Keeping Warm, Creating Jobs and Lowering Bills in NYC

Multi-family homes—from apartment buildings to rowhouses—are as synonymous with New York City as the Brooklyn Bridge or a slice of pizza. Perhaps more than anywhere else in the country, it’s how most city residents live.

Unfortunately, many older buildings are unable to meet modern standards for energy-efficient heating and cooling—and that means energy costs are higher than they need to be. Often, these older buildings are home to the city’s less affluent residents, and owners lack the resources to weatherize them and make energy efficiency upgrades. In addition to lowering energy bills, these upgrades can make homes healthier and more comfortable—from providing reliable heating and hot water, to reducing the amount of oil needed to heat the home, and/or giving residents control of their own thermostat.

Luckily, there are federally funded low-income energy programs administered by states and carried out by local agencies that are providing critical assistance. But funding for programs like this is currently at risk. Decision-makers need to understand the impact that cutting this funding would have on real people who rely on the economic, health and quality of life benefits they provide.

Take the Weatherization Assistance Program being carried out by the Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, which has been instrumental in providing upgrades to buildings that have made a life-changing difference for residents. 

The program helped fix a boiler in one Harlem low-income co-op, where tenants—many of whom have lived there for decades—suffered from unreliable heat and hot water, especially during the severe winter months. As Angela Gilltrap, a board member for the co-op, puts it: “You can never underestimate the joy of hot water until you have none.” The weatherization program supported significant upgrades to the building, including an energy-efficient boiler, LED lights throughout the building, new insulation and even high-tech windows to help keep apartments warm.

Hear from the Harlem residents whose lives changed after their building went through an energy efficiency upgrade.

It’s not just the tenants who feel the warmth from these energy efficiency upgrades but also the contractors who do the installations. As welder Othniel Clemmings says, it’s about “knowing that the people in the building have heat and that we know that they are satisfied or that they are comfortable, that’s what makes you proud of your work.” 

Watch contractors discuss the work they’re doing thanks to this energy efficiency program.

Local Weatherization Assistance Program providers are lowering energy bills, creating jobs, and helping to ensure that all New Yorkers can live safely and comfortably in their city, regardless of the weather. Our leaders in Washington must not leave low-income households—in NYC and across the country—out in the cold.

About the Authors

Pamela Rivera

Southeastern Regional and Equity Lead, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.