Touting the measure as an expansion of the city’s Green New Deal, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday signed into law a bill that requires some rent-regulated buildings to abide by strict carbon emission caps.
The new law means that buildings with a small percentage of rent-regulated units must meet emission requirements laid out by Local Law 97, which was approved more than a year ago. That law, which applies to properties larger than 25,000 square feet, aims to cut citywide greenhouse-gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.
The newly signed measure, spearheaded by Queens Democratic Council member Costa Constantinides, requires buildings where up to 35 percent of units are rent-regulated to adhere to Local Law 97. Those property owners will have until January 2026 to meet emission limits, which is two more years than buildings already covered by the law have to comply.
Originally, the emissions law exempted all buildings with at least one rent-regulated apartment, allowing these properties to instead follow less stringent energy conservation reporting requirements. At the time, city officials were concerned that landlords would respond to the measure by passing the cost of green retrofits onto tenants.
But when state legislators amended the Major Capital Improvements program in June 2019, they opened the door for the city to carve out a more specific subset of regulated properties. Thanks to the state, only properties where more than 35 percent of the apartments are rent-regulated are eligible for the MCI program, which allows landlords to increase rents if they perform extensive building renovations or improvements.
The real estate industry has criticized Local Law 97 for penalizing high-density buildings. In September — more than a year after the law passed — the Real Estate Board of New York criticized the city for failing to implement “a meaningful plan to conduct outreach to impacted building owners to ensure they are aware of their obligations.” The group said absent guidance from the city, compliance with Constantinides’ bill will “not sucessfully result in carbon emissions reductions unless programs are developed and implemented to help buildings comply.”
“This legislation’s intention is to create greater social equity and environmental justice by reducing carbon emissions — a public good,” REBNY stated in written testimony in September. “Without some public intervention through programs or incentives, however, the cost of achieving that public good will fall entirely on building owners who may not be able to shoulder such costs alone.”