Testimony of Justin Wood, New York City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings Regarding the FY2025 Preliminary Budget 

Climate and Energy Justice, Disability Justice, Environmental Justice, Health Justice, Local Law 97, Media Coverage, News

Testimony of Justin Wood, New York City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings  Regarding the FY2025 Preliminary Budget 

March 13, 2024 

Thank you, Chair Sanchez and members of the committee for the opportunity to submit testimony regarding the FY2025 preliminary budget to the Housing and Buildings Committee and uplift some priorities and concerns regarding the mayor’s proposed budget and  implementation of New York City’s landmark building emissions law, Local Law 97 of 2019. 

In this budget process, we call on the Council to continue defending vital city services and  investments from budget cuts and flatlining. The New York City Independent Budget Office  (IBO) has projected a budget surplus that is $2.8 billion higher than the Mayor’s Office of  Budget and Management (OMB). IBO also estimates $2.4 billion less in spending on asylum  seekers than what is reflected in the Administration’s estimates across 2024 and 2025. Similarly,  the Council’s own forecast shows substantially more revenue than estimated by OMB. Now is  not the time to retreat from our city’s climate, job creation, public health, and equity goals,  including the achievement of rapid reductions in emissions from buildings. 

Local Law 97 Implementation 

New York City’s most ambitious climate law is at substantial risk of not being implemented  equitably and adequately.  

Thanks to oversight from the City Council, we learned the troubling news last December that the  City’s own buildings are not in compliance with the emissions reduction mandates of Local Law  97.1 This is unacceptable given the urgent need for public sector leadership as a spiraling  climate crisis impacts more New Yorkers more severely and more frequently with each passing  year. 

We hope to work closely with the Council, the Mayor’s office, and the City’s state  representatives to advocate for unprecedented and rapid investments in proven solutions  including building efficiency retrofits, robust demand response programs, building  electrification, and aggressive expansions of renewable energy, storage, and transmission  capacity in the City. 

We are encouraged by the addition of staff at the Department of Buildings’ Office of Buildings  Energy and Emissions Performance (OBEEP). As City begins process the submissions for  compliance of every building over 25,000 square feet, nearly 50,000 properties, we must  continue to ensure that this office is amply funded and staffed to fully enforce Local Law 97 and  to support thousands of building owners who need assistance in financing and carrying out  efficiency and renewable energy projects. The review of their compliance must include thorough document review as well as analyses to determine if a building owner has made “good  faith efforts,” to comply,  

1 https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1138629&GUID=FC4E3B98-481B-43DF-A717- 316EC50987B3&Options=info%7C&Search=

We also urge the Council to push for at least three new positions at the Office of Policy and  Strategy at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to specifically  support Local Law 97 compliance in the City’s vital affordable buildings.  

We also support the allocation of at least $5 million to NYC-based organizations based in  disadvantaged communities to provide education, outreach, technical assistance services for the  fast-approaching compliance period, tenant support, and lease assistance. While the NYC  Accelerator is a wonderful resource that currently provides free assistance, it is not clear how  effective the previously allocated $36 million to the NYC Accelerator has been, given the  substantial confusion and lack of awareness community members have surrounding the  implementation of Local Law 97. Community based organizations are in a unique position to  directly assist the communities they serve with a range of Local Law 97 issues that are not  reduced purely to building owners, such as leasing, affordable housing, tenant involvement, and  co-op specific compliance. 

Throughout our educational outreach work on Local Law 97, we have encountered numerous community members who are unfamiliar with the law, and others who are fearful of its  implications for tenants, co-ops, and other less resourced building owners. As such, financial assistance for community-based organizations is critical to ensure we do not force them or the  residents they serve out of their local communities, as well as 

Green Affordable Housing Fund 

We encourage the Council to draft, introduce, and pass legislation establishing a Green  Affordable Housing Fund to allow private building owners to pay into a fund, serving primarily  low-income and environmental justice communities, instead of paying fines in Local Law 97 that  are placed in the City’s general fund. Affordable building owners would be allowed to access the  fund to have upfront capital improvement costs covered for projects that reduce a building’s  emissions.23 We look forward to working with City Council on the development of this fund and  ensuring there is sufficient flexibility and oversight to best serve low-income and environmental  justice communities. 

2 See: Cap the Credits, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, November 14, 2022;  

https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/cap-the-credits/; ORDINANCE AMENDING CITY OF BOSTON CODE,  ORDINANCES, CHAPTER VII, SECTIONS 7-2.1 AND 7-2.2, BUILDING ENERGY REPORTING AND  DISCLOSURE (BERDO);  

https://www.boston.gov/sites/default/files/file/2021/12/Final%20Amended%20Docket%200775%20BERDO%202_ 0.pdf 

See NYC Comptroller’s Report “Cap the Credits” available at: https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/cap-the-credits/

False Solutions Remain a Threat 

We remain concerned that for-profit companies continue to promote unproven, energy-intensive  technologies like carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) as “quick fixes” to our city’s  emissions reductions law, when in fact these false climate solutions may exacerbate energy  consumption and may create additional health and safety risks for local communities.4 We urge  the Council to pass explicitly exclude CCUS from any definition of “good faith efforts” the City  adopts in future Local Law 97 compliance periods, and to remain vigilant that these false  solutions are not subsidized or funded by local or state tax abatements intended to help building  owners reduce emissions.  

We look forward to continuing to work with you on implementing Local Law 97 and ensuring  New York City meets all our climate goals.  

Thank you, 

Justin Wood
Director of Policy
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
[email protected]
212.244.4664 

NYLPI has fought for more than 40 years to protect civil rights and achieve lived equality for  communities in need. Led by community priorities, we pursue health, immigrant, disability, and  environmental justice. NYLPI combines the power of law, organizing, and the private bar to  make lasting change where it’s needed most.  

NYLPI’s Health Justice Program brings a racial equity and immigrant justice focus to health  care advocacy, including ongoing work addressing the human rights crisis in immigration  detention and advocating for healthcare for all New Yorkers. 

4 A Huge City Polluter? Buildings. Here’s a Surprising Fix., Brad Plumer, New York Times, March 10, 2023;  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/03/10/climate/buildings-carbon-dioxide-emissions-climate.html


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