New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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City Council Cuts Red Tape to Boost Green Energy Projects

New York City

Green zoning changes, rooftop solar panels, EV charging stations, parking lot solar panels, co-op and condo boards.

New zoning rules will open up 8,500 acres of city parking lots for the installation of solar panels.

Dec. 8, 2023

Just in time for the holidays — and for the arrival of Local Law 97 on Jan. 1, 2024 — the New York City Council has overwhelmingly passed a package of zoning changes that will make it easier for co-op and condo boards to make retrofits that cut their buildings' carbon emissions.

In a 38-to-8 vote, Crain's reports, the council approved the package known as the City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality, which peels away red tape that often makes it needlessly daunting to pursue climate-friendly projects. The changes promote the buildout of solar panels and offshore wind manufacturing, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and the electrification of buildings, among other efforts. It's the most sweeping change to city zoning rules in more than 60 years.

“This is the most ambitious, far-reaching initiative in the history of New York’s zoning to combat climate change,” says Dan Garodnick, director of the Department of City Planning (DCP). “These changes will unlock a massive increase in green infrastructure in all corners of our city.”

The changes include: rewriting strict rules on where high-performance walls can be added to better insulate buildings and reduce emissions; raising limits on the number of solar panels that can be installed on a roof; and opening up swaths of the city to electric charging infrastructure simply by tweaking zoning classifications.

DCP projects that the zoning changes would open up more than 8,500 acres of city parking lots for potential solar panel use. Electric vehicle charging will be possible on 400 million additional square feet of the city, and carbon-cutting retrofits would be easier at over 50,000 buildings, which helps give building owners a clearer path to compliance with Local Law 97. Under that law, owners of buildings larger than 25,000 square feet, including co-op and condo boards, must reduce their buildings' carbon emission under specific caps, or pay stiff fines. The caps become more stringent in future years.

Environmental advocates and the business community have overwhelmingly supported the measure. “Building climate solutions, like solar power and battery storage, often comes down to the nuts and bolts of permitting and zoning,” says Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York. “We need to overcome the barriers to deploying clean power solutions, and today’s passage is a great step.”

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