New York City Councilmembers Rafael Espinal Jr., Costa Constantinides and a representative from Stephen Levin’s office were among those who toured the Kingsland Wildflowers green roof created by Alive Structures at Broadway Stages, to learn how the April 18 passage of the Climate Mobilization Act will impact the North Brooklyn community and why green roofs are the most important technology cities have to fight climate change.
“The Climate Mobilization Act,” said Constantinides, “will eventually result in the equivalent of removing one million cars from the roads.”
“This is by far the most sweeping green roof legislation of any place in North America,” said Espinal during the June 24 event, Green Roofs: Changing the Landscape of NYC. “New York City has nearly one billion square feet of rooftop space, all absorbing and reflecting heat.”
The Climate Mobilization Act was passed by the City Council by a vote of 45–2, and seeks to reduce greenhouse emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050.
Unlike most urban and suburban centers, the larger portion of New York City’s greenhouse gases come from its one million buildings, not from transportation, as in nearly every other part of the country.
The new law will apply to single buildings over 25,000 square feet, or a pair of buildings on the same tax lot that exceed 50,000 square feet. Places of worship, NYCHA-owned buildings, city-owned buildings, multi-family buildings three stories high or shorter with no central air or heat, and buildings that generate power are not covered under the new law.
Buildings covered under the new law will be required to submit reports on carbon emissions starting in 2025 to cover the year 2024. About 75 percent of multi-family buildings are already in compliance for 2025, and need make no change. By 2029, emission rates will be lowered in order to meet the projected 2030 standard of a 40 percent reduction.
Buildings unable to reduce their emissions will be subject to fines.
“It took three years,” Espinal told this paper. “But this law will allow developers to take better advantage of the city’s incentives to build green roofs.”
According to Alive Structures, the certified-woman-owned Brooklyn landscaping business that installed the Kingsland Wildflowers green rooftop above Broadway Stages, a green roof is the best way for builders to manage stormwater runoff, slash energy bills, reduce the “urban heat island effect,” which causes metropolitan areas to be significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas, and improve air and water quality.
Under the new legislation, developers who install green roofs certified by engineers or architects will be eligible for a property tax abatement of $5.23/square foot, up to $100,000 or the building’s tax liability, whichever is less. “This law is set to expire this year,” warned Levin’s Legislative Strategist Elizabeth Adams. “Councilman Levin is trying to push New York State to extend it through 2023.”
The City Council has already approved Levin’s resolution calling upon New York State to raise the abatement to $15/square foot in priority zones.
“We need to bring nature back into the city and make big changes now, as our climate is changing and becoming hotter and wetter,” said the panel’s moderator Marni Marjorelle, CEO and founder of Alive Structures.
Attendees toured the Kingsland Wildflowers rooftop, learned about the Climate Mobilization Act, heard from lawmakers and a representative from the Department of Environment Protection and learned about financing options for green roofs from Elyssa Rothe of Greenworks Lending.
In addition to Tony Argento’s Broadway Stages, other noted green roofs cover Barclays Center, Brooklyn Steel and Jacob Javits Center. The last, at 270,000 square feet, is the nation’s second largest, currently hosting 17 different kinds of bird, five different species of bat and over 300,000 honeybees, according to Javits Center Senior Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer Kenneth Sanchez.
“I grew up without any connection to nature,” said Constantinides. “Now kids in the city will have something that brings them close to nature, to birds and flowers and insects and things that grow.”