Thursday, October 29, 2020

NYC Council Set to Expand Building Emissions Rules

The New York City Council is poised to Extend NYC’s Strict New Emissions Standards to Rent-Regulated Buildings at its, Thursday Oct. 29th Meeting, much to the chagrin of the Real Estate Industry.

The Legislation, sponsored by Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-22nd District), would apply the Standards from last year’s Climate Mobilization Act to Properties Larger than 25,000 SF where 35% or Fewer of the Units are Rent-Regulated. Constantinides introduced the Bill in late May, and it appears likely to become Law, as Bills generally do Not come up for Votes at the Council unless they are Expected to Pass.

New York’s Real Estate Industry continues to Oppose the Bill, characterizing it as a Plan with too many Unanswered Questions that will hit Property Owners with Additional Costs at a time when many are already Struggling due to the Covid-19 Pandemic causing Unpaid Rents.

“The city is setting owners up for failure, forcing them to pay fines instead of helping these cash-strapped rent-regulated buildings invest in making environmental upgrades,” said James Whelan, President of the Real Estate Board of New York. “All of this is occurring at a time when rent-regulated-building owners are facing mortgage and tax defaults due to the Covid crisis.”

Jay Martin, Executive Director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, echoed those concerns. His Organization would like the Council to give Property Owners more time to comply with the Law and put more emphasis on Educating Tenants about how they can Help Landlords comply. “A huge component of this is usage, and it’s really hard for building owners to mandate usage,” Martin said. “It’s almost impossible, actually, unless we as a city and as a society figure out a way to convince renters themselves to turn lights off, turn water off.”

The Council has Amended the Bill to give Impacted Property Owners until 2026, rather than 2024, to Comply with the Standards. And the Deadline applies only to Buildings in the worst 20th Percentile of Emissions, Constantinides’ Office said. Most Buildings will Not have to Meet the New Standards until 2030, when the Law calls on the City to have Lowered its Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 40%.

Building Owners who do Not Meet the Standards could be hit with Severe Fines.

Lawmakers initially left Rent-Regulated Buildings out of the Climate Mobilization Act over concerns that Landlords would use Emissions-Related Upgrades as a Reason to take Apartments Out of Rent Control. When the State Legislature Passed Rent Reforms last year that Included Banning the Major Capital Improvement Program from Buildings with 35% or Fewer Rent-Regulated Units, those Concerns Ceased to be an Issue.

The Change would be at least the Second one to the Climate Mobilization Act the Council has Passed in recent months. Members Approved a Controversial Bill in August that Supporters described as Fixing an Oversight: Preventing Fuel-Cell Owners from determining whether they were complying with the Law. Detractors described it as a Giveaway to the Fuel-Cell Industry.

Terence Cullen, Spokesman for Constantinides, argued that Real Estate Groups were being Inconsistent in their Criticisms of the city’s Emissions Rules. “When the Climate Mobilization Act passed, these same entities complained these buildings were ‘carved out.’ Now that we’re following up on a two-year-old promise, it’s apparently now too much. Which is it?” Cullen asked, adding that the Law was “fairly drafted” to Help Landlords meet the Goals.

Pete Sikora, Climate and Inequality Campaigns Director at New York Communities for Change, said Expanding Emissions Standards to Rent-Regulated Buildings would Help the City Recover from the Pandemic by Sparking Job Creation. “The jobs the bill will create will be especially important to further an economic recovery from the Covid crisis,” Sikora said.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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