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Bill Seeks to Raise Emission Caps, Delay Penalties for Garden Co-ops and Condos

New York City

Local Law 97, Intro 0772, Linda Lee, garden co-ops and condos, carbon emission caps.

A new bill proposes including a property's green spaces as part of its square footage when calculating carbon-emission caps.

April 26, 2024

City Councilmember Linda Lee, a Queens Democrat, has introduced a new bill that updates an old idea. The bill, known as Intro 0772, seeks to delay penalties and increase carbon emission caps for thousands of buildings that must comply with Local Law 97.

Under Lee's bill, reports, co-ops and condos would be allowed to count their gardens and green spaces as part of their building's square footage when calculating emissions limits — effectively hiking the amount of carbon they're allowed to put out. The notion has broad support in Lee's northeast Queens district, which is home to many sprawling garden apartment complexes.

"Climate change is real and an existential threat," says Lee, whose bill has already netted 22 sponsors, nearly a majority of the city council. "Environmental mandates are important. But Local Law 97's financial penalties for co-ops and condos, their schedule, and the costs of green upgrades threaten to snuff out some of the last pockets of affordable and middle-class housing in an increasingly rent-burdened city."

Under Local Law 97, the enforcement arm of the city's ambitious Climate Mobilization Act, large buildings, including co-ops and condos, are required to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Fines for failing to hit more modest short-term emissions targets were supposed to kick in this year, but at the end of last year, the Department of Buildings pushed back the implementation of those fines for two years for buildings that have shown a "good faith effort" to comply.

If Intro 0772 becomes law, co-op and condo buildings where the average per-unit assessed value — a percentage of market value used to calculate property taxes — is under $65,000 would be spared fines entirely through 2035. Their fines would be cut in half from 2036 through 2040 and reduced by 25 percent from 2041 through 2045. The bill would also allow emissions limits to be adjusted if a condo or co-op building has installed solar panels, converted from oil to gas, or installed utility meters in individual apartments. (An apartment with a $65,000 assessed has a market value of roughly $350,000.)

Where Lee and her supporters see leniency, others see loopholes. Pete Sikora, the climate campaign director at New York Communities for Change, contends that this bill is "a really cynical collection of huge loopholes written by the real estate lobby to gut Local Law 97. It would be an enormous step back globally if the council passed that bill, or any version of it"

Eric Weltman, a senior organizer at Food & Water Watch, sees an additional threat in Lee's bill. "The biggest threat is the signal it sends to the real estate industry that we're willing to cave into their demands," he says. "It sends the wrong signal, the completely wrong signal, to the nation and the rest of the world that we're backing away. This is not the time to be taking a step back from our commitment to moving New York off fossil fuels."

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