills, has made climate change one of his signature issues, and is chair of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee.
Constantinides stressed that the government wanted to help building owners reach carbon emission goals and avoid fines. He said that if owners truly exhausted all options and had trouble meeting their goals, they could apply to adjust their carbon number or the penalty.
Some real estate owners have been skittish about the new laws, and say it could come at a high cost. In April, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Mark Chambers, told The New York Times that the cost of the upgrades could exceed $4 billion for owners. Nearly 60 percent of New York’s City build area will be affected by the emissions law, with exceptions for buildings like houses of worship and rent-regulated buildings.
The powerful owner and developer lobby, the Real Estate Board of New York, announced their opposition to the legislation last year, according to CityLab.
“New York City is way out front on this,” said Adam Stolorow, a partner at environmental law firm Sive, Paget & Riesel during the event’s panel.
Stolorow noted that the city’s plan is much more ambitious than just reducing building emissions. The plan also addresses the waste, energy and transportation sectors in an attempt to drastically reduce overall carbon emissions. Most of the emissions come from buildings, Stolorow said, which is why they are first in line to be capped.
Members of the panel, including energy-efficiency company Ecosave’s David Forman and solar consulting company SOL ALLIANCE’s Stephen Owen, said business owners have many options business for reducing the burden of their carbon emissions. They advised the businesspeople to start early, before the first 2024 emissions reduction deadline approaches.
“I don’t want a rush in 2024. You know that term paper that’s due at the end of the class, and everyone’s up until four o’ clock in the morning doing their term paper? That’s not what we want here,” Constantinides said, reiterating that he would work to make the transition smoother on the government side through program funding.
The Chamber of Commerce plans to have more events surrounding the Climate Mobilization Act legislation as its implementation date continues to get closer.