As the deadlines for reducing buildings’ carbon emissions tick relentlessly closer, New York City’s competing real estate interests are settling into a good, old-fashioned alley fight.
In a blistering letter to City Hall officials, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) says the city is using a double standard in setting different emissions caps for its own buildings as opposed to private buildings, including co-ops and condos, Crain’s reports.
“The City of New York is holding private building owners to standards it could never meet, because the city’s commitment is a percentage reduction of emissions across its entire portfolio, not a hard cap for each building as it imposed on the private sector,” writes James Whelan, president of REBNY.
The scathing letter comes in response to the city’s stated opposition to a proposal in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget that would let building owners buy renewable energy from solar and wind plants upstate to avoid paying penalties or investing in more expensive sustainability retrofits in order to comply with the city’s Climate Mobilization Act. The law requires building owners to lower greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 – or pay stiff fines. In effect, Cuomo’s proposal would allow building owners to buy their way into compliance with the law, without actually reducing their own carbon emissions.
“Despite the city’s continued insistence that private buildings be made more efficient,” Whelan’s letter continues, “the mayor has no plan to retrofit the city’s own buildings.”
Laura Feyer, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, did not back down from the administration’s support of the Climate Mobilization Act, saying building owners should step up to meet its goals instead of trying to buy their way out of it.
While REBNY and the city duke it out, environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Urban Green Council, have written a letter of their own to Cuomo, objecting to the proposal in his budget that would allow building owners to buy energy from renewable sources. They say such purchases would fundamentally alter and undermine the intent of the city’s law.
“We support flexible compliance options for building owners covered by the law,” the letter reads, “but those options must prioritize energy efficiency – especially in affordable housing – and reflect stakeholder input.”
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, meanwhile, has come out in support of Cuomo’s proposal, releasing a statement saying that it “provides a temporary compliance mechanism for building owners...while they transition away from fossil fuel use in their buildings.”
This alley fight isn’t going to end anytime soon. Stay tuned.
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