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NYC buildings need to reduce pollution by upgrading heating, cooling systems, de Blasio says

Mayor Bill de Blasio talks about a plan

Mayor Bill de Blasio talks about a plan to force the owners of older buildings in NYC to make them more energy efficient in an effort to reduce pollution. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to force owners of 14,500 older buildings in New York to reduce pollution and boost energy efficiency through upgrades like new boilers, insulated roofs and heating and cooling system upgrades.

Of the more than 1 million buildings in the city, de Blasio is targeting those bigger than 25,000 square feet, where the mandated upgrades could cost individual owners more than $1 million. He predicted the costs would pay for themselves through energy savings mandates that cap emissions.

“It’s time for a different set of rules in this city to address climate change,” said de Blasio, a Democrat who is seeking reelection.

De Blasio predicted that, if implemented, the changes would cut pollution by the equivalent of 900,000 automobiles.

He called the 14,500 buildings, many dating to the 1950s, “the worst offenders.” Among the most famous ones covered, according to de Blasio spokesman Seth Stein: The Seagram Building, the Apthorp Condominium and Trump Place in Manhattan, and One Hanson Place in Brooklyn.

The mandates would cover an additional 8,500 buildings that already comply, according to Stein.

Smaller buildings would be granted low-interest loans to comply with the plan, which would require City Council approval once legislation is drafted.

“For the big guys,” de Blasio said, “they can handle it; they just don’t like to spend money.”

Council spokeswoman Robin Levine said the chamber had been working on similar rules, and what the mayor proposes “simply does not go far enough.” She declined to elaborate.

Owners of the larger buildings who fail to comply with efficiency targets by 2030 would face millions of dollars in fines.

In a written statement, John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, said the board was concerned the metric being used doesn’t take into account occupant density.

“A trading floor with many terminals and employees might not meet targets, but an empty windowless building used for storage would meet the target,” Banks’ statement said.

De Blasio called the board’s response “hyperbole.”

“Folks in the private sector often are resistant to change, and are often resistant to spending money, even if it’s in the interest of the Earth, and their children and grandchildren, and even if they’re going to make their money back,” he said.

Meeting the standards would cost about $8,000 per unit for the average apartment building — maintenance that would cost about $6,000 otherwise, according to Stein.

De Blasio says the buildings covered under the plan account for about a quarter of the city’s pollution. He said he plans to roll out other proposals in the coming months to reduce pollution in an effort to mitigate the effects of President Donald Trump’s June decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

“We’re not waiting on President Trump and his cabinet of deniers to address this crisis,” the mayor said of the plan, which he called a matter of “life and death.”

De Blasio has set citywide goals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

De Blasio said he hoped to take steps to control rent increases connected to the plan, especially for rent-regulated units. The plan could also, in the short term, increase costs for condominiums and co-ops.


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