First in the Nation Legislation Will Reduce Greenhouse Emissions, Lower Energy Costs, and Create Thousands of Green Jobs, and Establish a City Energy Code
Creating Zoning Strategies and Financial Incentives to Attract and Retain Grocery Stores in Under-Served Areas, Council Also Votes on innovative FRESH program
City Hall, December 9, 2009 – At today’s Stated Council meeting, the members of the City Council will vote on ground-breaking green buildings legislation to improve energy efficiency in existing buildings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower energy costs, create thousands of green jobs, and establish a New York Cide energy code. Today’s legislative package represents the most comprehensive, ambitious and coordinated plan ever proposed in the United States to cut carbon emissions from existing buildings, the greatest source of carbon dioxide emissions in American cities. The Council will also vote today on the FRESH program which, through zoning strategies and financial incentives, would attract and retain grocery stores in New York City’s under-served communities.
GREEN BUILDINGS LEGISLATION
Working to meet the commitment of reducing the City’s greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030, the Council will vote on four bills to position New York City as the nation’s leader in the goal of promoting energy efficiency and growing the green economy. Buildings account for 80 percent of New York City’s carbon emissions and energy costs are estimated at $15 billion a year. The proposed green buildings plan would reduce both carbon emissions and consumer costs, as well as create thousands of green jobs across the city.
“Today we are taking tremendous steps towards creating a more environmentally friendly New York City,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Our actions today, which set a new national standard for building energy usage, will bring our aging infrastructure into the 21st century, reduce carbon emissions, lower energy costs, and create thousands of green jobs. Working together with the Administration, environmental advocacy groups, and construction, housing, and buildings organizations, we are making our world-famous city skyline greener and greater than ever.”
Since the bills’ introduction on Earth Day in April, the Mayor’s Office and City Council have worked with a wide variety of stakeholders to address concerns and refine each piece of the legislative package. The first three bills apply to large buildings, specifically tax lots with a building of 50,000 square feet or more and tax lots with more than one building that add up to at least 100,000 square feet of built area.
Bringing the Past into the Future: Audits and Retro-Commissioning Bill
This bill will require owners of existing buildings over 50,000 square feet to conduct energy efficiency audits every ten years and to optimize building efficiency with focused maintenance. This bill also requires that City-owned buildings retrofit systems when audits show such work would generate an energy-cost-savings pay-back in seven years or less.
“Twenty years from now, people will look back at the vote on this landmark legislative package as the moment when city government, critical stakeholders and concerned citizenry came together to transform our buildings into centers of environmental innovation, showcases of engineering excellence and engines of economic revitalization,” said Environmental Protection Committee Chair James F. Gennaro. “These bills are transformative for our environment, a boon to our economy and a beacon to other cities on the journey to environmental sustainability.”
Setting a Standard: Benchmarking Bill
This bill would make building energy performance more transparent by requiring large buildings to “benchmark” their energy and water consumption annually, making use of a free, online tool provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Benchmarking will empower building owners to take steps towards minimizing energy use and maximizing the economic benefits inherent to energy conservation.
“Benchmarking is the first step owners can take toward reducing emissions from their buildings,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Large building owners must be equipped with the tools and information they need in order to reduce their energy and water usage. This legislation will ensure that the benchmarking process happens in all large buildings and that it happens in a transparent manner, so that owners can cut their buildings’ operating costs while also cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that harm us all. I thank the Speaker and Environmental Protection Committee Chair Gennaro for helping bring this important legislation to the floor, as well as Council Members Garodnick and Recchia for their work on the other components of this package.”
Lighting the Way: Lighting Bill
This legislation would require lighting upgrades by 2025 in commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet. Such upgrades include the installation of sensors and controls, as well as more efficient light fixtures. This bill would also mandate the installation of submeters by 2025 and owners would have to provide each tenant with a monthly statement indicating the amount of electricity consumed and the amount charged to the tenant for electricity. Lighting accounts for almost 20 percent of the electricity used in New York City’s buildings and electricity usage accounts for 49 percent of New York City’s carbon emissions.
“We are facing a major environmental crisis, and we can’t rely on someone else to fix it for us,” said Council Member Domenic M. Recchia, Jr. “It’s up to local governments to take the lead. I’m proud to sponsor a bill that will pave the way for more efficient lighting and smarter energy use in buildings across the city. It’s steps like these that will reduce our city’s carbon footprint and ensure a brighter, cleaner tomorrow.”
Realizing Potential: New York City Energy Code Bill
This bill would create for the first time a local New York City Energy Code and require that new equipment installed during a renovation must meet current efficiency standards by removing a unique New York State amendment exempting a significant number of building renovations from the New York State Energy Code.
“Passing New York City’s first Green Energy Code will propel us past the lax statewide standards and allow us to tackle our biggest source of greenhouse gases head-on,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “There is no reason that a building undergoing renovations should have its old, inefficient systems replaced with equally inefficient ones. We must do better and today, we will.”
In 2007, the Council passed and the Mayor signed Local Law 22 which requires city-wide greenhouse gas reductions of 30% by 2030. These bills will help meet this environmental protection mandate while also creating thousands of jobsacross the city.
FRESH ZONING PROGRAM
Creating broad and innovative strategies to encourage the establishment of new grocery stores and help existing operators upgrade stores in underserved areas, the Council will vote to approve the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program. FRESH provides zoning and financial incentives to property owners, developers and grocery store operators in areas of New York City that currently have limited levels of local grocery stores. FRESH is the first program in the country to provide a combination of zoning and financial incentives across multiple communities.
“From bringing food-stamp technology to farmer’s markets, to connecting more qualifying New Yorkers to food stamps, to restoring millions of dollars to food pantries and meals-on-wheels programs, the Council has remained focused on helping New Yorkers feed their families and access more nutritious food in their neighborhoods,” said Speaker Quinn. “With too few supermarkets in places like the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn and many existing businesses shutting their doors across the city, too many New Yorkers are being affected by supermarket shortages and a lack of access to affordable, healthy foods. Through FRESH’s innovative zoning strategies and tax incentives to bring more grocery stores to underserved communities, we are taking a broad and bold approach to retain and attract grocery stores in our city’s most under-served neighborhoods.”
The FRESH program areas, identified in a 2008 report by the City, are located in the South Bronx, Upper Manhattan, Central Brooklyn and Downtown Jamaica.
Zoning strategies proposed in the FRESH areas include:
Allowing one additional square foot of residential floor area for every square foot provided a Fresh food store up to 20,000 square feet
Allowing grocery stores up to 30,000 square feet in size, up from the 10,000 square feet currently allowed, to locate in light manufacturing districts without store owners having to apply for a special permit
Reducing parking space requirements for grocery stores in certain pedestrian-oriented streets, which will reduce the supermarket development cost.
Financial incentives of the FRESH program, available to grocery store operators and developers in low-income and underserved neighborhoods across the city, would provide real estate tax abatements, mortgage recording tax waivers and sales tax exemptions on purchases of materials used to acquire property or to construct, renovate or equip grocery stores.