World

Landlords cry foul as NYC climate bill targets Trump Tower and other skyscrapers

Bloomberg

New York City has passed sweeping legislation to curb energy demand from some of its most iconic skyscrapers, including Trump Tower.

The legislation, approved 45 to 2 in the City Council Thursday, is backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and will push owners of residential and commercial buildings larger than 25,000 sq. feet (2,300 sq. meters) to install new boilers, air conditioning systems, windows and insulation. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030, moving the city toward a goal of 80 percent by 2050.

The Council also voted to require 5-cent fees on all paper bags distributed by stores, starting in March 2020, and to study the feasibility of replacing gas-fired power plants with battery storage systems powered by renewable energy.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat who’s already announced his interest in running for mayor in 2021, called the package of bills, “some of the most ambitious climate legislation in the world to combat and mitigate the dramatic effects of global warming.”

New York City’s Panel on Climate Change, an independent body of scientists, has predicted that sea levels will rise between 8 and 30 inches (20 and 76 cm) by the 2050’s, and as much as 15 to 75 inches by the end of the century. Thursday’s legislation targeted buildings because their use of electricity, natural gas and other fuels generate two-thirds of the city’s greenhouse gases.

While City Councilman Costa Constantinides, the main sponsor, said the legislation represents the “largest emission reduction policy of any city anywhere,” private landlords say they’re being unfairly targeted.

The legislation includes carve-outs for hospitals, churches and rent-controlled housing. Exemptions leave “market-rate housing and commercial buildings to shoulder the entire burden of what is undeniably a shared societal problem,” John Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, wrote in Real Estate Weekly, a trade publication.

Based on city audits, Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan used more energy per square foot than 93 percent of large residential buildings, according to ALIGN, a coalition of labor and community groups that supports the legislation. ALIGN examined data on 50,000 buildings, all more than 25,000 sq. feet, Executive Director Maritza Silva-Farrell said.

Amanda Miller, a Trump Organization spokeswoman, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Constantinides denied any intent to single out President Donald Trump or the Trump organization.

Tony Gigantiello, president of a 364-unit cooperative apartment complex, says it’s already spent $10 million on upgrades to conserve energy by more than 40 percent in the past decade. The new city law would disregard that and demand that the co-op spend more to cut emissions another 40 percent, he said. “It’s outrageously unfair.”

Gigantiello’s cooperative apartment complex would not have to act immediately because his buildings already meet current standards under the law, said Jeff Baker, director of the Council’s legislative division. The first buildings to be targeted are the 20 percent that use the most energy per square foot and have the highest carbon-gas emissions in the city, he said. They face a 2024 deadline to reduce their energy use.

To avoid the 2030 deadline, though, the cooperative would have to be among the top 25 percent in low energy use per square foot. The city’s data are collected in surveys based upon electricity and fossil fuel use, divided by the square footage of the building, Baker said.

The City Council’s law imposing a 5 cent fee on paper bags distributed by stores, would exempt beneficiaries of nutrition assistance programs such as food stamps. It supplements a bill enacted by the state to ban the use of plastic bags, intending to encourage reusable bags and reduce solid waste trash that ends up in landfills.

The Council also passed legislation that would:

Require city school buses to convert to an all-electric fleet, on top of a current effort to do the same with public transportation.

Study ways to replace its 21 natural gas fueled power plants with mostly renewable energy and battery storage.

Amend codes to accelerate installation of wind turbines large and small.