Landlords have blasted a new push by left-wing city lawmakers to require environmental retrofitting of about 1,000 Big Apple apartment buildings in a 2019 green buildings law expansion, saying the rash measure would require millions in upgrades they cannot afford during the COVID-19 economic downtown.
“This bill would add a six-figure, and in some cases more, item to the budget of a small- or medium-sized rent-stabilized building,” said Joseph Condon of the Community Housing Improvement Program, a group representing rent-stabilized housing owners.
“Housing providers already have to grapple with increasing tax burdens, increasing insurance costs, and other increasing operational costs during this economic downturn.”
He added: “For the Council to add this additional unfunded mandate on rent-stabilized housing providers, even on a ten- or 15-year horizon, is quite difficult to understand at this moment in time.”
The bill, introduced by Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Queens), would require that many buildings with rent-regulated apartments meet the Council’s controversial greening mandate for buildings larger than 25,000 square feet, which requires a 40-percent emissions reduction by 2030 — and 80 percent by 2050.
Meeting those targets typically requires significant work on older buildings in the Big Apple, including replacing windows and massive heating boilers with more energy-efficient models. Large buildings account for 30 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the five boroughs, according to some estimates.
One of New York City’s most iconic structures, the Empire State Building, is among the buildings that have already begun a retrofit.
“We don’t have time for half measures. We need to continue to move forward,” Constantinides said at a Tuesday council hearing.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced his support of the measure at a virtual rally, telling supporters the bill would help “create good jobs, good green jobs” while claiming the new measure would not mean rent hikes for tenants to pay for the improvements.
Costa ConstantinidesErik Thomas
The de Blasio administration also supports the Constantinides bill and estimates the new requirements, which apply to buildings where 35 percent or fewer of the apartments are rent-stabilized, would cover approximately 1,000 apartment buildings that contain 100,000 apartments.
It’s the latest evidence of how badly the political fortunes of the real estate lobby have been diminished in recent years by a wave of progressive victories in Democratic primaries, which led last year to the passage of the most stringent rent reforms in a generation in Albany.
But real estate bigwigs argued Tuesday that the Council members have gotten over their skis when it comes to regulations applying to property owners, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is essential that the Council undertake a much more rigorous analysis of this proposed legislation,” said Real Estate Board of New York’s Zachary Steinberg. “Any expansion of local carbon emission mandates must be reflective of the buildings’ physical and financial realities, particular now in a moment of economic downturn.”