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City Seeks to Remove Zoning Barriers to Green Retrofits

New York City

Zoning laws, Local Law 97, building carbon emissions, co-op and condo boards.
April 28, 2023

New York City co-op and condo boards struggling to reduce their buildings' carbon emissions face many hurdles. If Mayor Eric Adams has his way, zoning laws won't be one of them.

The Adams administration has released the text of the City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality zoning amendment, designed to help the city reach its goal of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, Crain's reports. Now the framework must go through public reviews by all 59 of the city’s community boards and elected officials before reaching the City Council for a vote.

The zoning proposal is welcome news to the many co-op and condo boards that are struggling with how to plan and pay for retrofits that will help them comply with Local Law 97, which sets caps on large buildings' carbon emissions beginning next year.

“Right now many of our regulations were crafted in 1961, well before the urgency of the climate crisis was understood and even before most of our clean energy technology even existed,” says Dan Garodnick, director of the Department of City Planning. 

Chief among the changes is a peeling back of onerous restrictions that make it harder for property owners to embrace green technologies in their buildings or on their land. That could be limits on the number of solar panels that can be installed on a roof, strict rules on where high-performance walls can be added to better insulate buildings and reduce emissions, or the inability to install electric vehicle charging stations purely because of a parcel’s zoning designation.

“Through the zoning text what we can do is eliminate barriers to good decisions, and to enable people to access the funding sources that exist,” Garodnick says. “What we don't want is for people to see a program for which they're eligible and find that the city's own rules are keeping them from accessing it.”

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