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Submetering Is Not Dead
In our December issue, we reported that electricity submetering had taken a one-two punch (“Unplugged: The Death Knell of the Submetering Incentive”). First, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has ended reimbursements of up to half of the submeter purchase price. Second, the state Public Service Commission (PSC) has begun requiring submetered buildings to have “disconnect capability,” which enables boards to shut off electricity for nonpayment of bills. The changes have put the upfront cost of submetering out of reach for many co-ops and condos. A reader responds:

Although “the news of my death has been greatly exaggerated” has been attributed to Mark Twain, the source is disputed. However, submetering is certainly not dead. While it is unfortunate that NYSERDA and the PSC have discontinued incentive payments to encourage retrofit installations, and the requirement for service termination may be an impediment (waivers are possible), the financial benefits still apply, and most new construction projects, about 80 percent, are designed for submetering (for example, 432 Park Avenue, Gehry Downtown, and Plaza Condos). When an existing residential building implements submetering, the building’s electric consumption will decrease by 10 to 30 percent since shareholders will have an incentive to reduce their submetered electric bill. Submetering is clearly the single most cost-effective energy reduction method – no other building measure (lighting, boiler controls, envelope improvements) even comes close. The savings will be realized even though the amortization period will be longer in the absence of the NYSERDA incentive. Conversion from direct (Con Ed) metering, where owners pay the retail rate (SC-1), to master-metering with the lower SC-8 rate are permitted when a cogen, solar, or wind system is planned, since these systems require a master meter and submetering. If the building has electrical distribution panels (typical in new or recent construction), then the termination capability is already provided by the apartment branch circuit breaker. If not, a waiver may be granted since the cost to install such a system is prohibitive. Since it’s very costly and wasteful to continue to have the electric usage included in the maintenance charges, consider submetering to realize real savings through conservation.

Eric Jacobson,
Director of Corporate Communications
Quadlogic Controls Corporation

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Don’t Punish Success
In an effort to assert control over the wildly fluctuating fortunes of the 30,000 units in affordable Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) co-ops (see “The Off-Balance World of HDFC Co-ops,” May 2016), the city is proposing a controversial agreement that would limit incomes and assets of HDFC buyers, cap resale apartment prices, institute a 30 percent flip tax, and require a professional manager and third-party “monitor” to oversee operations. A reader writes:
An Open Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker of the City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito,
From an HDFC, January 30, 2017:

“Tonight! We are going to torch you tonight.”

This is what the gangs on the street would yell at the pioneers of our HDFC in 1979. In Spanish and English they threatened, through the frame of the building, the very people who were reclaiming the neighborhood.

We rehabilitated our building on Amsterdam Avenue through our sweat equity and earned its certification. In exchange, the city gave us a deed recognizing our achievements and acknowledging, over the years, our full independence as a co-op.

As you consider changing the rules on us, 40 years through a 50-year program, I invite you to think about the injustice of the proposal. You are punishing success, but there’s also a basic unfairness to the proposed legislation even before you are reminded of what we have achieved. It feels like a school principal is revoking a high school graduation certificate from someone who graduated a quarter of a century ago, unless they submit to newly revised school rules.

And here’s what we have achieved: from those early years when the city was emerging from the threat of bankruptcy to today’s threat of citywide over-gentrification, our HDFC and others like it have been a pillar of aspirational lower-middle-class stability. It is we who have provided continuity for those living and working here even though the violence of the ’80s – when our neighborhood was known as Little Vietnam for its gunfire and murders – to its current venue as a livable, diverse community with a variety of excellent ethnic cuisine (including, yes, from Southeast Asia!).

We were the ones who helped UHAB (the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board) in their first years, as we showed them what their job looked like at the cutting edge of building rehabilitation. It is we who, before the internet, before the bureaucrats had set up their systems, worked out how to be appropriately certified, how to graduate from the reception programs to become an independent co-op. We worked out how to take a building from an abandoned squat to a responsible, independent, tax-paying co-op. And we did it.

We are not a set of opportunists making money from flipping property. Despite having graduated from our flip-tax obligation several decades ago, our modest building of teachers, social workers, health-care professionals, and designers is still occupied by four of the original seven families who slept in the construction site in 1979. Of the current 23 residents, 7 were born in the building. Only one of the apartments has been sold in the last 15 years.

Your proposed legislation would gut our pioneers on the verge of retirement and betray everyone who bought into the mission of our HDFC and others like it. It would trap us and our children by simultaneously radically devaluing the property and making life as a shareholder vastly more expensive.

We at 989 Amsterdam HDFC call on you to scrap the legislation that proposes pulling thousands of co-ops back under city controls from which we have long graduated. We further call on you to extend the HDFC tax allowance beyond the 2029 sunset to make sure that you do not destroy this diverse spine of New York City. We understand that there is a need for affordable housing, but it does not come from scrapping affordable housing for those of New York’s precarious middle class who have devoted their lives to making the city livable.

989 Amsterdam Avenue HDFC

 

Write to Habitat at submissions@habitatmag.com

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