The Council of the City of New York
Council Member Costa Constantinides, District 22

November 20, 2018
Contact: Terence Cullen

Constantinides Announces Bill with Speaker Johnson to Significantly Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Large Buildings by 2030

New York City Hall — Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, today announced legislation with Speaker Corey Johnson to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large buildings by 40% over the next decade. Such a bill significantly helps New York City meet its goal of an overall 80% emissions reduction by 2050.

“The time to fight climate change is now. Because the current federal administration vehemently denies that climate change is real, it is up to us to lead the way to protect our environment. Buildings are responsible for 2/3rds of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. Mandating energy efficiency for large buildings is a critical next step to combating climate change. I applaud Council Member Constantinides’ proposal to make our environment more sustainable,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“Climate change is no longer the looming threat of tomorrow — it is a clear and present danger today,” said Council Member Constantinides. “The Trump White House’s deconstructive stance on the environment means we are on our own. Our legislation answers that call to action, makes our air cleaner, and ensures the most vulnerable parts of the City are protected from the effects of climate change. I want to thank Speaker Johnson for his support, leadership, and partnership, as well as the various stakeholders who came together as a team, because we can all agree New York City has to survive.”

Constantinides announced the legislation on the steps of City Hall, joined by Adriana Espinoza of the New York League of Conservation Voters; Isabelle Silverman of the Environmental Defense Fund; Donna De Costanzo of the Natural Resource Defense Council; Janel Quarless of the Working Families Party; and Jonathan Westin of New York Communities for Change.

The bill, which Constantinides will formally introduce at the next stated City Council meeting, mandates buildings 25,000 square feet or larger meet new standards on reducing greenhouse gas outputs. In many cases, these 50,000-plus structures must be retrofitted with new energy efficient technology as well as meet new operating procedures. This relatively small share of the City’s 1 million buildings account for an overwhelming 30% of emissions.

No two buildings are alike, which is why the proposed legislation sets standards reflective of different property categories. The bill targets buildings that emit the most carbon first, with better-performing properties complying with standards later in the decade. An Office of Building Energy Performance will also be set up under the Department of Buildings, which will oversee compliance as well as strategize how to meet goals for 2040 and 2050.

The legislation also recognizes the threats to rent-regulated buildings, where loopholes sometimes allow improvement costs to be passed on to tenants. Properties 25,000 square feet or larger in this category would instead have to meet the retrocomissioning rules under Local 87, which currently only impact structures 50,000 square feet or larger.  

Passing such legislation is vital given the grim Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning last month that, without government action, the planet could see coral reefs destroyed, droughts worsened, and poverty exacerbated as early as 2040. The Trump White House’s surrender in the fight against climate change and its effects means big cities like New York are on their own. Emission marks laid out in Constantinides’ legislation, long in the works before the IPCC report was released, signals the Big Apple is ready to meet those challenges.

“This summer, New York City’s major building and energy stakeholders demonstrated their support for bold climate action by endorsing the Blueprint for Efficiency,” said John Mandyck, CEO of Urban Green Council. “Today’s announcement is the first step in the legislative process to translate this framework into policy. We look forward to working with Council Member Constantinides to incorporate all aspects of the Blueprint and deliver the largest carbon reduction in New York City history.”

Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “The time to act on climate change is now.  Reducing emissions from buildings is the single most significant step New York City can take to meet its climate goals. Establishing emission reduction targets from 2022 through 2050 will help ensure that the residential and commercial sectors do their part to fight climate change and protect our environment.   We are committed to working with stakeholders throughout the legislative process to get this urgently-needed policy enacted in a manner that is practical and achievable. We commend Councilman Constantinides and the City Council for their leadership on to this issue.”

“Nearly 70 percent of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and today’s bill is a step toward tackling energy waste head on,” said Rory Christian, Director, New York Energy Program at Environmental Defense Fund. “We look forward to working with Councilmember Constantinides, businesses and communities to make buildings more efficient, cut costs and pollution, improve resident comfort, and get closer to achieving the Mayor’s ambitious goal of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050.”

“This bill reflects years of hard work and the leadership of the Mayor, Speaker Johnson, and Council Member Constantinides,” said Janel Quarless, Legislative Campaigns Manager of the Working Families Party. “The legislation balances the urgency of climate change with protection for tenants, all while creating thousands of jobs. It is the single biggest thing New York City can do to address climate change, and will make us a national leader in climate policy.”

“My family lost everything in Sandy. We’re ready to fight to save our city from the climate crisis, and create a lot of good jobs, clean up the air, and cut people’s utility bills in the process,” said Rachel Rivera, a Sandy survivor and board member of New York Communities for Change. “It’s time to make buildings like Trump Tower, Kushner’s 666 Fifth Ave and those billionaire pencil towers clean up their dirty acts by requiring them to become highly energy efficient. Thank you Councilmember Constantinides and Council Speaker Johnson. Let’s get this bill passed into law!”   

“Today’s an historic day: The Council, led Speaker Johnson and Councilmember Constantinides, introduces the world’s first and best standard to fight climate change through requiring high energy efficiency standards in large buildings, such as Trump Tower, which is among the cities dirtiest buildings,” said Jonathan Westin, Director of New York Communities for Change. “The weather and climate are already going haywire as the climate crisis accelerates rapidly. As California burns and people are fleeing from fires and floods worldwide, this is the leadership we need to stop this crisis. We’re ready to fight for our City. We urge the Council to pass this vital legislation and the Mayor to sign it.”

During his first year in office, Constantinides led the City Council to have New York reduce its carbon output 80 percent from its 2005 levels by 2050. He also passed legislation promoting renewable or cleaner energy sources including biodiesel, solar, wind, and geothermal power.

Costa Constantinides represents the New York City Council’s 22nd District, which includes his native Astoria along with parts of Jackson Heights, Woodside, and East Elmhurst. He serves as chair of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee and sits on four additional committees: Parks, Transportation, For-Hire Vehicles, and Land Use, as well as the sub-committee on Zoning and Franchises.