City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality Passes NYC City Council

By Peter Aronson

On Wednesday, the New York City Council passed the City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality (COYCN) zoning text amendment, a wonky name for a mighty important change to the city’s zoning laws. The change will remove hurdles so the city can more easily make green investments for and changes to its infrastructure that will reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from buildings and the transportation sector, the state’s two leading sources.

“The City Council took a big step in the fight against climate change by passing the City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality zoning amendment, a top NYLCV priority, ” said Alia Soomro, NYLCV’s Deputy Director for NYC Policy. “Simplifying the process to implement green technologies and retrofit buildings for clean energy solutions will mean fewer emissions and it is absolutely essential to meeting the city’s ambitious climate goals.” 

NYLCV has been an outspoken advocate for COYCN’s passage and the League’s Education Fund has been a leader in educating the public about its benefits. In May, the League hosted a panel discussion that included Dan Garodnick, the director of the NYC Department of City Planning and chair of the City Planning Commission, and Rit Aggarwala, the city’s Chief Climate Officer and Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.

“This is about getting sustainability done,” Aggarwala said of COYCN at the time.

Now, with the passage of this amendment, a lot can and will get done.     

For example, more solar panels will be allowed on rooftops and panels will be allowed over open parking lots, making EV charging stations more feasible and accessible for drivers throughout the city. 

Among the most important opportunities, passage of the amendment removes zoning restrictions in four key areas:


  • Removes zoning impediments to rooftop and parking canopy solar panels;
  • Encourages community solar by reclassifying the use of community solar and permit installations in residential areas; and
  • Removes obstacles to installing grid-supporting energy storage systems (ESS).


  • Provides greater flexibility for the approval and installation of mechanical equipment for electrification, like heat pumps; and
  • Allows building facade retrofits to meet Energy Code requirements.


  • Encourages open-to-the-public EV charging facilities; 
  • Expands car sharing to allow property owners to designate up to 20% of their parking spaces (or 5 spaces, whichever is greater) for flexible, public EV charger-sharing, or car sharing, or any combination thereof; and
  • Expands bicycle and e-mobility storage and charging uses by creating a new commercial use for public bicycle and e-mobility parking. New rules would also provide for secure outdoor bike storage lockers as permitted obstructions in yards and open spaces.

Waste & Stormwater: 

  • Expands the use of permeable paving by revising the language used to make it clear that permeable paving is always allowed; 
  • Updates rules to accommodate new raingarden prototypes and street trees; 
  • Clears the way for more composting and recycling by clarifying regulations and adding new use regulations for when composting and recycling are allowed; and 
  • Facilitates rooftop food production by removing the need for rooftop certification to allow non-residential rooftop greenhouses as-of-right.

This amendment is critical to meeting mandated state climate goals, which require a reduction in GHG emissions of 40 percent by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. 

The change is also important as the city implements Local Law 97 of 2019, which requires most buildings over 25,000 square feet to meet new energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions limits by 2024. 

“Since the majority of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, COYCN will help us move away from fossil fuels and ultimately improve the City’s air quality, a longstanding environmental justice issue,” said Soomro. “We applaud Mayor Adams, DCP Director Dan Garodnick and the City Council for coming together to get this climate friendly measure over the finish line.”

This zoning change comes at an advantageous time, because of the vast funding opportunities available from the federal and state governments. For one, the city is now positioned to seek more funds from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, which include tax credits for installing solar panels on homes and for the purchase of EVs. Also, the City is now in a better position to seek funds from the 2022 NYS Environmental Bond Act, which is making $4.2 billion available for environmental and community projects over the next several years, with 35-40% of the benefits going to disadvantaged communities.