New York City Axes Green Buildings Plan

Citing cost and opposition from building owners, the Big Apple drops an ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making 22,000 buildings more energy efficient.

In theory, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s landmark plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by retrofitting leaky old buildings was a good idea. In the face of a global recession, and with a mandate for building owners to foot much of the bill, the owners didn’t agree.  After fierce criticism, the city is dropping a plan that would have required older buildings — those measuring 50,000 square feet or more —to perform energy audits and subsequent efficiency upgrades.


If passed, the mandate would have applied to roughly 22,000 buildings, or nearly half the city’s square footage, requiring owners to upgrade light bulbs, old boilers and leaky windows. The legislation also would have represented a big push in the green building movement, since most cities impose efficiency standards on new construction only. In the city, buildings contribute 80 percent of the city’s total carbon emissions, and Mayor Bloomberg is trying to lower emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

A major sticking point was cost, with owners required to pay for most of the upgrades. Officials estimated private investors would need to kick in $2.5 billion for building improvements since the city only had $16 million in federal stimulus funds to pay for such changes.

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