Getting into the Green Zone: New York City Adopts Zoning Amendments to Further Promote Green Buildings

New York City has demonstrated its continued leadership on sustainability and addressing climate change with the adoption of “Zone Green”, an amendment to New York City's zoning resolution that will make it easier to build new green buildings, as well as retrofit older buildings to be green.  The City Planning Commission unanimously approved the Zone Green text amendment on March 23rd, followed by the New York City Council’s unanimous approval of the proposed amendment yesterday.   We commend the Department of City Planning for putting forward this proposal, which not only represents an important step forward in achieving the City’s greenhouse gas reduction and energy goals, but will also result in lower energy costs for consumers, the creation of much-needed jobs, fewer emissions of harmful pollutants, and increased reliability of our electric grid.

Buildings represent an important and necessary opportunity for reducing the city’s carbon footprint, as nearly 80% of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings.  It is also critical that we address existing buildings, as 85% of the buildings that will exist in 2030 are currently standing.  Zone Green follows the groundbreaking efforts the City has already been taking in this area, including its Greener, Greater Buildings plan, as well as its initiatives to address barriers to greater efficiency, including its work to promote energy-aligned leases and to facilitate financing of energy efficiency retrofits through the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation.  Energy efficiency is an important resource and is the cheapest, easiest and fastest way to meet New York City’s energy needs while reducing harmful pollution and saving money. 

The Zone Green amendments build upon a number of the recommendations of the City’s Green Codes Task Force, an effort led by Urban Green Council at the request of Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Quinn to comprehensively review New York City codes for impediments to and opportunities for encouraging sustainability in buildings.  Zone Green will remove zoning barriers to making New York City buildings greener, providing building owners with greater flexibility to implement sensible measures that save energy and money, such as insulating building walls for increased efficiency.  In fact, the City estimates the potential for up to $800 million per year in energy savings through this proposal, which is quite significant.  The proposal will also make it easier for people to install clean, renewable energy technologies, such as solar and rooftop wind, so we’re not only empowered to use less energy, but also to generate what we do use in the cleanest way possible.  It will provide numerous other benefits, as well, including helping to encourage local food production and facilitate rooftop stormwater retention.  As with the City’s other efforts to promote green buildings, this proposal will not only help New Yorkers save money, but it will also help to create jobs – jobs that cannot be outsourced elsewhere. 

We commend the City for continuing to be a leader on the issue of green buildings, and applaud the City Planning Commission and City Council for adopting the Zone Green text amendment to remove the zoning barriers that currently exist.  Doing so will not only help us move towards a more sustainable city, but it will also help New Yorkers save money and enjoy a healthier environment.