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War of Words Begins Over City’s Ambitious Climate Law

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Greenhouse Gas

The Rockaways Peninsula in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

May 15, 2019

The ink is barely dry on New York City’s ambitious Climate Mobilization Act, and already the war of words is raging. The act, passed last month by the city council and signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, requires buildings larger than 25,000 square feet, including co-ops and condos, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent (of 2005 levels) by the year 2030, and by 80 percent by 2050. Buildings that fail to meet the requirements face stiff penalties

The Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums (CNYC) has singled out 10 Queens co-ops – located in Flushing, Glen Oaks, and Astoria – that could be hit with millions of dollars in penalties. “This legislation unfairly places a burden on the backs of these homeowners, ignoring the fact that addressing climate change should be an obligation shared by all New Yorkers,” Mary Ann Rothman, executive director of CNYC, says in a statement. “The fines will impose a real hardship on building residents and could harm both their financial stability and their quality of life.” 

Not so, fires back Costa Constantinides, the city council member from Astoria who sponsored the Climate Mobilization Act. “The only buildings that will face steep fines are those that make no effort whatsoever to retrofit their buildings,” Constantinides tells the Queens Daily Eagle. “Buildings that operate in good faith will be able to get low- to no-cost loans, adjustments, or other assistance if they have trouble meeting these requirements. Let's be clear: I don't want your money, I want your carbon.”

Constantinides adds that low-lying Queens neighborhoods are particularly vulnerable to rising waters caused by climate change. “Neighborhoods like the Rockaways are going to vanish by the mid-century,” he says. “When I talk about Queens bearing the brunt of climate change, I’m talking from a place of fact. Even the conservative models talk about large sea-level rise due to climate change and storm surge. The Queens landscape is not going to be the same for my son as it was for me, and that’s why this legislation is so important.”

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