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Encouraging the City to “Zone Green”

green roof urban garden agriculture new york cityTo emphasize the importance of improving the energy efficiency and environmental performance of the city’s older buildings, MAS testified in support of the Department of City Planning’s (DCP) proposed Zone Green Text Amendment. The amendment would remove zoning impediments to the construction and retrofitting of buildings to improve energy efficiency and environmental performance, helping New Yorkers save money on energy expenses, which according to the DCP averages about $15 billion each year. MAS is extremely supportive of the city’s efforts to promote energy efficiency measures in existing buildings. Through our Preservation and Climate Change Campaign we are working with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and the firms Cook+Fox and Terrapin Bright Green to create a manual that will provide cost effective steps for property owners of small old buildings (less than 50,000 square feet) to improve a building’s energy efficiency and sustainability while also aligning with LPC regulations. Although we support the proposed text amendment, we do see a potential conflict with the provision that would allow the insulation of existing buildings to be exempt from floor area as this could cause damage to older buildings, which make up the majority of the city’s building stock. Installing insulation properly requires a thorough understanding of building science. If not carefully applied, exterior insulation can hasten the deterioration of buildings by creating excessive moisture in the building envelope. It is critical that City policies balance the goals of energy efficiency with sustainability, and that measures applied to improve efficiency do not unintentionally shorten the lifespan of a building. MAS also acknowledged the importance of exploring renewable energy and would like to see the City initiate a pilot program or discretionary review for wind turbines to ensure that unforeseen environmental impacts – such as noise and safety – are addressed before allowing 55’ wind turbines on top of buildings over 100’ tall as of right. MAS sees a waterfront manufacturing district as a good area to test the viability of this technology. Also, as green building technologies and best practices are continuously evolving, MAS as well as several other organizations urged the Department of City Planning to work with other agencies to prepare a report documenting changes to determine whether further modifications to regulations are needed. New York City’s buildings are responsible for 75% of the City’s greenhouse gas, MAS sees this amendment as a valuable contribution to the City’s goal of reducing these harmful emissions. To read more of our comments check out our testimony and see the DCP’s website for more on the Zone Green amendment.