New York City: Say Yes to Zoning For Carbon Neutrality

For too long, the City’s zoning regulations prohibited buildings from making necessary green investments to fight climate change and cut down on toxic air pollution. This year, New York City, through the Department of City Planning’s (DCP), has an opportunity to modernize its Zoning Resolution to support the City and State’s climate goals by approving the proposed City of Yes for Carbon Neutrality (COYCN) zoning text amendment. NYLCV has identified COYCN as one of our top policy priorities for 2023.

The proposed change will remove zoning restrictions that limit the placement of EV charging infrastructure, installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and energy storage systems, energy efficient building facade retrofits, and more. The City has broken down the proposal into four topic areas–energy, buildings, transportation, and waste and stormwater–with a total of 17 proposals for each topic. Some of those proposals include: 

    • Energy: 
      • Remove zoning impediments to rooftop and parking canopy solar panels
      • Encourage community solar by reclassifying the use of community solar and permit installations of <10,000 sf in Residence Districts as-of-right.
      • Accommodating grid-supporting energy storage systems (ESS)
    • Buildings: 
      • Provide greater flexibility for mechanical equipment for electrification, like heat pumps
      • Allowing building facade retrofits to meet Energy Code requirements
    • Transportation:
      • Encouraging open-to-the-public EV charging facilities 
      • Expanding car sharing to allow property owners to designate up to 20% of their spaces (or 5, whichever is greater) for flexible, public EV charger-sharing, or car sharing, or any combination thereof.
      • Expanding bicycle and e-mobility storage & 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 & open spaces.
  • Waste & Stormwater: 
  • Expanding the use of permeable paving by revising the language used to make it clear that permeable paving is always allowed
  • Updating rules to accommodate new raingarden prototypes and street trees. 
  • Clarifying regulations for composting & recycling by adding new use regulations for when composting and recycling are allowed. 
    • Facilitating rooftop food production by removing the rooftop certification to enable non-residential rooftop greenhouses as-of-right

Globally we are in a climate emergency that is mainly caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Carbon dioxide is the major GHG that is emitted through human activities and it needs to be addressed. The Paris Agreement set a goal of limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius and curbing GHG to avoid any more damage to the planet. COYCN is critical to meeting mandated climate goals, such as those set out in the NYS Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which requires a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 40 percent by 2030 and then 85 percent by 2050 compared to the levels from 1990. 

This proposal 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. 

The proposal would also help improve the City’s air quality and public health by reducing the use of fossil fuels in our building and transportation sectors. This is especially important for environmental justice communities who have been disproportionately impacted by air pollution and respiratory-related health issues such as asthma due to unjust policy decisions related to siting highways, landfills, incinerators, and more.

This zoning proposal becomes even more urgent with the vast funding opportunities at the federal and state levels. New York City must be positioned to leverage funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes tax credits for installing solar panels on homes and for the purchase of EVs. It is critical that the City also take advantage of funds that will be coming down the pipe from the NYS Environmental Bond Act, which will make $4.2 billion available for environmental and community projects over the next several years, with 35-40% of the benefits going to disadvantaged communities. 

This is a great opportunity for New Yorkers, making it more affordable to transition to clean energy for their homes, and it’s a once-in-a-generation chance for local and state governments to lessen the costs of moving towards carbon neutrality. 

The estimated timeline–dates are subject to change–for this proposal to take effect goes as follows: once the public review process begins, there will be a 60-day review period culminating in a public hearing in July. The City Planning Commission (CPC) will vote on this proposal in August, which will start a 50-day period culminating in a City Council vote in October.

NYLCV is eager for this proposal to pass not only to help fight climate change and improve air quality, but to make our communities more sustainable and healthy. 

More information can be found here:

04.21.23 // AUTHOR: admin //