The Real Estate Board of New York to The Committee on Resiliency and Waterfronts of the New York City Council Concerning Intros 2092 and 2098 and Resolutions 1389 and Preconsidered T2021-7074

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The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is the City’s leading real estate trade association representing commercial, residential, and institutional property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, salespeople, and other organizations and individuals active in New York City real estate. REBNY thanks the Committee on Resiliency and Waterfronts for the opportunity to submit feedback on Intro 2092 regarding climate design resiliency guidelines and scoring and Intro 2098 regarding freeboard elevations. We also wish to voice strong support for the Resolutions to restore funding to the tributary study and to amend the Stafford Act.

Climate change is real and requires collective effort from both the public and private sectors to deal with the crisis at hand. REBNY shares in the scientific community consensus that significant action is needed to mitigate and reduce the impacts of climate change to avoid devastating consequences, and that this requires both resiliency efforts such as mitigation to sea level rise and approaches to reduce overall carbon consumption to slow changes to the climate itself. REBNY strongly supports the City’s goal to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 and notes that the difference in opinion has historically been around implementation measures for tackling this problem, and not on the need to reduce emissions.

REBNY is proud to represent members who are innovating in the fields of building construction and technology to reduce carbon footprints, increase energy efficiencies and take concrete steps to strengthen climate resilience. In light of climate change-related events throughout the past decade, which cost the city over $19 billion, acting together is how best to prepare for both storm-surge events and day-to-day sea level rise. However, that approach must be flexible to the unpredictability of natural disasters in addition to pegging to the year over year changes in rainy day flooding, sea level rise, heat patterns and the like. As seen with Hurricane Sandy, which brought sea levels significantly higher than anticipated in the flood insurance maps, tying interventions to one tool or data metric may prove inadequate.

It is for these reasons that we question the utility of Intro 2198. Mandating an increase in elevation of one to two feet without regard for individual site conditions and geography, building programmatic needs, and the many modes of flood-proofing intervention that are available appear to run at cross-purposes with the best practices espoused in the city’s design guidelines that this body seeks to institutionalize through local law with Intro 2092. This bill also seeks to accomplish through legislative fiat a standard that may already be outmoded, and does not build upon the vast expertise and stakeholder engagement that is part of the city’s code revision process, nor from the city’s Zoning for Coastal Resiliency text amendment (N 100095 ZRY) that is currently in public review and will come to the City Council for assessment in the coming months. Lastly, it is baffling to ask for funding a study at one level of government and then choose to ignore all of the ongoing study and work, which will appear before this body, on the other.

If President Ford told the City to drop dead, Trump in 2020 told us to drown, yanking financial support from the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries (USACE HATs) Focus Area Feasibility Study and effectively stalling consideration and planning for any regional intervention to address the threats of sea level rise and storm surge for New York City and the neighboring counties in Long Island and New Jersey. Therefore, REBNY strongly supports Resolution 1389-2020 that calls upon the United States Congress to restore funding to USACE HATs Focus Area Feasibility Study, and the States of New York and New Jersey to advance their shares of the next phase of funding to revive the study until it is fully restored by the Congress. REBNY also extends its support to the resolution calling for amendments to the Stafford Act to allow for mitigation funding as a proactive expenditure in the planning and construction of FEMA and HUD coastal resiliency projects. Predictive modelling has only gotten better and preventative measures should be planned for.

Resiliency infrastructure will be costly and will take time to build, but inaction will lead to even more cost and if the challenge is unmet, there will be little left to rebuild. REBNY supports increasing resiliency planning to protect the future of our City. Thank you for the opportunity to share these concerns with the committee.

Download the full testimony for bill-specific feedback here.