Testimony

The Real Estate Board of New York to The Committees on Environmental Protection and Capital Budget on the Oversight of Local Law 97 of 2019

Alexander Shapanka

Senior Policy Analyst, Policy & Planning

April 4, 2021

Nearly two years ago, New York City passed the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA), a slate of laws seeking to make meaningful carbon emissions reductions in the built environment. The centerpiece legislation was LL97, which places strict carbon emissions caps on all buildings 25,000 square feet or greater beginning in 2024, becoming more stringent in 2030 and beyond.

It sounds like a simple and elegant solution – limit building emissions. As written, however, the law demonstrates a lack of understanding of buildings’ needs and daily operations. With no recognition of density (which is a defining characteristic of New York City) and only a loose attempt at distinguishing between types of use, the carbon cap approach does not account enough for the difference in building typologies. Moreover, it completely ignores the realities of the City’s infrastructure and outdated electric grid, which is sourced almost entirely from fossil fuels and will only get more carbon intensive in the short-term with the recent closure of Indian Point Energy Center as we wait for more renewable energy to come into the city.

The real estate industry does not want to defer responsibility for meeting our shared climate goals. New York City’s buildings collectively account for the majority of the city’s carbon emissions. If we are to achieve a more sustainable and equitable city, the built environment needs to act and make meaningful carbon reductions. REBNY agrees with the Council’s intention of decarbonizing New York’s building stock, but the approach it adopted is deeply flawed and needs to be amended, if we have any hope of achieving a carbon-free NYC on the timetable suggested.