A coalition of cooperatives and condominiums is suing the city to block New York City's Local Law 97, which imposes ambitious greenhouse gas emissions caps on most buildings larger than 25,000 square feet, Crain's reports. The lawsuit, filed Thursday night in state Supreme Court, is led by two Queens cooperatives and their board presidents — Bob Friedrich at Glen Oaks Village and Warren Schreiber at Bay Terrace Cooperative Section I — along with the owner of a mixed-used Manhattan building, 9–11 Maiden Lane. The suit names the city and its Department of Buildings as defendants.
"As written, the law calls for devastating penalties if buildings do not sufficiently reduce their carbon emissions by 2024 and further reductions in 2030," the Presidents Co-op and Condo Council says in a statement. (Friedrich and Schreiber are co-presidents of the group, which represents more than 100,000 units of housing in the city.) "We are actively engaged with both elected officials and other government officials to try to understand how the implementation of this statute will work and ways to reduce the financial burden to an already reeling co-op and condo community."
The legal challenge calls the law “ill-conceived and unconstitutional,” taking issue with the annual fines levied on buildings that fail to comply with the caps: $268 per metric ton over limits. The caps are draconian, the suit says, as they could burden some buildings even as owners take steps to comply. The suit claims such penalties are “rendered in violation of due process, or else are improperly city-imposed taxes that lack the requisite delegation of taxing authority from New York state.”
The law, the challenge argues, is disproportionately onerous on owner-occupied co-ops and condos, certain small rental buildings and high-energy-use businesses such as grocery stores and laundromats.
“Local Law 97 is simply too harsh,” says Randy Mastro, lead counsel for the plaintiffs with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. “There’s a difference between a big stick and a death sentence.”
In the suit, Mastro argues that New York City's “Local Law 97 is pre-empted by New York State law,” referring to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Passed in 2019, the law requires New York to chop its economy-wide carbon emissions from 1990 levels 40% by 2030 and 85% by 2050.
“I’m not suggesting addressing climate change isn’t an issue that government should be concerned about,” Mastro says. “What I am suggesting is that when you have a system that makes it impossible for certain essential businesses and smaller high-density property owners to continue to exist, that’s wrong to do.”
Nearly 70% of the city’s carbon emissions come from buildings, and Local Law 97 requires some 50,000 buildings to shrink their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the reduction targets.
The Department of Buildings is in the midst of crafting rules to implement the law and has said it will release additional guidance to property owners in the coming months. Rohit Aggarwala, the city’s chief climate officer and commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, has said property owners who face a particularly steep climb to compliance and who can demonstrate that they are making every effort to comply with the law could have their fines or emission caps reduced.
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