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Bill Seeks to Push Local Law 97 Fines Back by 7 Years

Bill Morris in Green Ideas on February 9, 2023

New York City

Local Law 97, building carbon emissions, Vickie Paladino, pushback of fines, co-op and condo boards.

City council member Vickie Paladino announces her bill to push back fines under Local Law 97. Warren Schreiber (far left) of the Presidents Co-op and Condo Council is a supporter of the bill, as is council member Ari Kagan (far right).

Feb. 9, 2023

Vickie Paladino, a Republican who represents northeastern Queens on the New York City Council, has introduced a bill that seeks to push next year’s fines under Local Law 97 back by seven years. Beginning in 2024, buildings that fail to reduce their carbon emissions to prescribed levels are scheduled to face stiff fines. The carbon limits get stricter in 2030, which will likely drive fines higher.

A press conference announcing Paladino’s bill attracted leaders of the Presidents Co-op and Condo Council (PCCC), who have filed a lawsuit to block Local Law 97, as well as city council members Ari Kagan, a Republican from southern Brooklyn, and one of the bill's cosponsors, Linda Lee, a Democrat from eastern Queens.

“There’s no reason this bill should not be bipartisan,” Paladino tells Habitat in an exclusive interview. “It affects every person in New York City. When I first heard about Local Law 97 back in 2019, I knew it was going to be a disaster for the middle class. Pushing the fines back by seven years was my idea, and when I consulted with the Presidents Co-op and Condo Council, they loved the idea.”

Citing figures recently released by the Real Estate Board of New York, Paladino notes that if they make no energy-efficiency retrofits, 31 building owners in her district, including six co-ops and condos, will face up to $4.2 million in fines in 2024. When the caps get tighter in 2030, a total of 153 buildings in the district will face fines up to $9 million.

“The PCCC lawsuit seeks to kill Local Law 97 dead,” Paladino adds. “My bill seeks to buy time. Yes, I’m opposed to the law, but if it has to happen, we have to do it wisely. If we’re going to push these drastic climate bills, it would be nice if there was a J-51 type of tax break. This was pushed through by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio without any real thought behind it.”

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The J-51 tax abatement and exemption program, first instituted in the 1950s, has allowed owners of older residential buildings, including co-op and condo boards, to get a break in property taxes in exchange for conducting significant renovation work or converting a commercial building to a residential one. State Sen. Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) recently introduced a bill in the state Senate, S9603, that would provide relief from real property taxes for capital improvements that reduce building carbon emissions. 

Warren Schreiber, a co-president of the PCCC and a plaintiff in the lawsuit to overturn Local Law 97, is also president of the co-op board at 200-unit Bay Terrace Cooperative Section 1 in Queens. Schreiber attended the recent press conference when Paladino unveiled her bill, and he says he welcomes the measure as one more weapon in the longshot fight against the city’s ambitious climate bill.

“The PCCC supports (Paladino’s) bill 100%,” Schreiber says. “The idea is that during the seven-year period, people will discuss the problems and figure out ways to make it easier for us to comply with the law without bankrupting our corporations. I think most city council members understand our problems, but they don’t know how to fix this bill. I think they’re either reluctant to touch it or they’ve closed their minds. They don’t care about the consequences for co-ops like ours.”

Schreiber poses a rhetorical question: “If we fix the planet’s climate but people don’t have affordable housing, what have we fixed?”

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