By Scott Etkin
Proposed zoning changes designed to help city property owners meet stricter energy standards got a unanimous endorsement from Community Board 7’s Land Use Committee Wednesday night. The new efficiency standards, set to take effect next year, are outlined in Local Law 97 and apply to city buildings with more than 25,000 square feet.
New York City’s buildings account for a large portion of its carbon emissions – more than transportation and waste. The city’s ability to achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, therefore, will require the retrofitting of the vast majority of its existing building stock (over one million buildings).
Among the steps property owners can take to meet the new efficiency standards are: adding solar panels and battery-based energy storage systems to the building, as well as installing electric car chargers and replacing traditional boilers with electric heat pumps. The proposed zoning changes endorsed by CB7’s committee would relax restrictions that could hamper these upgrades. Under current city regulations, for instance, solar panels can only cover 25% of a building’s roof; the proposed rules would change this to 100%.
The vote followed a presentation by representatives from NYC’s Department of City Planning, who described several updates to guidelines about how a property’s space – such as the roof – can be repurposed for renewable energy equipment and upgraded machinery.
“This proposal […] is not creating any new mandates whatsoever,” ” said Andrew Cantu, senior planner at the city planning department. . “With this text amendment, what we’re trying to do is simply lower barriers so that zoning is not an impediment to implementation and trying to meet those standards.”
Making upgrades on the Upper West Side presents particular challenges since so many of its buildings are more than a hundred years old, have landmark status, or fall within a historic district.
“I just want to emphasize that [the Landmarks Preservation Commission] has ultimate jurisdiction over retrofitting, over everything that happens in historic districts and landmarks,” said Ariel Bi, another planning department official. “LPC will continue to evaluate retrofit requests and have the normal LPC review channels.”
One question raised in the meeting was how these updates will be funded. While the city’s representatives said that more details on this will become available as the proposed changes move forward, they said that tax breaks will be given to property owners who make efficiency upgrades. NYC Accelerator is also a resource for finding out more about financing opportunities.
A public hearing for the proposed rule changes is set for July, and the City Council will vote on them in October.
A full video recording of the presentation can be found at the link.
The fastest way to do this would be to remove Landmark’s jurisdiction on window replacements and remove barriers to converting oil boilers to gas.
Help people insulate, and help people keep more efficiently.
Solar power is never going to provide meaningful output in this neighborhood.
And get rid of the multi layered arcane requirements for installing rooftop heat pumps.
Sorry, help people*heat* more efficiently 🙂
Solar power in Manhattan? Come on, everything is in high-rises shadows.
From a high window you can see acres and acres of unused flat rooftops ready to catch sun year around. They used to be all black tar roofs. Now most are reflective silver white – keeps the buildings cooler in summer. If even a small percentage are used for collecting solar safely that could be a lot of electric. (I recall reading that solar plus green roof is the ideal combo – keeps the whole system cooler, collects and directs rain water, insulates the building, purifies air.). But safely installing solar can’t be that hard – we put up cell towers fast enough.
We live in a Landmarks covered district. Our co-op building is not landmarked individually. Our building was built in 1926 with six-over-six single pane windows. Before landmarks, these were replaced with double pane windows or, at the owner’s expanse, single pane tilt and turn windows or similar. Now, if someone wants to replace their current windows with newer thermal windows, the windows that are visible must be six over six. This is done by attaching fake frames that don’t look real and they block sun and views.
I think that replacement with modern windows that are single or double-hung is equally aesthetically pleasing. Only if a building is landmarked and the windows were part of the design (such as some art deco buildings,) should the landmarks have a say in the window design.