On Earth Day, Mayor still noncommittal on fully funding building efficiency law

Mayor Eric Adams launches campaign to promote environment friendly green buildings in Forest Hills, Queens on Friday, April 22, 2022.
Photo By Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Eric Adams locked horns with City Comptroller Brad Lander Friday over funding of enforcement of a city law setting energy efficiency standards for buildings in this year’s city budget.

The mayor, in responding to a PoliticsNY question at a Forest Hills press conference to promote his office’s “Building Action NYC” initiative and “NYC Accelerator” program, said how much to fund enforcement remains a part of the conversation as part of budgetary talks.

“So, many people will say, ‘well, you know what, Eric is not going to be aggressive about that.’ Wrong. I’m going to be extremely aggressive about it. I did not start as mayor talking about improving our environment. This is something I’m committed to, I’m going to continue to do so and we’re still in budget talks,” said Adams.

“This is the budget dance that takes place right now. We are going to be fine, trust me. We’re going to do in the words of Rodney King, ‘we are all going to get along. Trust me,’ he added.

According to the mayor’s office, the NYC Accelerator program aims to help building owners comply with the building efficiency law – known as Local Law 97 or the Climate Mobilization Act. It also helps building owners meet the energy efficiency targets in the law by providing assistance with making energy upgrades, repairing broken solar panels and getting incentives and financing.

Adams said reducing carbon emissions from the buildings is critical to meeting the city’s 2050 climate targets because buildings account for nearly 70 percent of carbon emissions.

“Buildings are our largest emitters of carbon, 70 percent of the city’s carbon emissions, more than any of the source, comes from buildings,” Adams said. “If we get buildings right, we get the entire process right.”

Passed by the City Council in 2019 as part of then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Green New Deal, Local Law 97 requires the city’s buildings over 25,000 square feet to cut carbon emissions 40 percent by 2024 and 80 percent by 2030. Under the law, buildings that don’t meet the energy efficiency targets in a timely manner are supposed to be hit with fines.

Soon after Adams released his preliminary budget last  month, City Comptroller Brad Lander and a few City Council Members called on to put more funding behind staffing and enforcement measures for the law. Last week, Louise Yeung – chief climate officer in the City Comptroller’s office – gave testimony at a City Council oversight hearing on Local Law 97 where she renewed the call for Adams to provide more funding and staffing to the city Department of Buildings for enforcing the law in this year’s budget.

“The Comptroller was disappointed that the Administration did not include additional funding and positions for Local Law 97 compliance at DOB in the preliminary budget,” Yeung said. “We were glad to see the proposal in the Council’s budget response to add additional DOB staff lines to improve enforcement. We fully support that recommendation and hope those positions are added in the Mayor’s Executive Budget next week.”

In a statement to PoliticsNY, however, Lander said the mayor’s NYC Accelerator program is a necessary piece in the city’s effort to reduce its carbon footprint.

“Our City needs to deploy all tools in its toolbox to effectively implement our landmark Climate Mobilization Act,” Lander said. “The NYC Accelerator is an important resource that provides building owners with free access to technical assistance for identifying retrofit strategies and financial incentives for their building to be compliant with Local Law 97 and meeting our ambitious emissions reduction goals.”

Adams said the NYC Accelerator program is already working by helping over 9,000 building owners across the city retrofit their structures to make them more energy efficient. These buildings include the Fairview Coop where Adasms made the announcement, which installed LED lighting and solar panels with help from the accelerator program.

“Because this stuff can get complicated, filling out the forms, filling out the documents, moving through the bureaucracy. It’s just so complex that those who are attempting to get the services never receive them because they become frustrated,” the mayor said.

“So, I’m urging all New Yorkers, all building owners, co-ops, condominiums, private homes, we’re saying look into the accelerator program and see what you can do to retrofit your buildings as we move towards decarbonization.”