Mayor And Speaker Adams Celebrate Zoning Changes For Cleaner Air And Lower Energy Costs

December 6, 2023

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, and New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) Director Dan Garodnick today celebrated.

They celebrated the New York City Council’s approval of the “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality” proposal, a historic set of citywide zoning changes that will facilitate climate action, clean energy, and resiliency by removing barriers to greener and more efficient energy systems, buildings, transportation, and water and waste systems. The updates to the zoning code will help reduce New York City’s operational carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, in accordance with the Paris Climate Accords. This initiative is the first of three “City of Yes” proposals to update New York’s zoning for the 21st century and foster a more sustainable, prosperous, and equitable city. Its passage comes as the next two proposals — “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity” and “City of Yes for Housing Opportunity,” focused on economic opportunity and housing, respectively — undergo public and environmental review.

“New York City is a ‘City of Yes,’ and this historic proposal will pave the way for a more sustainable future,” said Mayor Adams. “By modernizing our city’s zoning code, we have taken a bold step forward in fighting climate change, while delivering cleaner air, lower energy costs, smarter waste management, and better access to EV technologies to New Yorkers across the city. We are grateful to our partners in the New York City Council for their support on this once-in-a-generation initiative and look forward to working together to advance our next two ‘City of Yes’ proposals to build a more equitable economy and combat the housing crisis.” 

“Removing barriers to creating a greener, more sustainable city is vital to fighting climate change and preparing our city for the long-term future,” said Speaker Adams. “By approving citywide zoning changes that facilitate more energy efficient buildings, transportation, and green infrastructure, the Council is equipping our city and New Yorkers with the tools to create lasting change for our communities. This initiative is critical to New York City’s success, and I thank my colleagues and the administration for their partnership.”

“Our city — and our world — is facing a climate emergency, and these urgent reforms show that the city is rising to meet the moment,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development, and Workforce Maria Torres-Springer. “New York is a ‘City of Yes,’ and that means yes to solar panels, energy storage, and green infrastructure in every neighborhood. We are grateful to Speaker Adams and her colleagues in the City Council for their partnership on these historic reforms.” 

“We all have a part to play in ensuring New York leads the way in fighting climate change. We can make meaningful progress towards climate neutrality with the help of the people and institutions building and maintaining New York’s infrastructure,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “Zoning changes within the ‘City of Yes’ are the special sauce that will make our ambitious goals possible. Thank you to our partners in the New York City Council for putting the environment first.”

“This is the most ambitious, far-reaching initiative in the history of New York’s zoning to combat climate change,” said DCP Director Garodnick. “From solar panels to energy storage and EV charging to building retrofits, these changes will unlock a massive increase in green infrastructure in all corners of our city. This puts us on a path for a more sustainable future for ourselves, our children, and generations to come.” 

“One of the most significant changes to zoning in New York City history, the passage of the City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality is critical to the city and state reaching our ambitious climate and emissions reduction mandates,” said Chief Climate Officer and New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala. “When we drew up the plans to green our buildings, we also committed to providing New Yorkers with the tools they would need to comply with those mandates, and the changes approved by the City Council today are how we are ‘Getting Sustainability Done.’ The fulfillment of this PlaNYC commitment is how we, New Yorkers, are taking the deliberate steps necessary to meet the challenge of the climate crisis.” 

“Modernizing our aging infrastructure network is critically important to build a stronger and more resilient system and minimize the impacts we face year after year due to extreme weather events,” said New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol. “Today’s achievement is a key element of what Mayor Adams’ administration is undertaking for New York City — by prioritizing greener, more efficient energy, transportation, and water systems for New Yorkers.” 

“Ambitious and modern solutions are what New York City needs to create a smarter and healthier city for future generations — that is exactly what we see here today in the ‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality,’” said New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. “With these citywide zoning changes, New Yorkers can expect a greener, more resilient, more prosperous, and more affordable city, with energy efficiency in our buildings, in our transportation systems, and throughout our neighborhoods.”

“The City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality will drive both meaningful climate action and economic growth by facilitating clean and green infrastructure investments throughout the five boroughs,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President and CEO Andrew Kimball. “NYCEDC is thrilled that the City Council approved this measure, and we look forward to seeing its positive sustainable impact on our future projects.” 

“Electrifying transportation is key to meeting the city’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. City of Yes will help ensure every New Yorker will be living within 2.5 miles of a fast charger by 2035 — boosting electric vehicle adoption and expanding charging infrastructure to where for-hire vehicle drivers live and work,” said New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “We thank Mayor Adams, our sister agencies, and the City Council for their support of this holistic approach to achieving carbon neutrality.” 

“The vote for City of Yes is a big step towards addressing the increasing threat of climate change and will help create a healthier, safer, and more sustainable city for all of us,” said Fire Department of the City of New York Commissioner Laura Kavangah. “Our first responders have seen the increasingly destructive impact of natural disasters on our city, and this initiative will help protect our communities throughout the five boroughs.” 

“In just a few short weeks, the Local Law 97 carbon emission caps for our city’s largest buildings go into effect — and planned energy efficiency retrofits needed to meet those limits are often hindered by conventional zoning restrictions,” said New York City Department of Buildings Commissioner Jimmy Oddo. “This administration has been clear that in order to meet our city’s ambitious climate goals, we must provide support to property owners as they undertake this necessary work. The City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality plan brings innovative updates to our city’s zoning regulations — removing regulatory barriers for building owners looking to implement green building retrofits and smoothing their path on the road to comply with Local Law 97.” 

“With today’s actions, Mayor Adams and DCP continue to set the course for a more sustainable city — making critical investments that will accelerate New York’s path towards carbon neutrality,” said New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll. “Landmark-designated buildings can and should become more climate resilient and energy efficient, and the plan passed today demonstrates the strength of this administration’s commitment to sustainability, providing new pathways for New Yorkers to retrofit their homes, and helping unlock the potential of our landmark buildings as they evolve to meet modern environmental standards and needs.” 

“Updating New York City’s old zoning rules is an important step in the transformation into a more climate-ready future and assists us with ensuring no one is left behind in this transition away from fossil fuels,” said New York City Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Executive Director Elijah M. Hutchinson. “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality will help us advance our commitment to cut transportation emissions in half, support access to local clean energy, and make our homes, businesses, and even waste streams much cleaner. Reducing regulatory burdens can bring needed housing, quality jobs, and healthier communities in the areas of New York City that need it most.” 

With today’s approval, “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality” will go into effect within five days. The initiative updates outdated regulations that created major roadblocks for New Yorkers who hoped to retrofit their homes for energy efficiency or resiliency, install heat pumps or solar panels, switch to electric vehicles, or compost and recycle — all critical steps for New York City to reach its ambitious environmental goals. Among others, its 17 policies include: 

  • Facilitating a Renewable Energy Grid: Removing zoning obstacles that severely limit how much rooftop space can be covered by solar panels, unnecessarily slowing the city’s shift towards renewable energy sources. This policy makes it easier to install energy storage infrastructure needed for solar energy and facilitate standalone, grid-supporting solar and community microgrids — particularly in low-income communities — that are currently banned in residential areas. These changes will open over 8,500 acres of parking lots across the city for potential use of solar panels. If fully built out, these solar panels could power more than 130,000 homes. 
  • Creating Cleaner Buildings: Lightening onerous restrictions on the height and thickness of walls that restrict building electrification and retrofits for greater efficiency. This policy will add flexibility, making these modifications possible while maintaining the look and feel of the city’s neighborhoods. These changes will facilitate environmentally-friendly retrofits for over 50,000 buildings, including more than 1 million homes where retrofits are currently infeasible and restricted by city zoning. 
  • Supporting Electric Vehicles and Micromobility: More than doubling commercially-zoned land where electric-vehicle charging facilities can be located. This policy also clarifies regulations and facilitates safe bicycle and e-mobility parking. These changes mean that electric vehicle charging is now possible in more than 400 million additional square feet of space throughout the city. 
  • Modernizing Water, Compost, and Recycling Regulations: Expanding the use of permeable pavement and rain gardens will cut red tape and eliminate uncertainty for recycling and composting and encourage rooftop food production. These changes will help divert the 34 percent of New York City’s residential waste — and as much as 45 percent of all solid waste — that is organic material from landfills to beneficial use. 

In the lead-up to the City Council’s approval, “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality” received positive recommendations from 25 Community Boards, as well as from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens borough presidents, and the Bronx and Manhattan Borough Boards. It also received an 11-1 vote in support at the City Planning Commission. “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality” is the first component of Mayor Adams’ three-part “City of Yes” plan, comprised of three bold, citywide zoning text amendments that will modernize the city’s zoning to foster a greener, more affordable, more prosperous city — instead of allowing outdated zoning rules to hinder the city’s goals and growth. The second, “City of Yes for Economic Opportunity,” entered the formal public review process last month and is currently being reviewed by the city’s Community Boards, borough presidents, and Borough Boards. The third, “City of Yes for Housing Opportunity,” is undergoing environmental review and will be referred for public review in spring 2024.

“With the passage of City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality, New York City is taking a step toward a greener, healthier, and more resilient future for New York City,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “I’m pleased to see the passage of City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality and look forward to continuing to work with Mayor Adams and colleagues in government on ensuring that in New York City land use decisions center equity and environmental justice principles.”

“Today is a huge win for a greener New York, paving the way for more sustainable energy grids, buildings, transportation, and water and waste systems,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “With climate change intensifying every year, it’s critical that we do everything we can to create a greener, more resilient city.”

“Queens knows all too well the devastating impacts of climate change and our society’s untenable reliance on fossil fuels. But we’re turning our shared pain into progress with today’s critical vote,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “I thank the City Council for its leadership in passing the “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality” package of zoning changes, which represents a massive step forward in that mission to turn New York City into an unquestioned global leader in clean energy, sustainability and resiliency.”

New York City has long way to go in meeting our ambitious climate and environmental goals,” said New York City Councilmember Sandy Nurse, chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management. “‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ is an important milestone on this path that addresses various zoning barriers to green project development. I am hopeful these changes will serve to accelerate renewable energy, energy storage, green infrastructure, composting, and more – particularly in environmental justice communities.”

“Today’s approval of the ‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ is a landmark moment in advancing our climate and sustainability goals,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers. “Our 20th century zoning laws were not designed to tackle 21st century challenges like climate change, but today’s comprehensive update changes that. The reforms unlock the potential of our built environment to support green infrastructure and create a better city for ourselves and future New Yorkers.”

“Representing the South Bronx, an area that suffers from the highest asthma rates in the country due to the prevalence of pollution from heavy industrial usage, ‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ will chart the city on a course for cleaner air quality,” said New York City Councilmember Rafael Salamanca, chair, Committee on Land Use. “If we truly mean to provide cleaner and healthier environments for NYC residents, then we must take these important steps towards addressing the environmental barriers that are being exacerbated by climate change. I am grateful to Mayor Adams and NYC DCP for spearheading this positive initiative that will greatly improve the quality of life in the South Bronx.”

“I applaud my colleagues in the New York City Council for voting to approve the ‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality,’ which will propel us towards a sustainable and resilient future,” said New York City Councilmember James F. Gennaro, chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection, Resiliency & Waterfronts. “This landmark legislation not only removes obstacles to cleaner energy systems, efficient buildings, and eco-friendly transportation, but also signifies a bold commitment to combating climate change and a greener New York City.”

“I commend Mayor Adams and City Planning Chair Dan Garodnick on the successful passage of the “City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality” zoning initiative,” said New York City Councilmember Hanks. “These citywide changes represent a significant stride towards a more sustainable New York, unlocking opportunities for clean energy, lower emissions, and enhanced infrastructure. This initiative is a testament to our commitment to combating climate change and creating a greener future for our city.”

“The City Council took a big step in the fight against climate change today by passing the ‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ zoning amendment, a top NYLCV priority. Simplifying the process to implement green technologies and retrofit buildings for clean energy solutions will mean fewer emissions and better air quality, and it is absolutely essential to meeting the city’s ambitious climate goals,” said Alia Soomro, deputy director, New York City policy, New York League of Conservation Voters. “We applaud Mayor Adams, DCP Director Dan Garodnick and the City Council for coming together to get this climate friendly measure over the finish line,”

New York City’s commitment to ‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ is a pivotal step toward a sustainable future,” said Gregory Elcock, vice president, customer clean energy program, Con Edison. “By removing zoning barriers, we accelerate our transition to renewable energy by focusing on enhancing the grid, empowering communities and fostering a cleaner, greener tomorrow for all.”

“Today marks a transformative step towards the city of tomorrow, one that not only meets but anticipates the demands of our rapidly changing climate,” said Rafael Espinal, president, Freelancers Union. “The ‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ is more than a package of zoning changes, it’s a bold commitment to the future. A big congrats to City Planning and Mayor Adams, for this initiative sets an inspiring precedent for cities worldwide.”

“Outdated regulations piling up over decades can frustrate innovation. The biggest issues we face today – sustainability, affordability – require thoughtful and painstaking attention to zoning and other regulations to ensure that they are aligned with our most important objectives today and looking forward,” said Sarah Watson, deputy director, Citizens Housing and Planning Council. “We applaud the administration and the Council for these changes, and for demonstrating that the city can make the kinds of changes needed to achieve our ambitious goals.”

“Urban Green applauds these comprehensive, common sense zoning measures that will accelerate decarbonization in NYC,” said John Mandyck, CEO, Urban Green Council. “We were proud to partner with DCP to facilitate stakeholder input to guide and support this outcome. This package is a reminder that the boldest climate action requires detailed implementation to be successful, and we’re grateful that implementation is underway in NYC.”

“The future of New York City and the entire region faces unprecedented challenges due to the impacts of climate change and rising sea levels. We applaud Mayor Eric Adams, NYC DCP Director and CPC Chair Dan Garodnick, and the entire Adams administration for boldly addressing these problems and striving for a carbon-neutral city,” said Maulin Mehta, New York director, Regional Plan Association. “Modernizing and streamlining our zoning code through reforms that will encourage adding solar trellises, heat pumps, EV charging stations, and more green retrofits across the city are particularly critical to help us act to counter the difficult reality ahead, and we look forward to helping them be swiftly implemented.”

“Today’s approval of the ‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ is a historic milestone, moving New York City forward in reaching its ambitious decarbonization goals, a critical step forward in improving our resilience to the effects of climate change. Updates to New York City’s zoning laws, as approved by the New York City Council, will provide the city flexible tools needed to meet the impacts of climate change such as coastal flooding and extreme heat, all of which are serious threats to New Yorkers’ public health and safety. Today’s historic accomplishment is a win for New Yorkers,” said Chad Purkey, vice president, Association for a Better New York.

“Today, NYC took a major step forward towards meeting our emission reduction goals by removing existing barriers and expanding opportunities for decarbonization projects,” said Jesse Lazar, executive director, American Institute of Architects, New York. “AIANY commends Mayor Adams, the City Council, and DCP on working to make the goals in the ‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ zoning text amendment both ambitious and achievable. These changes will be pivotal for decarbonizing building stock, deploying renewables, and enabling New Yorkers to access a wide variety of low-carbon transportation options.”

“The ‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ initiative will help New York City fight climate change and modernize many aging affordable buildings by allowing full roofs to be covered with elevated solar panels, building retrofits with exterior insulating panels, and encouraging electrification of our affordable housing stock,” said Jolie Milstein, president and CEO, New York State Association for Affordable Housing. “We applaud both the Adams administration for its leadership on this important issue and the City Council for making it a reality with today’s approval.”

NYSERDA is pleased to see the passage of ‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ adopting citywide zoning changes. This initiative will expand access to solar and energy storage in New York City, accelerate building modernization and deployment of electric vehicle charging stations while helping to create a healthier city for all,” said Susanne DesRoches, vice president of clean resilient buildings, New York State Research and Development Authority.

“’City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ will facilitate efforts by government and the private sector to address the rapidly shifting demands that climate change is placing on the city, its residents, and businesses,” said Kathryn Wylde, president & CEO, Partnership for New York City.

“…Modernizing the city’s zoning will help facilitate equitable climate action…”

“We applaud the New York City Council for approving Mayor Adams’ ‘City of Yes’ for Carbon Neutrality proposal,” said Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director, at Harlem’s WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

“This bold move will help address decades of environmental racism by removing barriers that would otherwise delay the decarbonization of our buildings, greening our neighborhoods, transforming our energy system, and so much more. The climate crisis disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income, and we are hopeful with these changes we can take bold steps to build resilient communities. Modernizing the city’s zoning will help facilitate equitable climate action, reducing the emissions that have been harming our communities for generations.”

“’City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ will not only remove outdated zoning that hinders decarbonization projects but will also reinforce New York City’s commitment to expanding equitable housing opportunities,” said Nicole Campo, technical director of land use planning, Matrix New World Engineering. “New York is and must continue to be a global leader in combating climate change. This important text amendment will help solidify the city’s commitment to meeting ambitious renewable energy goals and greenhouse gas reduction targets.”

“Building climate solutions, like solar power and battery storage, often comes down to the nuts and bolts of permitting and zoning, and we are so thrilled that the New York City Council and the city administration are recognizing this through the ‘City of Yes’ initiative,” said Anne Reynolds, executive director, Alliance for Clean Energy New York. “We need to overcome the barriers to deploying clean power solutions, and today’s passage is a great step.”

“Climate change impacts everyone, therefore we all are responsible for curbing its effects and taking action now to create a greener future,” said Justin Rodgers, president & CEO, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation. “While there are things we can do individually, the significant steps begin with government. We applaud the Adams administration and the Department of City Planning for the ‘City of Yes’ initiative and their leadership on addressing climate change.”

“The ‘City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ builds on the success of the influential Zone Green area bonus by restructuring it to focus on whole-building energy use,” said George Kontaroudis, vice chair, New York Passive House. “This change will incentivize the incorporation of a wider variety of low-energy building systems, from HVAC, to façade, and on-site renewable energy generation. Our city has demonstrated time and again that when we incentivize high-performance buildings, we expedite the adoption of the systems and standards that make them possible, the rapid increase in the adoption of the Passive House building standard being one example. This holistic approach tied to economic benefits will facilitate wider adoption of the technologies and passive concepts our city needs to decarbonize.”

“’City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality’ promises to bring more solar power to rooftops and parking lots across the city, creating good jobs and clean energy right in our backyard,” said Noah Ginsburg, executive director, New York Solar Energy Industries Association. “It will also ease permitting for safe battery energy storage systems, thereby strengthening the electric grid and protecting New Yorkers’ lungs from hazardous air pollution emitted by our aging fossil fuel power plants. New York’s distributed solar and storage industry applauds the city for its clean energy leadership.”

Photo credit: 1) Harlem scene. 2) Peggy Shephard.

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