Could Queens lawmaker’s ‘green deal’ cost co-ops and condo owners across city huge bucks?

Max Parrott/QNS

Astoria Councilman Costa Constantinides maintains that the Climate Mobilization Act he sponsored in the City Council aims to make the city greener — but a group representing co-op and condo owners citywide fears it will hit their bank accounts quite hard.

The Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums released a report to QNS on May 1 detailing astronomical fines that some Queens co-ops would have to pay if they don’t meet the 2025 and 2030 benchmarks set by the six-bill environmental package.

Constantinides refuted both the premise and findings of the study.

Co-ops pose a unique challenge to the set of laws, which imposes environmental regulations on buildings of more than 25,000 square feet – those said to be responsible for 30 percent of the city’s carbon emissions. The bills, which passed City Council in a 45-2 vote on April 18, set emissions limits that would force these buildings to make energy-efficient renovations or pay steep fines.

Based on the ownership structure of co-ops, the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums believes, the fines would be imposed directly on the pockets of the homeowners. 

“In a co-op, people jointly own the whole corporation. They pay their share of the carrying charges, so that if there were $100,000 fine, the co-op would have to increase maintenance fees to all shareholders,” said Mary Ann Rothman, president of the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums.

The report estimated that if Queens’ worst-offending co-ops did not meet the standards of the law, they would have to pay around $70,000 to $300,000 per year in 2025 and from $120,000 to $700,000 per year in 2030, based on their current carbon footprint. In the highest instances, this could come out to fines around $1,500 per household by 2030.

One complex that could be hard hit, a 504-unit Mitchell-Linden co-op at 141-16 25th Rd. in Flushing, is projected to be hit with more than $336,000 in penalties by 2025, with fines potentially increasing just under $700,000 by 2030.

The co-op council further argues that the broad exemptions the law grants to city buildings, rent-regulated buildings and places of worship, place an unfair burden on market-rate residential and commercial properties.

Constantinides’ office refuted these results, pointing to other parts of his bill that would exempt five of the 10 co-ops that the report included.

In an interview with QNS, the councilman argued that the legislation built in a “financial hardship exception” that would prevent many of these buildings from being fined.

He said that the premise of the report misses the goal of his bill, which is not to fine people but to provide them resources through low-interest loans to make energy-saving renovations that will ultimately them save money on utilities.

“The only way that someone gets a bill is if they do nothing and do not act in good faith,” said Constantinides. “I’m not interested in collecting money. I’m interested in collecting carbon.”

Rothman did not have figures for how much it would cost the co-op buildings in the report to comply with the demands of the legislation.

“We’re only just learning that, as we each in our own buildings look into what it appears to be needed and how that’s to be done, how quickly it can be done, whether the necessary equipment is actually available,” said Rothman.

One of the bills in the package would provide building owners with loans to help them make repairs and installations such as window and door replacement, lighting, caulking, weatherstripping, air sealing, insulation, and heating and cooling system upgrades.

Co-op boards do not have the power to force homeowners to alter the interior of their apartments, leaving it up to individuals to take the initiative to retrofit their apartments. However, Rothman said that it tends to be building-wide systems in co-ops that need to be adjusted or replaced.

Rothman said that the Urban Green Council worked with the City Council leading up to the bill. It suggested an incremental proposal for that was based on tax incentives because she was concerned about the effect that punitive measures will have on co-ops.

“There’s a lot of things in the bill that doesn’t put them [co-ops and condos] in a precarious position if they are able to show they’re working on reducing their carbon imprint,” said Constantinides.

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