For the birds: NYC buildings told to use flight-friendly materials

Council approves measure after Cuomo vetoes a similar bill

TRD New York /
Dec.December 10, 2019 05:52 PM
Council member Rafael Espinal (Credit: Twitter, iStock)

Council member Rafael Espinal (Credit: Twitter, iStock)

Flight conditions in New York City just got a little clearer — for birds, that is.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a bill that requires bird-friendly materials to be used for 90 percent of the building envelope on new projects and major renovations. It applies to the first 75 feet of a structure, into which birds are most likely to fly.

The measure defines “bird-friendly” as glass and facade materials that are more visible to birds, such as frosted or etched glass.

The bill, sponsored by Council member Rafael Espinal, aims to reduce fatal bird collisions in the city. According to New York City Audubon, between 90,000 and 230,000 birds die in such crashes across the city every year.

In testimony submitted to the Council in September, the Real Estate Board of New York had expressed concern about earlier versions of the bill, which called for bird-friendly glass on a minimum of 90 percent of all exterior glazing, including all glass balcony railings, glass corners and parallel glass.

“We thank the Council for addressing a number of concerns we had with the original version, and support a science-based approach to reducing bird deaths,” Basha Gerhards, REBNY’s vice president of policy and planning, said in a statement Tuesday. “We hope the Council will track over time the efficacy of these measures and monitor the commercial availability of these materials to optimize compliance and the goals of the bill.”

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo shot down an attempt to ramp up bird-friendly building rules at the state level. He vetoed a bill that would have established a council to promote the use of design features and building materials that prevent collisions.

It is not clear whether measure — if signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio — will have any significant effect on bird fatalities, given that existing buildings are not likely to be affected.


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