Green bill will make city cleaner: Gennaro

Councilman James Gennaro (second from l.) meets with representatives of the South Korean government over the summer to discuss environmental legislation that was passed by the City Council last week. Photo courtesy of James Gennaro’s office
By Anna Gustafson

The City Council passed a package of legislation last week that Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) and other lawmakers said will dramatically reduce the city’s carbon footprint, create thousands of green jobs and save city residents millions of dollars in energy costs.

“Twenty years from now people will look back at the vote on this landmark legislative package as the moment when city government, critical stakeholders and concerned citizenry came together to transform our buildings into centers of environmental innovations, showcases of engineering excellence and engines of economic revitalization,” said Gennaro, chairman of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee and one of the sponsors of the legislation. “These bills are transformative for our environment, a boon to our economy and a beacon to other cities on the journey to environmental sustainability.”

The four bills, known as the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, passed Dec. 9 .One bill will require owners of existing buildings over 50,000 square feet to conduct energy efficiency audits every 10 years and mandates that city-owned buildings also do audits and complete energy retrofits that pay for themselves within seven years.

Another bill creates a city energy code that existing buildings will have to meet whenever there are renovations, and a different piece of legislation mandates that large building owners annually analyze energy consumption so owners, tenants and potential tenants can compare buildings’ energy usage. Additionally, owners of large commercial buildings will now be required to upgrade their lighting and sub-meter tenant spaces over 10,000 feet.

Gennaro, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) touted the merits of the bills, saying they will reduce the city’s carbon footprint by about 5 percent, create 17,880 jobs and save consumers $700 million annually in energy costs.

“While New York already has the lowest per capita carbon footprint of any major city in America, we recognize that every city must take action to fight climate change,” Bloomberg said.

The Greener, Greater Buildings Plan includes two programs that will train workers for new construction jobs and help finance energy-savings improvements using $16 million in federal stimulus funding.

Environmentalists and elected officials across the country, from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), praised the Council for passing the package.

“Coming during the first days of the Copenhagen climate summit, this package will send out a ray of hope to a world increasingly worried that the challenges of climate change are simply too great for our leaders to meet,” said Sierra Club President Carl Pope. “The bills passed in New York are the most comprehensive and aggressive local legislation undertaken by a major city in America to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Schwarzenegger said New York’s bills are a “great example of how cities and states are leading the way in development emissions reduction strategies.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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